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Kylie Moore-Gilbert spent 804 days imprisoned in Iran. The hardest part was after returning home.

This post deals with suicide ideation and might be triggering for some readers.

After 804 days in Iran's notorious prisons, British-Australian academic Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert was reunited with her family in Australia.

She had been beaten, tortured and drugged over the two-year period, dealt with suicide ideation and considered escaping into the wilderness of a country where she did not understand anyone. But speaking to Sky News in her first interview since arriving back in Australia in November 2020, Moore-Gilbert said a betrayal she discovered when she returned was harder than it all.

Moore-Gilbert was a lecturer on Middle Eastern studies at the University of Melbourne's Asia Institute when she was arrested at a Tehran airport while trying to leave the country after a conference in 2018.

Watch: The trailer for Kylie Moore-Gilbert's Sky News interview. Post continues below video.


Video via Sky News.

She was sent to Evin prison, convicted of spying and sentenced to 10 years behind bars. No evidence of Moore-Gilbert's alleged crimes has ever been publicly presented, and she has vehemently denied the charges and maintained her innocence.

Moore-Gilbert explained the "psychological torture" she faced when kept in solitary confinement - in a small, freezing cell with constant noise - which she believed was the Iranian government trying to "break her".

"It's psychological torture. You go completely insane. It is so damaging," she said.

"I felt physical pain from the psychological trauma I had in that room. It is a two-by-two metre box… there is no toilet, there is no television," she said.

"I felt if I have to endure another day of this, you know, if I could I would just kill myself. But of course I never tried and I never took that step."

Image: AAP.

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She also recalled being beaten by two prison guards after she tried to get a letter out of the prison and being forcibly injected with a syringe of tranquilliser against her will in early 2020.

Despite it all, she said discovering her husband of three years Ruslan Hodorov was having an affair with her colleague and PhD supervisor when she returned to Australia was the toughest part.

She had noticed a shift in their relationship in the 12 months before her freedom, but did not anticipate the end of the relationship or the betrayal.

"He had changed, and I was upset and disappointed that he wasn't supporting me to the extent that I would have hoped he would. He stopped telling me loved me over the phone," she said.

"I understand something had shifted for him and for me too. I didn't necessarily think that our marriage was over, but I was thinking to myself based on that maybe I didn't want to stay with him, so it wasn't necessarily a surprise that my marriage came to an end. Although he never told my family and never told me that he wanted to leave me and maintained the deception right up until the end, but I knew something was wrong."

She only discovered the truth about the affair from her mother on their first day in hotel quarantine in Canberra, because she thought it strange she hadn't heard anything from her husband.

"He hasn't even called to say 'I'm happy you're free', so I said 'you have to tell me mum, it's obvious something's up - I'm strong I can handle it,'" she said.

Image: Facebook.

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Her colleague, Dr Kylie Baxter, had been acting as a liaison between the University of Melbourne and her family and husband after her arrest, which made the betrayal even harder to swallow.

"The nature of it given my closeness to both of them was very disappointing for me. In a way it has been harder for me to process and come to terms with that then it has been with what happened to me in Iran," she said.

Though she refused to bad mouth them.

"I think he suffered a lot at the beginning too and was quite vulnerable, according to him. I don't know what happened, I don't want to know, I don't want to dwell on it. I just want to move on. I honestly wish him all the best, he's not an evil person, she's not an evil person. I hope they are happy together and hope we can all just move on with our lives."

It was her relationship with husband, a Russian-Israeli, that triggered her arrest in the first place, according to government sources.

The Iranians had tried to get Moore-Gilbert to lure her husband to Iran, but she told them they were dreaming if they thought he was stupid enough to enter, given the conflict with Israel.

Moore-Gilbert told Sky News she had hoped the world would know she had been arrested and held in solitary confinement, but the Australian government persuaded journalists not to publish the story for a full year.

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At one point, Moore-Gilbert was able to extract a phone call with her father after she escaped onto a roof of the notorious Evin prison on the outskirts of Tehran.

"I was sort of panicking and screaming and upset," she said. 

"I just said, when are you going to get me out, what's going on, this court's a joke... I said, go to the media, expose what's happening.

"Nobody listened to that. Nobody listened to me," she said. 

She believes that if her case had been publicised she would not have been given a ten-year sentence, which was the maximum available for her charge.

She has been told the media knew about her incarceration but was told by the government to "keep it quiet" because media attention could complicate the issue and "piss Iran off".

"I took a very different view of the situation based on my own experience," she said.

Greater attention was paid to her health and conditions, and the treatment of her improved, once her case eventually became public, after two Australian backpackers were also arrested in Iran.

"I'm not convinced that the quiet diplomacy argument stacks up, though each case is different," she said.

But Moore-Gilbert has also thanked the government for their efforts in securing her eventual release in November 2020, singling out Foreign Minister Marise Payne for praise.  

At the time of her release, Thailand released three Iranians convicted of terrorism offences. The Australian government has never confirmed a prisoner swap deal.  

As for what's next, Moore-Gilbert is planning to write a book about her experiences.

She said she was feeling "optimistic" about the future, but was still recovering.

"I don't know if I feel safe, even now, " she said.

"Right now I just want to focus on healing, recovery, rest."

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

-With AAP.

Feature image: Sky News.