Letters smuggled out of Evin prison reveal that Iran tried to recruit the British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert as a spy for Tehran in exchange for her release, but the overture was furiously rebuffed.
Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a University of Melbourne lecturer and researcher specializing in Middle East politics, has been detained by the Islamic Republic of Iran since August 2018 and was sentenced to 10 years for undisclosed reasons. She is currently being held in Ward 2A, an isolated Revolutionary Guard-run wing of Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.
According to the Guardian Newspaper, in a series of handwritten letters to Iranian authorities, Moore-Gilbert declares that her detention is nothing but a political hostage taking. In the letter she reveals that in October 2019, she was even shown two alternative decisions to her appeal: one for a 13-month sentence (essentially “time-served,” which would have seen her released) and another confirming the original sentence of 10 years.
“How is it possible that two very different appeal decisions were delivered to ‘2A’ detention centre? It is clear that Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Intelligence is playing an awful game with me. I am an innocent victim,” Moore-Gilbert said.
In a letter to her “case manager,” Moore-Gilbert writes, “please accept this letter as an official and definitive rejection of your offer to me to work with the intelligence branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.… Under no circumstances will I be persuaded to change my decision.”
“I am not a spy. I have never been a spy and I have no interest to work for a spying organization in any country. When I leave Iran, I want to be a free woman and live a free life, not under the shadow of extortion and threats.”
In a letter dated August 26, Moore-Gilbert begs the prison bosses to move her from the isolated 2A section of Evin prison to the general female section, as demanded by Iranian law following her sentencing and the rejection of her appeal.
“I have been in 2A for almost a year and especially after my verdict, my health has deteriorated significantly. In the past month I have been to the special care at Baghiatallah Hospital twice and the prison infirmary six times.”
“I think I am in the midst of a serious psychological problem, I can no longer stand the pressures of living in this extremely restrictive detention ward anymore. My situation here is even more difficult due to the ban on having any phone calls with my family. I worry a lot about their reactions to my verdict, but I cannot talk to them. This is really inhumane.”
“I am an innocent woman,” she wrote to prison chiefs in August, “[and] have been imprisoned for a crime I have not committed and for which there is no real evidence.”
“This is a grave injustice, but unfortunately it is not a surprise to me—from the very beginning [of my arrest] it was clear that there was fabrications and trumped-up accusations.”
She signed the letter, “Professor of Melbourne University and an innocent political prisoner.”
Moore-Gilbert’s most immediate concern is with her simple survival in prison. She has repeatedly written to authorities requesting better access to medication and for money to buy personal items and food she can safely eat—she is allergic to much of the prison’s food. She says she needs about $50 a month to survive.
“I am entirely alone in Iran. I have no friends or family here and in addition to all the pain I have endured here, I feel like I am abandoned and forgotten, that after so many times of asking my embassy, I still have no money at all to endure all of this.”
We at Endangered Scholars Worldwide consider Kylie Moore-Gilbert’s detention a flagrant and unjust violation of the freedom, security, and safety of an academic who has been caught up in the political tension between the United Kingdom and Iran—arrested without cause, held for weeks in solitary confinement and without access to a lawyer, and subjected to physical mistreatment and psychological abuse.
Endangered Scholars Worldwide deplores and condemns the ongoing detention, persecution, and conviction of Kylie Moore-Gilbert and calls upon all international organizations, academic and professional associations, and other groups and individuals devoted to the promotion and defense of human rights to strongly protest and condemn this arbitrary incarceration; to ask for her immediate and unconditional release; and to urge the officials of the Iranian government to end the tactic of taking of foreign nationals and dual citizen scholars and students hostage for political gains and to respect, guarantee, and implement the provisions and principles of human rights.