Kylie Moore-Gilbert reveals Iran captors wanted to turn her into a spy

Aussie academic locked up in Iran for 804 days claims her captors wanted to turn her into a double agent – and reveals the surprising countries they wanted her to spy on

  • Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Islamic studies scholar, endured two years in prison
  • She was captured by Islamic forces in late 2018 and psychologically tortured
  • The 33-year-old also spent seven excruciating months in solitary confinement
  • She said Iranian Revolutionary Guard tried to convince her to work for them  
  • Said they wanted her to use academic cover story to infiltrate Europe and the US 

Australian academic Kylie-Moore Gilbert has claimed her Iranian captors repeatedly tried to turn her into a double agent and do their bidding across Europe and the US.

Dr Moore-Gilbert, 33, was held in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison for 804 days after being arrested on spying charges when she tried to fly out of the city in late 2018.

Seven months of her detention was spent in solitary confinement – the shocking details of which she has revealed in her first TV interview since she was freed last November.

But before being allowed to return to Australia as part of a prisoner swap, the academic said the Iranian Revolutionary Guard tried to convince her ‘many times’ to do espionage work for them.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, 33, said the Iranian Revolutionary Guard tried to convince her ‘many times’ to do espionage work for them while she was detained for 804 days in Iran

‘I knew the reason that they didn’t engage in any meaningful negotiations with the Australians [to release her] was because they wanted to recruit me, they wanted me to work for them as a spy,’ she told Sky News.

‘[They said] if I co-operated with them and agreed to become a spy for them, they would free me – I could win my freedom.’

Dr Moore-Gilbert was eventually released in exchange for three Iranian prisoners being held abroad.

She said the country wanted even more value by turning her into a double agent who could use her position as an academic to collect information on Iran’s political enemies.

She claimed though Iran was not particularly interested in turning her against her own country. 

‘They were more interested in me using my academic status as a cover story and travelling to other Middle Eastern countries and perhaps European countries, perhaps America, and collecting information for them there,’ she said.

Dr Moore-Gilbert said she slept on a stained carpet and was given three thin blankets that were used by other prisoners

Dr Moore-Gilbert also told in her landmark interview due to air this week how she spent months living in an ‘extreme solitary confinement room’.  

‘The first room I was put in… [it’s] designed to break you. It’s psychological torture. You go completely insane,’ the 33-year-old said. 

Dr Moore-Gilbert describes her time in a tiny, freezing cell with no access to daylight or distractions, but constant light and noise keeping her awake. 

‘It is so damaging. I would say I felt physical pain from the psychological trauma I had in that room,’ she said.

Pictured: Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert, Islamic Studies lecturer at Melbourne University

‘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 other prisoners had used. 

‘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 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 she knows the identity of the informant.  

Dr Gilbert-Moore pictured with husband Ruslan Hodorov. She learned of his alleged 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 allegedly 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 learned of the alleged infidelity two days after she flew back to Melbourne in November last year and is reported to have suffered ‘immense shock’. 

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

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.’

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