In August 2018, Kylie, a lecturer in Islamic Studies at Melbourne University, went to Iran to attend a course in the city of Qom but was arrested on her departure three weeks later. Sentenced to a decade in jail after a secret trial, she has reportedly attempted suicide several times in recent months.
Though Australia’s ambassador to Iran, Lyndall Sachs, described Kylie as “well” after visiting her on August 2, Ana is sceptical.
“What Kylie is going through is neither normal or acceptable; it is counter-productive to publicise news about Kylie’s condition describing her as ‘well’.”
Ana gives a chilling insight into daily life in Iranan prison, where cells are just two metres by two metres, or even smaller. “In solitary confinement, your day begins about 4am. The lights are on 24/7, so you will have to cover your eyes with a maghne (a form of scarf/hijab). There are no beds, so you are sleeping on a concrete floor.”
Dinner typically consists of a boiled egg and a boiled potato with some salt, or soup. “If you have the luxury of a TV or a book, the time will pass more effortlessly, but in most cases that doesn’t happen. I did not have access to any of that.” Prisoners must remain in their cells “for 22.5 to 24 hours per day; when let out, it’s into a small solitary outdoor area with no recreational equipment. You can have no visitors and phone calls are rare, if permitted at all.”
But, she says, now that Kylie has recently been transferred to Qarchak prison, “a place known for extrajudicial killings, torture, and intra-prison violence,” she holds even graver fears for her safety.
“Qarchak is overcrowded, lacks basic sanitation, and there is no privacy.”
Like Kylie’s former colleagues, now speaking publicly about her plight, Ana believes more can and should be done by the Australian and British governments to help secure Kylie’s release, and she encourages all Kylie’s supporters to keep speaking out about her case.
“Keeping Kylie's name out there will engage the public with her cause and humanise her. After that, her case cannot be ignored. The governments involved will be held accountable for her prolonged incarceration and will be urged to seek alternative routes for negotiating her release, or perhaps initiate a prisoner swap.”
She also believes it’s time Kylie’s family, who have heeded the Australian government’s request to say silent about her situation, went public to help their daughter.
“Kylie's case is no longer a private matter; she has made numerous attempts to get her word out in the public, to the media, and I think her attempts should be respected and pursued.”
She adds, “When I was arrested, I had no idea I was one of many dual-nationals seen as convenient candidates for hostage-taking purposes. I kept blaming myself for the pain I had caused for my family and loved ones. In reality, I was a political pawn, someone who could be a source of revenue and leverage for the Revolutionary Guards, and there was nothing I could have done to avoid this.
“I noticed from the letters that Kylie wrote and smuggled out that she was naive about it too, that she had thought this was all a misunderstanding.
Far from it. It is a strategically-planned project of state bullying and state-sanctioned hostage-taking in response to the present-day's shifting diplomatic disputes between Iran and the West.”
In September last year, it became known that former Foreign Affairs minister Julie Bishop, who retains strong personal ties with Iranian leaders, offered the Australian government her services to help secure Kylie’s release. But somewhat astonishingly, 12 months on, she has not been taken up on her offer. “The government would be aware of my offer to assist and I am confident they would take that up should it be deemed as potentially helpful,” Ms Bishop tells marie claire.
She described Australia’s consular officials as being “among the best in the world”.
Meantime, Kylie continues to endure a daily nightmare behind bars.
Ana warns, “If the Revolutionary Guards cannot reach agreement with the Australians, or the Brits, about Kylie's case, and if she ends up serving the full 10 years, she will walk out of jail a shadow of who she is today. To be innocent and spend 10 years behind bars, that’s a lifetime, and would leave even the most strong-minded person empty, broken and physically dysfunctional.”