Jailed Australian-British academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert has informed an Iranian activist she has been transferred to a new prison, where she is being held alongside dangerous criminals.
During a phone call with activist Reza Khandan, Moore-Gilbert, who was arrested by Revolutionary Guards in September 2018, said she had been transferred from Evin Prison in Tehran to Gharchak Prison in Varamin on July 25, where she was initially held in quarantine as part of efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Writing on his Facebook page on July 27, Khandan reported what the jailed academic had told him, including that she was taken out of quarantine and placed in a ward two days later. "I cannot eat anything… I do not know ... I was very disappointed ... I was very, very depressed…” she told him. She also reported that conditions on the ward were “very bad.”
Khandan wrote on Facebook that the academic was being held with prisoners accused of a range of crimes, “including murder, drug dealing and financial charges,” despite an Iranian law that stipulates that political prisoners should be held on separate wards. Khandan added: “there are a significant number of coronavirus disease patients on the ward."
Khandan, who is married to jailed activist Nasrin Sotoudeh, told IranWire: ”According to the law, after the end of temporary detention, the prisoner must be transferred to a public ward, but Kylie remained in the Revolutionary Guards’ Ward 2-A for months after her sentence was issued. Now, instead of being held in the women's ward of Evin Prison, where political prisoners, prisoners of conscience and English-speaking prisoners, including Aras Amiri and Fariba Adelkhah, are kept, she was sent to Gharchak Prison. It was at least easier for her to bear the sentence at Evin Women's Ward because of the separation of prisoners according to crimes. She went on a hunger strike to protest her stay on Ward 2-A, and she has been suffering from depression ever since."
Moore-Gilbert, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence, said her transfer was “punishment” for her requests to be taken off the ward run by Revolutionary Guards.
Family Hopes Diplomacy Will Bring Freedom
A day after the news that the Australian university professor had been transferred to Gharchak, Australian foreign affairs officials called on the Iranian government to provide immediate consular access to her. In a statement, the department said it considered her case a “top priority” and that the Australian Embassy in Tehran was working very hard on her case.
The professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne was arrested on charges of "espionage" in September 2018 as she was at the airport in Tehran waiting to return to Australia. Details of the charges against her and her trial have not been released to the media.
Khandan said Moore-Gilbert's family had been mainly silent since her arrest, "Apparently, her parents are very afraid that their daughter will be harmed if they act in even the slightest way,” Khandan said. They perhaps believe that if they say anything, it will cost their daughter.”
In a statement issued by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on September 14, 2019, the family said they had been in touch and were working closely with the Australian government on the matter. “We believe the best way to ensure Kylie's safe return is to use diplomatic means,” the statement said. According to Reza Khandan, Moore-Gilbert spoke to her family about a month before her recent transfer.
According to the University of Melbourne website, the Cambridge-educated professor’s research focuses on the Gulf states, authoritarian rule, and the role of new media technologies in political activity. She traveled to Iran in summer 2018 to participate in the Seventh International Conference on Shia Studies at the invitation of Al-Zahra University and the University of Religions in Qom.
A Familiar Tactic
The Islamic Republic’s security services routinely harass and place pressure on journalists, civil society activists and prisoners of conscience by sending them to serve time on wards where the policy of separating inmates based on their crimes is not observed.
Human rights activist Narges Mohammadi was previously transferred from the women's ward at Evin Prison to Zanjan Prison, where it is also the practice not to distinguish between different types of crimes. Mohammadi repeatedly wrote to judicial officials appealing for them to uphold her rights and ensure she was not jailed alongside potentially dangerous criminals. She had faced threats of rape and murder from an inmate held on the same ward. She has also shown symptoms of having Covid-19 for some time, but prison officials have not responded to her demands for medical attention.
Sepideh Gholian, a young labor activist who was transferred from Evin Prison to Sepidar Prison in Ahvaz as punishment for her solidarity with other prisoners, has also faced persecution and harassment and been forced to bear witness to the torture of her fellow prisoners. Gholian has written a complete account of what she experienced in a book entitled Tilapia Sucks the Blood of Hur Al-Azim, which IranWire published on July 28.
And now Kylie Moore-Gilbert is facing similar treatment: punished for trying to stand up for her rights and branded a spy for her research on Iran’s main religion.