Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Woman jailed in Iran says solitary confinement pushed her to brink of suicide

She made one attempt to go over the prison wall and nearly made it.

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A British-Australian academic who spent two years in prison in Iran said on Tuesday she was kept in solitary confinement for seven months, in what she described as “psychological torture” that left her searching for a way to commit suicide.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was detained in Iran in 2018 and sentenced to 10 years in prison on espionage charges, was released late last year in exchange for three Iranians who had been detained abroad.

Speaking for the first time publicly, Moore-Gilbert told Sky News Australia she was kept in a tiny cell with only a telephone linked to her prison guards.

“You go completely insane. It is so damaging. I felt physical pain,” she said.

A specialist in Middle East politics at the University of Melbourne, she said her mental health deteriorated after two weeks. “I thought, if I could I would kill myself.”

After nine months imprisonment, Moore-Gilbert was sentenced to 10 years in prison, which she challenged through a series of hunger strikes.

Out of hopelessness and desperation, she once attempted to escape. “One day I was just like, ‘You know what? I’m going to do it. I have nothing to lose’,” she told Sky News.

“There were spikes on part of the wall, so I just took some socks with me and put them over my hands and then grabbed onto them, hoping they weren’t too sharp.”

Once on the roof of the prison, Moore-Gilbert said she could have scaled down the walls and made a run for a nearby town.

However, she decided not to proceed as she was in a prison uniform, didn’t speak the local language and feared how they would punish her when she was recaptured.

Eventually she was released in a prisoner swap and, now back in Australia, Moore-Gilbert says she is focused on her recovery.

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