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Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Islamic studies scholar who was detained in Iran for more than two years, is still figuring out how to move on with her life two years after returning home to Australia. Her experience offers a glimpse of what Brittney Greener and others who have gone through similar trials could face in their transition to life after incarceration.
Ms. Greener, who returned to the United States on Friday after being detained in Russia for 10 months, is now part of a “strange club” of people from around the world who have returned home after being detained abroad, many of which support each other, Dr Moore-Gilbert said on Saturday.
After returning home, Dr. Moore-Gilbert couldn’t just pick up where she left off. She quit her job at the University of Melbourne and a few months after her release began writing about her experience in prison, finding it healing, she said. She spent most of this year traveling and attending events to promote the resulting book, The Uncaged Sky.
With this suspension, “I have to reevaluate my life and try to figure out what I’m doing with myself,” she said.
Dr Moore-Gilbert was arrested at Tehran airport in 2018 while trying to leave Iran after attending a seminar on Shiite Islam. After being tried in secret, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison on espionage charges and held most of her time in Evin Prison. She was released in November 2020 in exchange for three Iranians who were imprisoned in Thailand.
She claims she is innocent. Iran has a record of detaining foreign nationals and dual nationals on bogus espionage charges, exchanging them for Iranians detained abroad.
For Dr. Moore-Gilbert, coping with the ordeal has changed over time and become more difficult than in the first months after her release. She described how she went through the first few days in a state of shock and paralysis when she suddenly had endless options, such as what shampoo to buy and which friends to date, once everything was decided for her in prison.
It was only after months of shock wore off that her detention became real to her. By this point, the excitement of people around her asking if she needed support was gone.
People avoided bringing up her imprisonment or mentioning Iran, she said: “It was frustrating because I wanted to talk about it. I didn’t want to just dig a hole and bury it.”
Her time in prison was not the relentless suffering that people often assume it to be; it included moments of hilarity and fun with his cellmates. She learned things about her character and how she reacts in difficult situations.
To move forward and prevent prison from defining her life, she became involved in advocacy for “other victims of arbitrary detention and hostage diplomacy,” she said.
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