In an excursion from Asia to Europe, Instagram bloggers hoped to document their journey through the Middle East to prove it gets a “bad rap.” However, shortly after arriving in Iran, their simple mistake landed them in a deadly prison nicknamed “the black hole of evil.”
For British Instagram star Jolie King and Australian boyfriend Mark Firkin, traveling wasn’t just a hobby but a way of life. As such, the couple planned out a years-long trek across the world, starting in southern Indonesia and ending up in England.
However, the pair had a sugar-coated outlook on life, believing that all people are inherently good. In particular, King and Firkin hoped to “break the stigma” surrounding the turmoil in the Middle East, arguing that these countries simply “get a bad rap” but are, in truth, completely safe. What they found instead was the brutal reality of human nature.
“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.
According to the Daily Mail, King and Firkin were documenting their fairytale adventure, which had landed them in Tehran, when the pair were suddenly accosted by Iranian police for flying a drone without a permit. In a nightmarish turn, the pair were thrown in solitary confinement, interrogated for hours, and taken to Evin prison indefinitely, which is one of the country’s deadliest penitentiaries.
After several months of silence from the bloggers, the husband of a British-Iranian inmate at the same prison broke word about King and Firkin’s imprisonment. Richard Ratcliffe, whose wife Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has survived at Evin prison since 2016, confirmed that King was stuffed into a cell with other women and is not doing well, according to ABC News.
“I know that the girl is now in with Nazanin, [she] came through scared and disoriented and obviously had been quite intimidated by being interrogated for all that time in solitary [confinement],” he said. “Nazanin was kept in a room without any windows — so no natural light — it was a lightbulb kept on the whole time. [She was] taken out for interrogations blindfolded.”
Evin prison is notorious for torturing and murdering prisoners. Women often report suffering physical as well as sexual torture as they serve inhumane sentences in squalid living conditions. Others experience mental torture, starvation, and even execution. Prisoners have confirmed that the cells are overcrowded, infested with insects, and dredged in human filth. Once an individual is taken into custody, it’s expected that they will not return alive.
A source initially told the media that the Iranian authorities gave King hope by promising her that she was only being detained so long because they were going to use her as part of an international prisoner swap. Disturbingly, she has no idea that such an exchange is a rarity, as Nazanin and several other British female prisoners in Evin have had their swaps fail.
King is believed to be kept in a ward reserved for political prisoners, suggesting that the Iranian government will attempt to use her as a political pawn. However, this isn’t all positive news, as political prisoners are often the most despised and preyed upon by prison guards.
It’s possible that the Iranian authorities will trump up King’s drone-flying crime, which the pair did in order to take pictures for social media, to espionage in an effort to hold the foreign governments to the fire. Such a charge can earn guilty parties decades in prison or even the death penalty.
Fortunately, there is still hope for both King and Firkin, although little information has been released about the male blogger’s detainment. The British government has announced that it will confront Iran about the arrested Brits at an upcoming UN meeting. The Australian government has also showcased a willingness to bargain with the Iranian authorities for the release of the couple.
Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, said, “The message to Iran is to follow the international rule of law, and to release people that have been detained in the way they have been over the last couple of years.”
Although the couple hoped to showcase the good in humanity, they ended up highlighting the reality. While there are inherently good individuals all over the world, there are also those who commit horrific acts of evil. Of course, it’s unlikely that even hard time in one of the world’s deadliest prisons will convince the couple to reform their opinion, as our desired beliefs are sometimes so powerful that we will shun the truth right in front of our eyes to satisfy our own ideology.