Drawing strength from the anger she felt at being falsely confined in an Iranian prison for more than two years is how Kylie Moore-Gilbert learned to survive.
The Australian academic was held in Tehran’s Evin Prison for 804 days on trumped-up spying charges after she was seized on her way to Tehran Airport in late 2018.
Dr Moore-Gilbert spent seven excruciating months in solitary confinement and has revealed the gruesome details of what she endured, in her first TV interview since her release last November.
Kylie Moore-Gilbert, 33, said she survived for more than two years in an Iranian prison by drawing strength from the anger she felt at her false conviction
‘The first room I was put in, I would say is the extreme solitary confinement room designed to break you. It’s psychological torture. You go completely insane,’ the 33-year-old told Sky News.
Dr Moore-Gilbert describes her four weeks in the tiny, freezing cell with no access to daylight or distractions, but constant light and noise keeping her awake.
Pictured: Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert, Islamic Studies lecturer at Melbourne University
‘It is so damaging. I would say I felt physical pain from the psychological trauma I had in that room.
‘It’s a two-by-two-metre box. There is no toilet, there is no television. There is nothing whatsoever other than a phone on the wall for calling the guards.’
Dr Moore-Gilbert describes moments of temporary comfort when she would hear birds chirping outside, or see a sliver of daylight through a crack in the cell wall.
Other than that, she said there was no real way of telling the time because the lights were kept on 24/7.
The Islamic Studies lecturer told interviewer Melissa Doyle the conditions at the prison were demeaning, disgusting and lacking of any human comfort.
Dr Moore-Gilbert lay on an ‘old, dirty, stained’ carpet and was given three thin blankets which were full of the detritus of other prisoners.
Dr Moore-Gilbert said she slept on a stained carpet and was given three thin blankets that contained human detritus from other prisoners
‘They were kind of military blankets full of other peoples hairs, full of god-knows what; bits of skin, bits of rubbish.
‘I had to use one as a pillow, one as a mattress and one to cover myself so I wouldn’t be cold yet I was still cold.’
Dr Moore-Gilbert said she experienced a ‘prolonged anxiety or panic attack’ during her captivity and was ‘flipping out’ after two weeks.
She said her captors – the Islamic Revolutionary Guard – stopped interrogating her every day towards the end of her imprisonment, meaning she had to entertain herself for days on end, with nothing to do.
The Melbourne University lecturer remained in solitary confinement for nearly seven months, and said she descended into a ‘prolonged anxiety or panic attack’
However, the academic said she began to draw strength from the anger she felt at her mistreatment and said the rage woke up her emotional side again.
‘I drew strength from my anger and indignation at what had happened to me and became stubborn and started to fight back and started to break the rules because I felt I don’t deserve this. Who are these people to do this to me?’
The nightmare began when an informant in Tehran reported Dr Moore-Gilbert as suspicious, partly because her husband Ruslan Hodorov was a Russian-Israeli.
In the preview to the bombshell interview airing on March 9, she told Melissa Doyle that she knows the identity of the informant.
Dr Gilbert-Moore pictured with husband Ruslan Hodorov learned of his affair with her PhD supervisor only two days after she arrived in Australia, following her release in November
The academic was tried and sentenced to ten years in prison for espionage, only to be freed after Nick Warner, the head of Australia’s intelligence service, successfully negotiated a prison swap for her freedom.
Meanwhile back in Melbourne her husband began an affair with her PhD supervisor Dr Kylie Baxter, who like Dr Moore-Gilbert, is an expert in Middle East studies at the University of Melbourne.
Dr Moore-Gilbert only learnt of the alleged infidelity two days after she flew back to Melbourne in November last year and is reported to have suffered ‘immense shock’.
She had stayed loyal to her husband during her time in solitary confinement, resisting the Iranian intelligence who devised a plan to trap Ruslan Hodorov.
She is said to be divorcing him following her discovery of the alleged affair, while continuing to recover from the trauma of her imprisonment.
Host Melissa Doyle, who in 2020 left Seven News after 25 years, said Dr Moore-Gilbert is ‘strong and thoughtful’ and is one of the most remarkable women she has ever interviewed.
‘I do not know how she survived years of hell – solitary confinement, starvation and the constant fear of what could happen next. Her dignity can only be admired.’
Dr Moore-Gilbert continues to recover from the psychological trauma she suffered at the hands of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard during her time at Tehran’s Evin prison