Issue 5, Volume 18
For over 718 days, Dr. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, of the University of Melbourne, has languished in Iran’s notorious ‘Elvin’ and ‘Qarchak’ prisons, where she has reportedly endured prolonged solitary confinement and beatings. 
She was arrested by the Iranian regime’s security forces at Tehran Airport after having presented at an academic conference in Qoms in 2018. Her alleged crime was said to have been ‘espionage’ for which she received a sentence of ten years. However, no evidence was ever produced to suggest that these charges were true. Her trial was held in secret and her appeal dismissed, demonstrating the lack of any credible legal procedure the IRGC  dominated government of Iran purports to have. The Australian government has denied the allegations and her friends, colleagues and students find the trumped-up allegations absurd. 
An accurate account of Kylie’s status would be that of a political hostage and an international bargaining chip for the Iranian regime. She joins an unfortunately long list of foreign nationals who have been held to ransom by a regime that seemingly lacks the most basic respect for international norms. 
The Australian government’s approach so far has been one of ‘quiet diplomacy’. It was hoped that through diplomatic channels, the government would be able to secure her release. To the government’s credit, it has repeatedly brought Kylie’s detention up with Iran. Their efforts have included face to face discussions by Foreign Minister Marise Payne with the Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, in Bangladesh late last year, as well as other initiatives which had led to a prison visit by Australian consulate officials. 
However, the Iranian regime’s sudden decision to move Kylie to the notorious Qarchak prison in the desert, some 35 km south-east of the Tehran has highlighted the failure of Australia’s ‘quiet diplomatic approach’. The prison is said to be one of the worst female prisons in Iran, with overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions and reports of extrajudicial killings, torture and other gross violations of human rights. 
It has become clear that this quiet diplomatic approach has failed, and it is high time for fresh thinking on both Australia’s relationship with Iran and our approach to freeing Kylie.
Despite the degrading treatment Kylie has endured and the Australian government’s assurances that Kylie remains a high priority, Australia’s ambassador to Iran, Lyndall Sachs has continued to build up bilateral relations by attending events and meeting various Iranian officials. 
What can Australia do?
The problem lies in the lack of leverage Australia has over Iran; we presumably don’t have anything they want in exchange that we would be willing to give. Additionally, the relationship has been strained due a range of reasons, including Iran’s regional aggression, its gross human rights violations and notably the mounting tensions between Iran and other States, including Australia’s close ally, the U.S. Nevertheless, the Australian Government has been successful in the past in relation to freeing other Australians held hostage by the Iranian regime.
The release of the Australian backpackers Mark Firkin and Jolie King in 2019, who were similarly charged with ‘espionage’, serves as an example. Their freedom appears to have been guaranteed, behind closed doors and unofficially, in exchange for the halting of the extradition to the U.S and release of Iranian scientist Reza Dehbashi.  This suggests that the Iranian regime is open to prisoner swaps. It goes without saying that, as a matter of policy, this is problematic, as it sets a precedent of State hostage taking and prisoner exchange.
This means Australia has limited options. Pursue a failing ‘quiet diplomatic approach’ and hope some prized Iranian agent is eventually caught and bartered for, or, it could distance itself from such unconscionable conduct, condition the continuation of semi-normal relations with Iran to the freedom of Kylie and in doing so, take a more proactive approach.
What we should and can do
In my view, Australia should not acquiesce to this regime’s criminal behaviour of political hostage taking. The government should raise Kylie’s case often and loudly at every opportunity it is given to do so. Whether that entails publicly calling Iran out in various international forums, conditioning our bilateral ties to her release or even potentially re-imposing the more stringent and aggressive autonomous sanctions regime that existed prior to 2016. 
What you can do
Many of us at MLS have come through the Faculty of Arts to get here. You may have even studied under Dr. Moore-Gilbert at some point. Having met her or heard of her and her story, you’ll understand why the Iranian allegations are patently ridiculous and why her detention cannot be allowed to go on, nor can Australia’s soft approach.
You should raise awareness and advocate for a change in Australia’s approach by writing to your local federal MP, or directly to Foreign Minister Marise Payne and ask them to advocate Australia take a more aggressive and public stance.
I implore you all to have a look at the website that has been set up to co-ordinate this action including pre-written letter templates that you can access: www.freekylie.net
Kylie is a part of our community at Melbourne University, and it is up to us, the students and the university itself to advocate for a change of government policy where government policy appears to be failing.
Rob is a first year JD student.
 BBC News “Kylie Moore-Gilbert: Australia says lecturer jailed in Iran 'is well' 4 August, 2020
 Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution
 S. Vasefi, B. Doherty “Kylie Moore-Gilbert: academic 'terrified' and suffering inside Iran's Qarchak women's prison” 29 July, 2020. The Guardian Australia.
 Y Torbati, J. Schectman “America’s unending hostage crisis with Iran” August 1, 2018, Reuters
 Naomi Levin ‘Australia must do more to get Melbourne academic Kylie Moore Gilbert out of Iranian Prison’ August 25, 2020, AIJAC
 Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs “Report to Congress List of Persons Who Are Responsible for or complicit in Certain Human Rights Abuses in Iran” 1 June, 2020. U.S Department of State
 ABC News ‘Australian couple released from Iran detention, Jolie King and Mark Firkin back in Australia in 'good health' 6 Oct 2019 https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-05/australians-released-from-iran/11576776
 Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee “Inquiry into the Partial suspension of sanctions against Iran” 17 March, 2016, Australian Parliament House https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Foreign_Affairs_Defence_and_Trade/Iran