Her family issued a statement thanking the Australian government and Melbourne University for their support, during what has been a “distressing and sensitive” time.
“We believe that the best chance of securing Kylie’s safe return is through diplomatic channels,” they said.
“We will not be making any further comment and would like to request that our privacy – and that of our wider family and friends – is respected at this time.
She is being held in the same facility as Australian travel bloggers Jolie King and Mark Firkin who were arrested after allegedly flying a drone near a military zone near the Iranian capital. The three are being held in Evin Prison, a facility often used to house the country’s political prisoners. Former detainees have described it as a frightening place where foreigners are often kept in extreme isolation.
Amnesty International’s Eilidh Macpherson said this week she was concerned the Australian detainees may have been subjected to “serious human rights violations, including denial of access to a lawyer and even torture or other ill-treatment”.
A source with knowledge of the case told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald that Iranian and Australian officials met in Bangladesh last week to discuss the possibility of releasing the academic and the two bloggers, but no agreement was reached.
The exact charges Moore-Gilbert is facing have not been confirmed.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne confirmed to Parliament this week that she had he discussed the imprisonment of the three Australians with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
“I will maintain my practice of many years by keeping the contents of my discussions … private,” Senator Payne said, “but I will say that a central topic of our meetings has been the three Australians.”
A colleague who worked with Moore-Gilbert in 2015 and asked not to be named as association with her may put his own safety at risk, said she was aware of the dangers she faced but was cautious.
“She was the type of person who “lived for her work”, he said. “She was very humble and very kind and didn’t display any academic arrogance.”
Other university colleagues described Moore-Gilbert as “lovely”, “competent”, “nice”, “very calm” and as having a strong sense of justice.
She completed her PhD in Gulf politics at the University of Melbourne in 2017. She graduated with first class honours in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge and has taught and conducted research at a number of Australian universities.
A keen runner, she also raised money for charities and cancer research. An alumna of All Saints College in Bathurst, NSW, she wrote an article for her local paper in 2011 about meeting Wikileaks founder Julian Assange after he delivered a speech at Cambridge University.
“Assange, being on bail and currently launching his appeal against a British court’s recent ruling that he should be extradited to Sweden on sexual assault charges, was prohibited from speaking about the case or his legal troubles,” she wrote in the Western Advocate.
“Instead, he spoke about the role of Wikileaks in the current unrest in the Arab world (saying it played a much larger role than that of Twitter or Facebook in bringing down Ben Ali and Mubarak), and the difficulty the organisation has in obtaining funding, due to the campaign against them which prevents them from receiving donations…”
Another woman, Iranian-Australian dual citizen and Melbourne University academic Meimanat Hosseini-Chavoshi, was arrested in December last year as she attempted to leave Iran, as previously reported by the Herald and The Age. Hosseini-Chavoshi, who is a population expert affiliated with the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, was charged with trying to “infiltrate” Iranian institutions.
A source close to Hosseini-Chavoshi says she has been released on bail, but has not been allowed to leave Iran while the investigation into her case is under way.
DFAT’s Smartraveller website warns that “foreigners including Australians could be arbitrarily detained or arrested” when they travel to Iran.
It urges people to “reconsider your need to travel” to most parts of the country. It contains a “do not travel” warning for two areas along the country’s western and eastern borders.
In August, the deputy chair of Iran’s foreign relations parliamentary committee Kamal Dehghani Firouzabadi warned Australia’s “reputation and prestige” would suffer after the country joined a US-led military coalition to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.
British forces seized an Iranian oil tanker in July, claiming it was destined for Syria. Two weeks later, Iran seized British oil tanker, the Stena Impero. The Iranian tanker was later released. The Stena Impero is still being held by Iran.
Yan is a reporter for The Age.