An Australian academic whose husband had an affair while she was imprisoned in Iran for more than two years has welcomed a baby girl with her new partner.
Kylie Moore-Gilbert was arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps while trying to leave the country via Tehran airport in 2018.
She was then detained in two of Iran’s most hellish prisons on trumped-up espionage charges, in what she considers a classic case of hostage diplomacy.
Once she was finally released and allowed to return home to Australia in November 2020, Dr Moore-Gilbert discovered that the life she had built with her then-husband, Ruslan Hodorov, was gone forever .
While Dr Moore-Gilbert was suffering from the worst conditions a person could face, Mr Hodorov had begun a new relationship with fellow academic and doctoral supervisor Kylie Baxter.
In an interview to be aired on ABC’s Australian Story on Monday, Dr Moore-Gilbert introduced the new addition to her family and revealed she met her new partner, broadcaster and comedian Sami Shah, on a dating app.
Kylie Moore-Gilbert (pictured with her partner Sami Shah and their two daughters) was held in an Iranian prison for 804 days
Dr Moore-Gilbert (pictured during her imprisonment) was accused of being a spy for Israel.
She had only recently returned to Australia and was still reeling from her public divorce while Mr Shah came to terms with losing his job as a radio presenter and the collapse of her second marriage when the two men met .
Now, about three years later, the couple has grown into a beautiful family of four with the birth of their baby girl earlier this year.
News of the birth comes months after Dr. Moore-Gilbert revealed in April that she was pregnant.
“For a long time, Kylie Moore-Gilbert was this academic who goes to Iran, ends up in prison for two years, comes back and is alone, which is a tragic story,” Mr. Shah said.
“Except I know the other story is that she and I went on a date and she’s my Kylie. And it’s a very different experience.
The couple said their relationship was cemented during Melbourne’s notoriously long Covid lockdown.
“I had spent so much time alone in prison that I didn’t want to be alone anymore,” Dr. Moore-Gilbert said.
“In a way, we healed each other.”
It was around this time that Dr Moore-Gilbert also formed a relationship with Mr Shah’s 14-year-old daughter, who was wary of her father’s new girlfriend after his first two marriages failed.
Mr Shah admitted he joked about Dr Moore-Gilbert being a spy during one of their first exchanges via the dating app, but he didn’t understand why his humor fell flat .
Dr Moore-Gilbert divided his time in Iran between Evin Prison in Tehran (above) and Qarchak Prison.
She and Sami Shah (together above) met on a dating app shortly after Dr Moore-Gilbert returned to Australia.
It was only days later that he realized that the same accusation from the Iranian government had changed his life forever.
In 2018, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) arrested Dr. Moore-Gilbert, the cousin of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, after two people with whom she attended a conference reported her as “suspicious “.
At the time, Dr. Moore-Gilbert was married to Mr. Hodorov, a Russian immigrant who had moved to Israel with his family.
The IRGC used this relationship to justify the accusation of Dr. Moore-Gilbert as an Israeli spy, a claim it continues to deny.
A judge in Iran’s revolutionary court sentenced her to 10 years in prison in a secret trial in which no evidence against Dr. Moore-Gilbert was presented.
Dr Moore-Gilbert believes she was the victim of hostage diplomacy.
Hostage diplomacy sees a country imprison someone, often on vague or false charges, to use their release as leverage in international negotiations.
Last week, Australian journalist Cheng Lei was released from Chinese prison after being arrested for “illegally providing state secrets overseas” during a period of tensions between Australia and China. She is believed to have been a diplomatic hostage.
In Dr Moore-Gilbert’s case, Australia was able to exchange his release for the release of three Iranian prisoners in Thailand, two of whom were involved in the 2012 Bangkok bombing that killed 22 people.
During her time in prison, Dr Moore-Gilbert said she was held in a tiny, freezing room and subjected to psychological torture.
Dr Moore-Gilbert (above) said she was held in a tiny, freezing room and subjected to psychological torture in Iran.
When Dr. Moore-Gilbert returned home, she discovered that her then-husband, Ruslan Hodorov (right), was in a new relationship with his colleague, Dr. Kylie Baxter (left).
She went on several hunger strikes, and at one point in May 2020, her family had to silence rumors that she had committed suicide behind bars.
“It’s psychological torture. It’s a box measuring two meters by two meters. You are going completely crazy. It’s so damaging. In the end (I was) crazy. My emotional state was so unstable. I was basically having a prolonged anxiety attack,” she told Sky News.
She believes her stay was extended from six to seven months after an “evil” prison governor took an interest in her.
“He wanted some sort of romantic relationship with me,” she told 60 Minutes last year.
“He was a perverse romantic interest. He threw me a birthday party with a birthday cake. He had complete and utter control over every facet of my life.
Dr Moore-Gilbert previously said she was forced to “lose her shit” to stop other prisoners and guards taking advantage of her.
However, her short-tempered nature led her to be transferred from Tehran’s Evin Prison to the even worse Qarchak Prison.
Once she was finally released in 2020, Dr Moore-Gilbert’s suspicions that her marriage to Mr Hodorov was over were confirmed.
She said her then-husband stopped saying “I love you” during phone calls in prison and did not call her once she returned home to Australia.
While in quarantine in Melbourne, his mother announced he was with another woman.
Dr Moore-Gilbert (above) said she and Mr Shah cemented their relationship during the Covid lockdown
Since his release, Dr Moore-Gilbert (above) has written a book, The Uncaged Sky, about his time behind bars and continues to advocate for human rights in the Middle East.
“I knew there was a problem at least 12 months before I came home,” she told Sky News.
“My mother told me when I arrived in hotel quarantine. She found out the day before from a third person, a third person… My family found out and (called him), and he confirmed it.
She filed for divorce shortly after and took to Twitter to confirm the separation, writing: “Forgive the irrelevant personal announcement, dear Twitter, but…ladies and gentlemen, I am officially divorced!” Is it time for a sneaky kardonnay?
Since his release, Dr. Moore-Gilbert has written a book, The Uncaged Sky, about his time behind bars and continues to advocate for human rights in the Middle East.