News ‘Cells known as graves‘: Inside the Iranian hell where Aussie bloggers are held captive

‘Cells known as graves‘: Inside the Iranian hell where Aussie bloggers are held captive

Australian couple Jolie King and Mark Firkin were believed to have been held in Iran's notorious Evin Prison. Photo: Instagram
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It was a decision dreams are made of – quit your job, grab your partner and travel the rugged road between Australia and the UK for two years.

Jolie King and Mark Firkin left Perth in July 2017, their Toyota Landcrusier packed with supplies they would need to cross continents as they blogged their way across the world.

“Our biggest motivation behind making the vlogs is to hopefully inspire anyone wanting to travel, and also try to break the stigma around travelling to countries which get a bad wrap (sic) in the media,” they said in a post on crowd-funding platform Patreon.

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The Karakoram Highway. The highest paved international road in the world topping out at around 4800m, and somewhere we had been looking forward to getting to for months. . The Highway stretches for 1300kms weaving through the lower more green and open landscape, up into the narrow and steep valleys, then over the snow capped Khunjerab Pass. . In the pic is the Passu Cones. Like the rest of the scenery it is pretty spectacular, isn’t it!? . (To our very generous Patreons, new video’s up now! 🙂) . . . . . . . . . #pakistan #karakoram #overland #vanlife #roadtrip #expedition #vlog #troopy #4wd #landcruiser #youtube #thekarakoramclub #toyota #troopcarrier #cnntravel #mountain #bbctravel #4×4 #travellingthroughtheworld #projectvanlife #hunza #passu #passucones #overlandjournal #hdj78r #camperlifestyle #expeditionportal #iamtb #gilgit #nature

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But when the couple landed in Iran they were eyed suspiciously by the government after flying their drone too close to a military compound.

The Iranian government arrested the pair and have detained them in the notorious Evin prison.

Another British-Australian woman, an academic formerly lecturing at a university in Australia, has also been detained in Evin jail.

Evin University

Across Iran, the prison is known colloquially as ‘Evin University’, but it’s no school. The name refers to the high number of intellectuals who the Iranian government sees as a threat to its regime confined within its walls.

Female Iranian prisoners in their cell in ‘Evin University; Photo: AAP

Located at the foot of the Alborz Mountains in northern Tehran, Evin Prison reportedly houses around 1500 political dissidents, intellectuals and journalists. Now the Australian tourists are believed to have joined them.

Most of the people held captive since the prison was built in 1972 have been accused of insulting Iran’s Supreme Leader and the Islamic Republic.

During the 1980s, it is believed tens of thousands of dissidents and members of the People’s Mujahidin of Iran were hanged there in what is known as the bloodiest and darkest decade in Iran’s modern history.

In an open letter in 2017, Iranian political prisoners Golrokh Iraee and Atena Daemi described “solitary cells with no windows, ventilation and lavatory”, “dungeons and dark interrogation rooms” and “cells known as graves”.

They said the food was barely edible and came in tiny portions, and that many prisoners suffered from kidney problems due to the terrible drinking water.

Evin Prison
Evin Prison in 1987, the darkest decade in Iran’s modern history. Photo: AAP

Investigations by Amnesty International backed up the terrifying picture of the treatment inmates receive.

“We hear constant reports of really long periods of solitary confinements lasting weeks, of interrogations which last hours,” Amnesty International’s Nikita White said.

“There’s a real problem with a lack of access to medical care, which is used as a punishment,” she said.

“People endure really cruel conditions including overcrowding, inadequate food, insect infestation and poor ventilation.”

Despite reports of brutal treatment, Deakin University Professor Shahram Akbarzadeh said it was unlikely Ms King and Mr Firkin were being beaten by their guards.

He said they would likely be kept in solitary confinement instead.

“They’re most likely in solitary confinement and that is psychologically draining,” Professor Akbarzadeh told The New Daily. 

“Psychologically it’s very traumatic. You’re completely cut off, and not understanding the language would make it more difficult,” he added.

“The interrogators would have some English, but not prison guards. In a daily routine, they’re unlikely to have access to an English speaking person.”

We may not know what will happen to the three of them for some time, Ms White warned.

“It’s a very serious situation,” she added.

“They’re then taken to court and their trials will last 15 minutes and they can face decades in prison for national security charges, which are really broad.”

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