The family of the detained academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who faces 10 years in jail in Iran on espionage charges – have said they “remain strong and are far from giving up hope”, as hundreds of her friends marked the second anniversary of her detention on Sunday.
Moore-Gilbert, a dual UK and Australian citizen, was seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as she attempted to fly out of the country following an academic conference at which she had spoken.
Friends, colleagues and supporters staged Run for Kylie events across Australia on Sunday. During her time in prison Moore-Gilbert has tried to keep running wherever possible, even in rubber slippers and while confined to a tiny prison cell, or a narrow exercise yard.
“We love Kylie very much and we remain strong and far from losing hope,” Moore-Gilbert’s family said in a statement.
“For those who also know and love Kylie, they will recognise her fortitude and strength. We know this strength remains with her throughout this ordeal.
“We thank the federal government for its continued and persistent efforts to bring Kylie home, and we thank the Australian public for their continued support and concern.”
The journalist Peter Greste, who was jailed for 400 days in Egypt on national security charges widely seen as politically motivated, lent his support, saying the allegations against Moore-Gilbert were “utterly spurious”.
Two years ago @unimelb academic Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert was arrested in Iran on utterly spurious espionage charges. Now serving 10 yrs. We don’t know much about conditions but we know she runs. So, on this tragic anniversary, me and Harvey – #WeRunWithKylie pic.twitter.com/KfjC6O8s7P
— Peter Greste (@PeterGreste) September 13, 2020
Friends, colleagues and former students posted messages of solidarity.
Dr. Kylie Moore-Gilbert was my tutor and lecturer in Middle Eastern Politics while studying at Melbourne University. She is the most dynamic, brilliant educator and academic that I had the good fortune of encountering during my studies. pic.twitter.com/4bbdfdSgZs
— Students for Kylie Moore-Gilbert (@KylieStudents) September 13, 2020
“The second anniversary of Kylie’s detention in Australia is an incredibly sad day for everyone,” the Free Kylie Moore-Gilbert group told the Guardian.
“We hope that the #WeRunWithKylie events in Bathurst and around the globe today will buoy Kylie’s spirits, and let her know that although she might sometimes feel lonely, she is far from alone. We won’t rest until she’s home.”
On Monday evening, a vigil for Moore-Gilbert will be held on the steps of Sydney Town Hall.
“We want Kylie to know she is not forgotten and we are thinking of her on this anniversary of her detention,” Mark Isaacs, the president of PEN Sydney, said.
Australia’s foreign minister, Marise Payne, said her thoughts were with Moore-Gilbert and her family.
“The government’s efforts to secure Dr Moore-Gilbert’s release are an absolute priority and continue without pause,” Payne said.
“We do not accept the charges upon which Dr Moore-Gilbert was convicted, and want to see her returned to Australia as soon as possible.”
The Australian government continued to seek regular consular access to Moore-Gilbert, Payne said. Australia’s ambassador met her last month. But the government has been consistent in arguing that it believes quiet diplomacy is the best approach to secure Moore-Gilbert’s freedom.
However, two years of entreaties have yielded little appreciable benefit to Moore-Gilbert. Iran human rights experts have urged Australia to take a more voluble public line against the Iranian government.
Last month, she was moved from Evin prison, where she had spent months in solitary confinement, to Qarchak prison on the capital’s outskirts, widely regarded as the worst women’s prison in Iran, and known as a site of extrajudicial killings, torture and other rights violations.
Sources have told the Guardian Moore-Gilbert is closely watched inside Qarchak – with two fellow prisoners assigned to follow her – restricting her contact with the outside world.
Moore-Gilbert, a lecturer in Islamic studies at the University of Melbourne, was arrested in September 2018 after the conference in Qom.
Fellow conference delegates and an interview subject for her academic work flagged her as “suspicious” to Iran’s revolutionary guards, who arrested her at Tehran airport.
She was convicted of espionage following a secret trial and sentenced to 10 years in prison. An appeal was summarily rejected.
No evidence of Moore-Gilbert’s alleged crimes has ever been publicly presented. She has denied the allegations.
In letters smuggled out of prison Moore-Gilbert revealed she had rejected an offer to spy on behalf of Tehran in exchange for her freedom, but said she felt “abandoned and forgotten”.
In a rare phone call earlier this year she said couldn’t eat anything in Qarchak: “I feel so very hopeless … I am so depressed.”