British-Australian held in Iran is ‘thoughtful and passionate’, colleagues say

A British-Australian academic who has been detained in Iran has been described as “thoughtful and passionate” by colleagues.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a Cambridge-educated academic who was most recently a lecturer in Islamic Studies at Melbourne University, has been in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for almost a year, having reportedly been given a 10-year sentence.

She has previously published work on the 2011 Arab uprisings and on authoritarian governments.

“‘Humble’ doesn’t quite do Kylie justice. She was a thoughtful and passionate academic,” University of Melbourne academic George Rennie said.

“This is a disgusting reflection on the Iranian dictatorship.”

The case of Ms Moore-Gilbert case came to light last week along with those of another British-Australian woman, Jolie King, and her Australian boyfriend Mark Firkin, who have been held for the past 10 weeks in an unrelated incident.

The Australian Government said it is lobbying Tehran to ensure all three are appropriately cared for.

The University of Melbourne’s website lists Dr Moore-Gilbert on its “Find an expert” page as a lecturer at the university’s Asia Institute.

It says she “specialises in Middle Eastern politics, with a particular focus on the Arab Gulf states,” and that she had published work on the 2011 Arab uprisings, authoritarian governance and on the role of new media technologies in political activism.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Saturday released a statement from Dr Moore-Gilbert’s family, which said: “We have been and continue to be in close contact with the Australian Government.

“Our family thanks the Government and the University of Melbourne for their ongoing support at this distressing and sensitive time. We believe that the best chance of securing Kylie’s safe return is through diplomatic channels.

“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.”

Although Iranian authorities have not made public the charges against Dr Moore-Gilbert, 10-year sentences have regularly been dealt in the country to those convicted of spying.

Dr David Malet, who served on Ms Moore-Gilbert’s dissertation committee, tweeted: “Very distraught to learn Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been in solitary confinement for a year and faces 10-year sentence.

“She’s a wonderful person and a serious scholar, not a spy.”

Julie Bishop – who travelled to Iran when she served as Australian foreign minister in 2015 – said she was ready to help the current government in Canberra in the case.

She told the Sydney Morning Herald: “(I am) available to support the government in its efforts to secure the release of the detained Australians, should the government make that request.

“I have a long-standing and constructive relationship with Iranian Foreign Minister (Mohammad Javad) Zarif and I met with President (Hassan) Rouhani during my visit to Tehran.”