Lecturer in Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute Dr. Kylie Moore-Gilbert has recently spoke out about her treatment in an Iranian prison and the Australian Government’s attempts at negotiating her safe return home to Australia. After attending a conference in 2018, Dr. Moore-Gilbert was arrested at Tehran airport by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Dr. Moore-Gilbert was charged, tried, and sentenced to ten years imprisonment on charges of espionage. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the reasoning for Dr. Moore-Gilbert’s arrest was her relationship with an Israeli man. After being traded in a swap deal for three Iranians being held in Thailand on terrorism charges, Dr. Moore-Gilbert was released after 804 days of imprisonment. In an interview with Sky News, Dr. Moore-Gilbert spoke out about her treatment which she described as “…psychological torture” and the argument from the Australian Government of ‘quiet diplomacy’ as having her “not convinced the case for ‘quiet diplomacy’ stacks up.”
Describing her time as a “prolonged anxiety attack or panic attack,” Dr. Moore-Gilbert’s conditions were truly horrifying. Reports of cramped cells with no window and just a phone to contact the guards, constant lights and noise, a beating, and forced tranquilization in early 2020 are some of the horrific details the academic was willing to share. Dr. Moore-Gilbert also claims that there were attempts to recruit her as a spy for the Iranian Government. Unfortunately, these reports surrounding the treatment of prisoners in Iranian prisons are quite common. An Amnesty International report from September 2020 noted that prisoners (this report was related to prisoners from the 2019 protests in Iran) were subject to floggings, sexual abuse, and electric shocks. Mistreatment and abuse of basic human rights seem endemic in the Iranian criminal justice system and Dr. Moore-Gilbert seems to be another prominent case of mistreatment.
Knowing the details of Dr. Moore-Gilbert’s appalling conditions and treatment at the hands of the Iranian government, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke on Dr. Moore-Gilbert and her experience. Morrison stated, “Her bravery, her courage, her resilience, is something extraordinary.” However, Morrison also took issue with Dr. Moore-Gilbert’s critique of the government’s use of ‘quiet diplomacy,’ noting that “Kylie Moore-Gilbert obviously can’t be aware of all of the things that the government has been involved in to secure her release over a long period of time and the many other matters that were running over that period.” However, Dr. Moore-Gilbert took issue with these comments and noted that there was a deliberate action to keep the academic’s story out of the media and public light. Dr. Moore-Gilbert stated that the deliberate action of silence was “…against my wishes.” With Dr. Moore-Gilbert even noting the communication of her wishes to be more public and go to the media whilst being imprisoned and frustrated with the Australian Government. Whilst there will always be arguments for and against ‘quiet diplomacy’ in prisoner transfers with Iran, what is quite clear is that the Morrison Government did not consider Dr. Moore-Gilbert and her family’s interests into account when making the decision to pursue this tactic.
Through all the horrific stories and details that have come out of Dr. Moore-Gilbert’s treatment at the hands of the Iranian government, it is an amazing outcome to see her back home in Australia after 804 days of imprisonment. There are some prisoners in foreign nations on trumped-up charges that we have not seen released, and when one is freed and returned to their homeland, it is a positive to be taken from a sea of negatives. However, we must take Dr. Moore-Gilbert’s story and the countless amounts of others held in Iranian prisons and be vocal about the mistreatment and the violation of basic human rights in the Iranian criminal justice system. On top of this, governments like the Morrison Government must be aware that perhaps ‘quiet diplomacy’ may not work in a different situation and perhaps being vocal in the media about a situation may be a decent course of diplomatic action.
- Dr. Kylie Moore-Gilbert Speaks Out About Imprisonment In Iran - March 30, 2021
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