Australian Academic Who Attempted Suicide Should be Freed from Unlawful Confinement in Iran
Scholar Kylie Moore-Gilbert Kept in Bathroom-Like Temporary Holding Cell Since 2018
May 7, 2020 – A British-Australian academic held in isolation in Iran since September 2018, Kylie Moore-Gilbert, has repeatedly attempted suicide and could be in extreme danger, according to information received by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“Kylie’s cries for help are so loud and desperate that even the walls of one of Iran’s most notorious prisons can’t silence them,” said CHRI Executive Director Hadi Ghaemi.
“The Australian government should heed her pleas and immediately facilitate her access to basic rights that the Iranian government has been denying her for nearly two years, and immediately get her back home where she belongs,” he added.
CHRI calls on the Iranian government to stop violating its own laws and immediately transfer Moore-Gilbert, who is currently in Ward 2A of Tehran’s Evin Prison (controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Intelligence Organization), to the Women’s Ward and allow her unrestricted access to counsel, independent medical treatment, and consular visits.
CHRI also urges the Australian and British governments to immediately facilitate Moore-Gilbert’s release from Iran to prevent her from suffering further harm including contracting COVID-19 or losing her life as other foreign nationals have in Evin Prison, such as photojournalist Zahra Kazemi and sociologist-conservationist Kavous Seyed-Emami, who were both Canadian citizens.
Iran Keeps Tight Light on Moore-Gilbert’s Case, Jailed Attorney’s Husband Speaks Out
Iranian officials have not commented on Moore-Gilbert’s alleged suicide attempts or her current condition. They’ve also provided scant information about her since agents of the IRGC’s Intelligence Organization first arrested her while she was visiting the city of Qom to attend an academic conference.
Moore-Gilbert’s family did not make her arrest public until September 2019 after her appeal against her 10-year prison sentence on trumped-up espionage charges was denied.
News that Moore-Gilbert, a Middle East scholar and Melbourne University professor, has attempted to commit suicide three times was made public via a Facebook posting by Reza Khandan, a Tehran-based human rights activist and the husband of imprisoned defense attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh.
“We don’t know the details about how she attempted suicide or how she is now, but we do know that she’s being held in horrible, unbearable conditions in the security ward and denied contact with other prisoners and prevented from being transferred to the general ward,” Khandan told CHRI on May 6. “She’s extremely troubled, angry, and unhappy.”
“She is very upset and angry with her family as well as the Australian government and embassy because of their silence about her situation, and during this time she has tried to inform people about her status through letters,” he added. “She doesn’t have the ability to receive money or make purchases from the prison’s commissary.”
“Unfortunately, families are told to keep quiet under the pretense that speaking out will worsen the prisoner’s situation,” Khandan said. “But we see the result of keeping silent in the case of Ms. Moore-Gilbert, who has been unlawfully held in the security detention center since after her verdict was finalized.”
According to Iranian law, prisoners can only be held in isolation during the interrogation and investigation phases of their cases and should be transferred to long-term wards after they’ve been sentenced.
Moore-Gilbert Isolated for Nearly Two Years in Bathroom-Like Cell, Blindfolded When Taken Out
Iranian officials have not explained why Moore-Gilbert has been denied her right to be moved to the general women’s ward of Evin Prison and instead been isolated in a temporary detention cell which, according to Khandan–who has himself been arbitrarily detained in Evin–was not designed for prolonged detention and could drive a person insane.
“The solitary confinement cell [where she’s held] is basically a bathroom. The space is 2-3 meters with a toilet right there,” he explained. “Imagine living next to a toilet for nearly two years… She has to sleep on the floor and a carpet without a mattress or pillows. According to the regulations of the state Prisons Organization, the cell must have a bed.”
Khandan added that any time a detainee in this cell is taken out of it, she or he is forced to wear a blindfold.
“During interrogations and investigations, it’s all the same, you have to be blindfolded,” he said. “Going to the prosecutor’s office, the clinic, out for air, or going to take a shower—all blindfolded.”
“Her situation is absolutely unbearable and would destroy anyone’s soul and mind, and we don’t know what has happened to her in these past two years,” he added.
The UN has urged Iranian authorities to release all political prisoners and dual and foreign nationals who remain behind bars despite serious concerns about their health and safety due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Besides Iranian-British charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi refused to include other known detained dual and foreign nationals in his reported temporary release orders of thousands of prisoners to prevent more coronavirus transmissions.
In January 2020, CHRI translated and published a series of letters by Moore-Gilbert in which she explained her struggles to access adequate food and medical treatment in prison as well as the “psychological torture” she has been enduring.
“Iranian intelligence agents are trying to muzzle Kylie by unlawfully isolating her in a severely restricted ward that’s supposed to be used for temporary detention for almost two years,” said Ghaemi. “And no Iranian official has explained why.”
“We’re very concerned by the particularly cruel way she’s being treated and barred from having contact with almost everyone,” he added. “It’s as though her captors are trying to prevent her from revealing information that could implicate them.”
Read this article in Persian.