Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 September 2019

Australians held in Iran identified as Instagram travellers Jolie King and Mark Firkin

Pair identified on social media a day after Australia revealed three of its citizens were being held in Iran

Australian bloggers Jolie King and Mark Firkin are reportedly being detained in Evin prison in Tehran after the couple were arrested while travelling through Iran. Courtesy Instagram / Jolie King
Australian bloggers Jolie King and Mark Firkin are reportedly being detained in Evin prison in Tehran after the couple were arrested while travelling through Iran. Courtesy Instagram / Jolie King

Two Australians held in Iran have been identified on social media as Jolie King and Mark Firkin after the pair were arrested 10 weeks ago.

Ms King, an Australian-British dual national, and Mr Firkin have been documenting their two-year journey from Perth, Australia, on Instagram and YouTube as they make their way to the UK overland in a Toyota LandCruiser.

The pair, whose last updates showed them in Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan, went silent abruptly at the end of June. They are now believed to be in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.

The families of the two bloggers have called for their safe return after they were identified on social media and in the British press.

A day before they were named, Australian officials first acknowledged three of its citizens had been detained in Iran.

The arrests coincided with Australia’s announcement that it would join the naval campaign led by the US to protect commercial shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.

The shipping route between the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman has become the centre for increasing tension between Iran and the West, including retaliatory oil tanker seizures.

The Times reported the third Australian, also held at Evin prison, was a British-Australian, Cambridge-educated academic who had been detained in Iran almost a year ago.

The three are being held as bargaining chips, with one of them being told they were part of a plan for a prisoner swap.

Australian authorities have said they have been working for the release of all three of their nationals.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was providing consular assistance and revised its travel advice to Iran this week.

It has said its citizens should “reconsider your need to travel" to Iran and urged nationals to stay away from the borders of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia would continue to “pursue these matters in the interests of the Australians at the centre of these cases".

"We will do that carefully and we will do that in close consultation through our officials who have been part of this process now for some time," Mr Morrison said.

The country's Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, did not want the pair to be dragged into the broader stand-off with Iran.

“We have no reason to think these arrests are connected to international concern over Iran’s nuclear programme, UN sanctions or sanctions enforcement, or maritime security and the safety of civilian shipping,” Ms Payne told the Australian Senate.

She said she had raised the arrests of the three “many times” with the Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif.

Ms King and Mr Firkin had posted dozens of photos and videos from their trip on a blog called The Way Overland.

The pair said they hoped to “inspire anyone wanting to travel” and break the stigma surrounding countries that are portrayed less favourably in the media.

Their arrest seems to have been linked to their operating a drone near Tehran, although initial indications were that the pair had been detained for camping near a military area outside the Iranian capital.

Updated: September 13, 2019 01:42 AM

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