An Australian academic imprisoned in Iran for two years has revealed she’s dating again after being brought back to Australia in a deal brokered by Australia’s top spy.
Dr Kylie-Moore Gilbert is living a quiet life in the Dandenong Ranges outside of Melbourne eight months on from arriving home – but not with her former partner who moved on while she was behind bars.
‘I came out and I thought: When’s the PTSD going to kick in?’ Dr Moore-Gilbert told The Age this week.
The 34-year-old said she was trying to regain some sense of normality and has been spending her time writing a book about her experience in an attempt for closure.
‘These things take time to settle, so actually it would be unusual if I came out of prison and started having PTSD straight away,’ she added.
She also spilled the beans that she has returned to the dating scene but declined to delve into any details.
Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert (pictured) who spent more than two year in Iranian prisons on false spying charges has revealed she is dating again after divorcing her husband
The Islamic studies scholar was freed in November 2020 in a prisoner swap deal after spending 804 days behind bars on spying charges levelled by Iran’s government which she denies.
The swap deal was brokered by the former boss of Australia’s spy agencies ASIS and the Office of National Intelligence, Nick Warner.
Once she arrived home she discovered her husband Ruslan Hodorov had moved on with another woman – her former colleague at the University of Melbourne.
Her mother broke the news while she was in quarantine that her Russian-Israeli husband was having an affair with Dr Kylie Baxter, her former PhD supervisor.
Their relationship began while Dr Moore-Gilbert was held captive in two of Iran’s most notorious prisons.
An ‘upset and disappointed’ Dr Moore-Gilbert filed for divorce shortly after returning home, and made the announcement it was official on her Twitter account in April.
Her ex-husband was spotted out and about with his new lover that same month.
Dr Moore-Gilbert (left) filed divorce shortly after her release after finding out Mr Hodorov was having an affair with her former colleague Dr Kylie Baxter (pictured together at right)
Ms Gilbert said this week she now views her incarceration through a somewhat clearer lens – but when she was first detained at Tehran airport – about to fly out after attending a conference – her brain ‘could not compute’ what was happening.
She said going from thinking she would be returning to her new husband, their newly bought home and her academic career to eventually hearing an Iranian court sentence her to 10 years was devastating.
When she first went to prison she explained she felt almost like giving up but that she learned through her own experience and with the help of other prisoners that going on the offense was her best defense.
‘In terms of assault or bullying by other prisoners or prison guards or interrogators, if you made it very clear you would lose your shit if they crossed a certain line, they would quickly decide not to do that because it would be too much of a headache or a hassle for them.’
That fiery temperament wasn’t without consequences, however, she was sent for long periods in solitary confinement and was even transferred from Tehran’s Evin Prison to the even worse Qarchak Prison.
She was eventually given a Farsi grammar book and newspaper which she used to learn the language while alone in her cell – which she says saved her mental health.
Talking about her arrest and hastily conducted trial is where flashed of anger on an otherwise remarkably grounded persona appear.
Dr Moore-Gilbert Tweeted earlier this year she had met Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured)
She says a half-hour conversation with a man while at the conference in Iran is what led to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard arresting her.
They briefly discussed politics particularly the situation in Bahrain and when officers later arrested the man she believes he gave her up as a scapegoat to get himself out of trouble.
She is part of an international campaign to enable governments to sanction foreign individuals who breach human rights laws – with her particular focus on the Iranian Revolutionary Court judge who sentence her in a secret trial with no evidence presented.
Dr Moore-Gilbert said she still has mixed feelings about Iran and does not hate the country – while her treatment was unfair she said many people she met were compassionate.
Other inmates and female guards at the prison would regularly look out for her and bring male guards back into line when they were disrespectful.
And she concedes prison has toughened her a little which may not be an entirely bad thing.
When she learned her old life was not waiting for her when she returned to Australia, rather than wallow in grief she was quick to file for divorce and focus on herself.
She revealed in April this year how she wanted nothing to do with her former husband having previously revealed how she was keen to ‘move on’ from the marriage.
‘I don’t care what he is doing. He is none of my business… that is my ex and I don’t care about him,’ she told the Herald Sun.
Dr Moore-Gilbert declared the divorce was finalised in a post on Twitter, making light of the situation with a reference to a Kylie Minogue cameo in Australian sit-com Kath & Kim
Dr Moore-Gilbert (pictured) was locked up in solitary confinement in a windowless, two-by-two metre cell, with noise and lights blaring 24/7
Before her September 2018 arrest Dr Moore-Gilbert and Mr Hodorov had just bought a house in Melbourne after marrying the previous year in a Jewish ceremony.
They met a decade earlier when she visited Israel, where Mr Hodorov lived after emigrating from Russia with his family.
Both Mr Hodorov, 31, and Dr Baxter, 43, pushed for Dr Moore-Gilbert’s release after her arrest for espionage at Tehran airport as she attempted to leave the country.
Mr Hodorov was this month pictured walking hand-in-hand with Dr Baxter along Melbourne’s Yarra River close to their home in the exclusive suburb of Toorak.
Dr Moore-Gilbert, an Islamic studies scholar, was freed last November in a prisoner swap deal after spending 804 days in an Iranian jail on spying charges, which she denies
He told media he was relieved Dr Moore-Gilbert was home and ‘appreciated the interest’ in his ex-wife but declined to comment further.
Dr Moore-Gilbert revealed in a bombshell interview last month that while locked up in the Middle East Mr Hodorov eventually stopped saying ‘I love you’ during phone calls.
‘I knew that it (the marriage) wasn’t in the same state that it was when I left. I knew that there was a problem at least 12 months before I came home,’ she told Melissa Doyle in a Sky News tell-all.
‘My mother told me when I arrived in hotel quarantine. She found out the day before from a third person, a third party… My family found out and called (him), and he confirmed it.’
Dr Moore-Gilbert said she became suspicious when her husband had not contacted her after touching down in Australia.
‘He hasn’t even called to say ‘I’m happy you’re free’, so I said you have to tell me mum it’s obvious somethings up – I’m strong I can handle it,’ she said.
Dr Moore-Gilbert added she ‘was upset and disappointed (Mr Hodorov) was not supporting me to the extent that I hoped he would’ while she was in jail.
‘I understand something had shifted for him and for me too. I didn’t necessarily think that our marriage was over, but I was thinking to myself based on that maybe I didn’t want to stay with him, so it wasn’t necessarily a surprise that my marriage came to an end.
‘He never told my family, or told me, that he wanted to leave me. He maintained the deception right up until the end.’
Dr Moore-Gilbert said Dr Baxter liaised between the University of Melbourne and her family and husband during her time behind bars.
She and Dr Baxter are both experts in Middle Eastern studies at the university, where she teaches
‘The nature of it given my closeness to both of them was very disappointing for me. In a way it has been harder for me to process and come to terms with that then it has been with what happened to me in Iran,’ she said.
The academic admitted her husband ‘suffered a lot at the beginning’ of her arrest and was ‘quite vulnerable’.
‘I don’t know what happened, I don’t want to know, I don’t want to dwell on it. I just want to move on,’ she said.
Dr Moore-Gilbert was given a 10-year sentence but always denied the charges, that reportedly stemmed from the Iranian authorities’ belief that she was a spy for Israel because of her relationship with her husband – an Israeli citizen.
While in prison, she refused to help lure him to Iran in a plot concocted by her captors, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC).
A letter from Dr Moore-Gilbert to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, which was smuggled out of Evin prison, revealed how the IRGC tried to set a trap for Mr Hodorov, who they accused of being an Israeli spy.
When she was arrested, Dr Moore-Gilbert – who is also the cousin of Julian Assange – had been attending a conference in Iran when she was flagged as ‘suspicious’ by a fellow academic and by a subject she had interviewed for research.
She was subsequently tried and sentenced, and held in Evin prison in solitary confinement. Iranian authorities reportedly tried to recruit her as a spy in exchange for her release, which she declined.
While imprisoned Dr Moore-Gilbert was kept in a tiny cell in freezing temperatures and was subjected to psychological torture. She staged several hunger strikes, and in May 2020 her family denied reports she had attempted suicide.
Nick Warner, the head of Australia’s intelligence service, successfully negotiated a prison swap for Dr Moore-Gilbert’s freedom.
She was exchanged for three Iranian prisoners in Thailand, two of whom had been convicted in connection with the 2012 Bangkok bomb plot.
Dr Moore-Gilbert (pictured) admitted her husband ‘suffered a lot at the beginning’ of her arrest and was ‘quite vulnerable’ in an interview with Sky News last month
He is understood to have spent months convincing officials in meetings and even at social functions to get the Thai prisoners released – who the Iranian government called ‘businessmen’.
Australia’s ambassador to Thailand, Allan McKinnon, also lobbied with Thai officials to release the three Iranian terrorists as an exchange for the Melbourne University lecturer.
Dr Moore-Gilbert has carried out research into revolutions in the Middle East, particularly in Bahrain.
To this day, no evidence of her alleged crimes have been brought forward by Iran, and the Australian government has rejected them as ‘baseless and politically motivated’.
In December 2020, Western and Israeli media claimed Iran had launched a media misinformation campaign against Moore-Gilbert ‘accusing her of coordinating with a former Bahraini MP, Jasim Husain, to steal secrets for Israel’.
Husain was accused by Iran of teaching Moore-Gilbert Arabic and Persia, and offering to help her spy on Shia exiles in Iran.