Local residents have an incredible chance to hear a story that almost defies belief when Australian academic and author Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert delivers a public lecture at Curtin University next Friday detailing her 804 days in an Iranian prison.
Dr Moore-Gilbert, a scholar of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, was invited to lecture at a university in Tehran in 2018.
After spending two weeks in Iran, on September 12 she had unloaded her luggage and was preparing to board her plane home when she was tapped on the shoulder and taken to the airport’s interrogation room by a group of plain-clothed men.
Those men were members of Islamic Revolutionary Guard.
Arrested and accused of being a spy, what came next was constant interrogation and, Dr Moore-Gibert estimates, an accumulative total of 12 months in solitary confinement in a two-metre by two-metre cell.
“I was terrified, I hadn’t done anything wrong and I was charged with espionage and sentenced to 10 years in prison,” she said.
“They lied to me for the first week, telling me I would be going home soon, I was in a hotel but I wasn’t allowed to leave.
“It wasn’t until I was thrown into prison that I realised they were lying.”
While quick to point out that she was never physically harmed, the interrogation took its toll on Dr Moore-Gilbert.
“The solitary confinement was hard, you’re in a two-metre by two-metre cell for 23 hours a day, getting out for half an hour in the morning and half-an-hour in the evening to a bleak courtyard area.
“Other than that, you’re in a windowless box and in the beginning I didn’t cope, your brain goes crazy, there’s no stimulation, your mental state is horrific.”
Although the Australian Government eventually secured her release, Dr Moore-Gilbert said they could have acted sooner.
“This is a power tactic with Iran, they’ve got so many sanctions against them, imprisoning foreigners is their bargaining tactic to get what they want.
“My price was three terrorists released from a Thai jail.
“In the end they got me out and I’m thankful for that.
“They didn’t act quickly though, they tried to keep everything quiet and during the first year of my incarceration, everything was out of the media and I’m not sure what they were doing.
“But eventually the deal was a reality and they set me free.”
Dr Moore-Gilbert has written a book about her experience, The Uncaged Sky, and her lecture will take place on Friday April 8 from midday until 1pm at Curtin’s Tim Winton Lecture Theatre.
RSVPs for the free lecture are essential via the EventBrite website