Dr. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Australian who was imprisoned by Iran in September 2018 and released in November 2020 in exchange for three Iranians being held abroad, spoke to Sky News Australia thatabout her 804 days in an Iranian prison, revealing that she felt "broken" by the initial period of imprisonment.
Dr. Moore-Gilbert, who was arrested prior to boarding a flight from Iran to Australia and accused of spying for Israel, denied the charges against her and maintained her innocence.
"I didn't understand what I was being charged with, who these men were, where I was going. I was afraid they would torture me, I was afraid they would rape me," she told Sky News, adding that the conditions of the solitary confinement in the Evin Prison she was in were "designed to break you."
"It's psychological torture. You go completely insane. It is so damaging," she added, noting that she had suicidal thoughts during her seven months in solitary confinement. "I would say 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."
"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," she added.
"After the two-week mark I was flipping out, I’d completely lost it, I'd lost the plot, I was completely crazy," she said. "At first I couldn’t eat anything and I couldn’t sleep. My emotional state was so volatile, I was so anxious, my heart beating was always beating heavily, I was basically having a prolonged anxiety attack or panic attack."
And when she was no longer being interrogated daily, there would be times "when I was just alone in this room, locked in this room 23 hours a day with nothing to do, so I was by the end of it a crazy lady."
During her confinement, she went on seven hunger strikes, and was beaten and interrogated by guards.
She was also beaten up once, and forcibly injected with a tranquilizer in early 2020.
At one point, she attempted to scale the fence of the exercise yard and climb onto the prison's roof.
"I did contemplate [escaping] when I was up there because it took them 20 minutes to find me. [But] where would I have gone? What would I have done?" she said. "I didn’t speak the language, I was in a prison uniform."
"Without someone on the outside to help me … I don’t know what I would have done."
But according to Moore-Gilbert, had the Australian government gone public with the case earlier, she might never have been sentenced to 10 years in prison in the first place. Instead, her government's "quiet diplomacy" kept things under wraps as Australia tried to negotiate a prisoner swap with Iran.
"I knew it was deliberately being kept out of the media against my wishes and from the first six weeks to two months I’d been … demanding to my family they go to the media," she said. "I've been told the media knew about my incarceration but [were] told by the government to keep it quiet ."
"The line being run by the government was that trying to find a solution diplomatically behind the scenes with Iran was the best approach for getting me out and that the media would complicate things and could make Iran angry and piss them off and make things worse for me.
"I took a very different view of the situation based on my own experiences being inside there.
"Had my ordeal been made public, there’s no way I would’ve got 10 years," she claimed, noting that once the case went public, "much greater attention was paid to my health and my condition."
Moore-Gilbert also said that she "knew the reason" the Iranians "didn’t engage in any meaningful negotiations with the Australians was because they wanted to recruit me" as a spy for the Iranian government. "They wanted me to work for them as a spy [and said] that if I cooperated with them and agreed to become a spy for them they would free me … that I could win my freedom [and] make a deal with them."
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, "Kylie Moore-Gilbert obviously can't be aware of all the things the government has been involved in to secure her release over a long period of time, and the many other matters running over that period. And there are obviously things that sit within the national security dimension of what the government handles. There will be views on this matter, but what I know is that this was our top-priority consular case to get Kylie home."