Travel bloggers who face ten years in an Iranian jail: The British woman and her boyfriend who have 19,000 Instagram followers and were arrested for flying drone near Tehran
- Building designer Jolie King and her boyfriend Mark Firkin have been detained
- Pair are thought to have been arrested flying drone near Tehran without licence
- Family of the couple have said that the whole situation is a ‘misunderstanding’
- Couple walked away from their ‘9-5 grind’ to travel overland across the world
- Began from their ‘humble little home’ in Western Australia to end in London
- Do you know more? Contact our reporters on firstname.lastname@example.org
The identities of a British-Australian blogger and her fiance who are facing ten years in an Iranian jail for flying a drone without permission have been revealed.
Building designer Jolie King and Australian construction manager Mark Firkin were arrested in July after they were caught operating the drone near Tehran with a license.
The pair, who have 19,000 followers on Instagram, had previously walked away from their ‘9-5 grind’ in order to travel the world together.
Now the family of the couple say that the whole situation is a ‘misunderstanding’ and that they were unaware of the strict drone laws employed by the country.
The couple (pictured above) enjoy sharing their travels on Instagram to their follower
The couple pictured above in Gilgit-Baltistan were said to have been arrested in July
The travel bloggers attracted many followers for their posts, including this one of Ms King in Sumbawa, Nusa Tenggara Barat, Indonesia (left) and Goa Rangko Flores (right)
Persian-language broadcaster Manoto TV revealed the names of the bloggers on Twitter overnight.
A source also told The Times that the Iranian authorities had informed Ms King that she was being detained in hope of a prisoner swap.
At their time of arrest the couple had been travelling across Asia to Europe and documenting their overland adventure from one side of the world to the other.
The couple had previously said that they wanted to share their journey online to show that countries with a bad reputation are still okay to travel to.
‘Our biggest motivation behind 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 rap in the media’, they said in a post.
Jolie King and Australian construction manager Mark Firkin have been revealed as the couple who have been detained in Iran
Snaps show the couple all over the world including Malaysia (right) and Rajasthan (left)
While travelling in India the pair posted this snap of themselves on social media while visiting Goa
Ms King (pictured above in Udaipur, Rajasthan) is said to be being held in the same jail as Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Their adventure first began in the summer of 2017 after they saved up all their money to travel overland in an SUV from Australia to the United Kingdom.
They island-hopped across south east Asia and were toward the middle of their trip, having crossed through scenic Pakistan, India and Kyrgyzstan.
Inside the infamous Evin jail
Evin prison was built by the former Shah of Iran in 1972 and has a reputation as being used for political repression.
It was later expanded after some political opponents overthrew him and took power in 1979.
The couple were detained in Iran in July amid reports that they were flying a drone near Tehran without a permit. The woman is thought to be locked in Evin jail (pictured)
In the 1980s dissidents and members of the People’s Mujahidin of Iran were hanged there and even today the prison still operates a death row system.
Most prisoners in the jail are high-profile long-term political opponents, and in some cases pawns to be used in bargains with other countries.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is still being detained in the prison after she was accused of spying while visiting her parents with her daughter.
Others who have also been jailed for spying include British Iranian businessman Anousheh Ashouri and Amas Amiri, as well as Morad Tabhaz.
The couple arrived in Iran on June 30 and immediately took to social media to update their followers.
In a video message they said: ‘We’re now in Iran and we’re camped on a nice hill here next to the capital Tehran. We just arrived. It’s actually really beautiful.’
The video is no longer on the couple’s YouTube channel and followers have recently expressed concern at their long period of silence.
One worried fan said on Instagram: ‘GUYS WHERE ARE YOU ITS BEEN A MONTH – R U OKAY???’
Another said: ‘Anyone else worried about what happened when they went to China?? It’s been over a month and Jodie said they would update us as soon as they got in!’
A third said: ‘Something’s definitely not right’.
The couple had planned to conclude their trip in the United Kingdom and return to Perth early next year. Instead, they are awaiting trial in the Islamic Republic.
The bloggers’ families said in a statement via Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: ‘Our families hope to see Mark and Jolie safely home as soon as possible.
‘We have no further comment to make at this stage and ask that the media respects our privacy at this difficult time.’
The bureau’s travel advice for Iran is ‘reconsider your need to travel’ and ‘do not travel’ in some parts of the country bordering Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.
The travel warning says foreigners are of increased risk of being ‘arbitrarily detained, or arrested’. The Australian government said it is providing consular assistance to the families.
News of their arrest emerged Tuesday, at the same time as it was revealed another British-Australian woman – an academic who studied at Cambridge – has also been locked up.
The woman has not yet been named.
It is thought that both Ms King and the other woman are currently being kept at Evin prison in Tehran, the same jail where British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been held on spying charges since 2016.
The arrests come amid heightened tensions between Iran and Britain. Meanwhile, Australia announced it would send a warship, surveillance aircraft and Defence Force personnel to join the international effort to combat Iran’s actions in the Strait of Hormuz just weeks ago.
The couple have posted amazing pictures from their account in places such as Cambodia (left) and Pang Oung Lake (right)
All smiles: The couple had been enjoying the new freedom of their life before the incident in Iran
Ms King has posted many photos of their travels such as Suwehan Beach (left) and Kyrgyzstan (right)
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab summoned the Iranian ambassador in London on Wednesday in order to voice ‘serious concerns about the number of dual national citizens detained by Iran and their conditions of detention.’
It is thought Ms King is being kept in a ward for female political prisoners.
It was also reported that the academic is in solitary confinement after she was sentenced to ten years in prison for an unknown offence. The sentence is common for foreign nationals charged with espionage.
Tulip Siddiq, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s Labour MP, told The Times: ‘This terrible news shows a clear escalation of Iran’s hostage diplomacy.
UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab spoke with the Iranian ambassador on Wednesday and warned of ‘serious concerns’ around detention and treatment of the two women
The blogger has been detained in a ward for female political prisoners where Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe (pictured), is currently held
Mr Ratcliffe, pictured outside the Iranian embassy in London in June, said Iran must be made to understand that ‘hostage diplomacy is not OK’
‘Soft diplomatic responses to Iran’s illegal and inhumane treatment of British prisoners have been a failure.’
Richard Ratcliffe, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, told the paper: ‘I complained to the foreign secretary last week that we’d been seeing an escalation from Iran in recent months, even since our hunger strike, publicly taking Nazanin to hospital in chains and restricting her visits and calls, new big sentences announced for other innocent people, and more British citizens being taken, even non-Iranian.’
He said Iran must be made to understand ‘hostage diplomacy is not OK’ and the UK Government ‘cannot keep sitting quietly by while ordinary people are being taken as bargaining chips’.
TRAVEL BLOGGERS’ PLANNED JAUNT AROUND THE WORLD
Mark Firkin and Jolie King with a sign showing their planned overland journey from their ‘humble home’ in Cottesloe, Western Australia to London
In a blog post, the couple said they dreamed up their route so they could ‘visit places we’ve always wanted to see’ and try avoid the wet season.
The couple began from their ‘humble little home’ in Cottesloe, Western Australia, and travelled north across the country to Darwin.
They shuttled over by ship to East Timor (Timor Leste) and drove through Indonesia through to Sumatra, and then on to Malaysia.
They hopped through South East Asia and were working their way through India, Pakistan and central Asia, before arriving in Iran.
They were next planning to transit through to Turkey and on to Europe, where they hoped to drive up to Norway and down to Spain via the French Alps.
‘Mark plans to show Jolie where he spent a winter in the French Alps,’ the post said.
They then hoped to get the train from Calais, France, to the UK. They said: ‘Hopefully we can stretch this trip out as long as possible, as it’s only so often between life’s commitments that we get the chance to spend this much time exploring.’