Kylie Moore-Gilbert talks to Cheryl about how she survived 804 days in an Iranian prison and her journey back home. Her memoir, The Uncaged Sky, is out now. Kylie is currently at the Sydney Writers’ Festival.
On September 12, 2018 British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert was arrested at Tehran Airport by Iran’s feared Islamic Revolutionary Guards. Convicted of espionage in a shadowy trial presided over by Iran’s most notorious judge, Dr Moore-Gilbert was sentenced to 10 years in prison.Incarcerated in Tehran’s Evin and Qarchak prisons for 804 days, this is the full and gripping account of her harrowing ordeal. Held in a filthy solitary confinement cell for months, and subjected to relentless interrogation, Kylie was pushed to the limits of her endurance by extreme physical and psychological deprivation.Kylie’s only lifeline was the covert friendships she made with other prisoners inside the Revolutionary Guards’ maximum-security compound where she had been ‘disappeared’, communicating in great danger through the air vents between cells, and by hiding secret letters in hava khori, the narrow outdoor balcony where she was led, blindfolded, for a solitary hour each day.Cut off from the outside world, Kylie realised she alone had the power to change the dynamics of her incarceration. To survive, she began to fight back, adopting a strategy of resistance with her captors. Multiple hunger strikes, letters smuggled to the media, co-ordinated protests with other prisoners and a daring escape attempt led to her transfer to the isolated desert prison, Qarchak, to live among convicted criminals.On November 25, 2020, after more than two years of struggle, Kylie was finally released in a high stakes three-nation prisoner swap deal orchestrated by the Australian government, laying bare the complex game of global politics in which she had become a valuable pawn.Written with extraordinary insight and vivid immediacy, The Uncaged Sky is Kylie Moore-Gilbert’s remarkable story of courage and resilience, and a powerful meditation on hope, solidarity and what it means to be free.