Friends and colleagues of Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert held a vigil in Sydney to mark the two-year anniversary of her detention.
The Islamic study scholar was arrested at Tehran airport on September 13, 2018, after speaking at a conference in Qom.
She was later charged with espionage crimes and was transferred in July to the infamous Qarchak Prison, known as one of the world’s worst women’s prisons and believed to be the site of extrajudicial killings.
Supporters of Dr. Moore-Gilbert, who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, have used the anniversary of her arrest to renew calls for her release and urge the government to intensify talks with Iran.
“It’s a way of acknowledging the tragic fate of what happened to Kylie, while still being respectful of family and the government’s quiet diplomatic approach,” said Mark Isaacs, chairman of the PEN Sydney freedom of expression group. who organized the vigil.
“We call for more action regarding the freedom of Kylie, from Australian civil society and the government.”
The group of 20 people gathered on the steps of Sydney City Hall for the Monday night vigil, with speakers reading letters sent to prison by Dr. Moore-Gilbert.
The day before, people in Australia and the UK, where Dr. Moore-Gilbert is also a citizen, marked the anniversary by participating in a “Run for Kylie” campaign.
Dr. Moore-Gilbert has reportedly walked around the small prison she has access to, despite only being given plastic prison slippers.
In her hometown of Bathurst, dozens of people took to the streets in solidarity with the academic, who is also a long-distance runner.
Dara Conduit, a friend and colleague of Dr. Moore-Gilbert, told SBS News that the campaign, which encouraged people to tag photos of them with the hashtag #WeRunWithKylie, was a tribute to her tenacity.
Despite coming out of solitary confinement, despite the really tough mental place she has to be in, despite her frustration at the lack of progress in the case, and despite having plastic slippers she’s been given from prison to on her feet, she’s jogging, ‘she said.
“For her anniversary, we thought we would celebrate her and her remarkable tenacity as a person, the person we know.”
Following the transfer of Dr. Moore-Gilbert to Qarchak Prison, Dr. Conduit and several former colleagues and friends have come together to plead for her case, which she says has “gone from bad to worse.”
“We felt that Kylie felt abandoned and that it was time to start doing more to help,” she said.
“We are concerned that the government may not have a particularly clear strategy for this, but we also know from history, from every other person who has been released, that Kylie will be coming home.
“It’s just a matter of getting to the point where the two governments have the floor, and so we speak out to put pressure on the Morison government to take this matter more seriously.”
In a statement on Friday, Dr. Moore-Gilbert’s family said they were “far from losing hope.”
“We love Kylie very much and we remain strong,” they said. “For those who also know and love Kylie, they will recognize her determination and strength. We know this strength will stay with her through this ordeal.”
Secretary of State Marise Payne said Friday that the government is continuing to seek regular consular access to Dr. Moore-Gilbert and that their priority has been health, wellbeing and safety.
“We do not accept the charges on which Dr. Moore-Gilbert was convicted, and we want to see her back to Australia as soon as possible,” Ms Payne said, expressing her condolences to her family.
“The government believes that the best approach to secure Dr. Moore-Gilbert’s release is through diplomatic channels.”