LONDON: Kylie Moore-Gilbert, the British-Australian dual national held in an Iranian prison since September 2018, faces a “long road to recovery” after her release, according to another woman previously jailed by Tehran.
Moore-Gilbert was freed last week, supposedly as part of a prisoner swap deal for three Iranian terrorists — Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, Saeid Moradi and Mohammad Khazaei — who were all imprisoned for a failed bomb plot in Bangkok in 2012.
Ana Diamond, a former Finnish-Iranian dual national now based in the UK, was arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and accused of being a spy when she was just 19 in 2016.
She was placed in solitary confinement for 200 days, during which time she was forced to endure a mock execution.
Moore-Gilbert and Diamond are just two of numerous foreign nationals snatched by Tehran on trumped-up allegations of espionage over the years, to be used as bargaining chips.
Among them are British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was arrested in April 2016, and Swedish-Iranian academic Ahmadreza Djalali, who faces the death penalty.
Diamond launched the Alliance Against State Hostage-Taking at the UN General Assembly in 2019, along with other former detainees, to “create a legal path to hold Iran accountable for their atrocious violations of human rights and the deliberate and planned acts of kidnapping and torture of foreign nationals.”
She told The Guardian newspaper that Moore-Gilbert, despite appearing in good health and good spirits, could struggle to come to terms with her ordeal.
“The IRGC have been practising and perfecting their state hostage-taking for many decades now, and … have become rather sophisticated in their tactics,” said Diamond.
“You no longer see grotesque visual and physical traces of violence on the detainee’s body … a lot of the damage is internal,” she added.
“During my detention, my feelings ranged from hope to self-loathing ... it is very hard to convince yourself that you are not to blame. After my release, I realized that I was not an isolated case and that there were more than 30 known cases of dual- and foreign-nationals still held hostage in that very same prison that I was allowed to walk out from.”
Dr. Jessie Moritz, a colleague of Moore-Gilbert, said her arrest had sent shockwaves through the academic community.
Moore-Gilbert, she added, was an expert on Islamic studies at the University of Melbourne, and her traveling to Iran “was not an exceptional thing to do,” with Moore-Gilbert having been invited to attend a conference in the city of Qom when she was detained.
“Our whole job is to go over to these countries — we’re not ivory-tower academics, we go to the field, we meet people, in order to understand these countries,” Moritz said, adding that what happened had changed the perception of many Western academics about their safety in Iran.
“Journalists and human rights activists have already been arrested, domestic academics have already been arrested, international journalists have been kicked out, and we’re next, basically,” she said.
Moore-Gilbert is currently undergoing two weeks of mandatory quarantine in Australia due to coronavirus precautions, and she will receive psychological support.
Diamond offered Moore-Gilbert her support following her ordeal, saying: “I just hope she will never feel lonely, or think that she was ever alone in this. We are only a call away, as we have been with her family and colleagues, and we will do what we can to help her.”