Two British-Australian women among three ‘detained in Iran’

Australian diplomats have confirmed they are assisting the families of three people who have been arrested in Iran, two of whom are reportedly British-Australian dual nationals.

Media reports have said a British-Australian blogger and her Australian boyfriend were arrested 10 weeks ago, allegedly for camping in a military area around Jajrood, in Tehran province.

In a separate incident, another British-Australian woman, who works as an academic at an Australian university, was arrested several months ago and sentenced to 10 years in prison, reports said.

The two women are reportedly incarcerated in Tehran’s notorious Evin jail, where 41-year-old Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian mother of one, has been held on spying charges since 2016.

The Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) confirmed on Wednesday it was lending consular assistance to the families of the three people, whose names have not been made public.

“(DFAT) is providing consular assistance to the families of three Australians detained in Iran. Due to our privacy obligations, we will not comment further,” the department said in a statement provided to the PA news agency.

While the charges against the second woman, a Cambridge-educated academic, remain unclear, 10-year terms are often handed down in Iran for spying charges.

The blogger and her boyfriend had been documenting their travels on YouTube and Instagram, with their followers having become concerned in the past several weeks by the absence of any new posts.

The cases of the two women are believed to be the first imprisonments in Iran of British passport holders who do not also have Iranian nationality.

Their arrests come amid a downturn in relations between Britain and Iran, sparked by issues including the seizure by the Royal Marines in July of an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar.

Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has agreed to their Australian counterparts handling the case.

DFAT on Monday updated its travel advice for Iran. It remains at a level of ‘reconsider your need to travel’, with the highest level (‘Do not travel’) applying in some parts of the country.

“There is a risk that foreigners, including Australians, could be arbitrarily detained, or arrested,” the advice notice says.

“You may be at greater risk if you have a profile that can be seen adversely by Iranian authorities, or if you undertake certain activities which could attract the attention of Iranian authorities.”