Two travel bloggers from New Zealand, who disappeared four months after arriving in Iran, have left the country safely following secret talks between the two governments, Wellington announced on Wednesday.
Bridget Thakwray and her husband Tober Richwhite, the son of one of the richest men in the archipelago, arrived in Iran from Turkey in early July.
Very quickly, the newlyweds became silent on social networks, they fed pictures of their travels.
For months, their approximately 300,000 fans, increasingly curious about them, sent them messages that went unnoticed. At the same time, the New Zealand government prefers to keep quiet about them.
On Wednesday, the island nation’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the government had “worked hard” during this period to ensure the “(safe departure)” of the couple, who had gone through a “difficult time”.
The circumstances of their stay in the Islamic Republic are unclear. Iranian officials told AFP the couple had not been detained or arrested, and the New Zealand government was careful not to imply any imprisonment.
Westerners are often detained by the Iranian government. While Tehran has been accused of engaging in “hostage diplomacy,” many of the releases have come in exchange for concessions from governments on ongoing critical issues.
Most countries advise their nationals against traveling to Iran.
Christopher Richwhite, in his thirties and the son of one of New Zealand’s richest bankers, had traveled there with friends before the couple embarked on their world tour.
His wife, Bridget, set up a fashion website in 2017, a year before they started traveling, in her 20s.
They traveled the planet only in a Jeep 4×4.
In a video posted in July, which has since been removed from social media, Mr Richwhite explained that they had been stopped at the Iranian border, where their vehicle was searched. He said he received instructions on how to dress and behave.
One of their fans, Chris Laws, a retired teacher living in Canada, said the couple’s GPS tracker had been in the same spot for days.
“They never stay in one place, in the middle of nowhere, for long,” Los told AFP. “They were sharing photos and videos frequently, so it was clear to me that something was wrong.”
Ms Ardern did not elaborate on the nature of the talks but insisted she was not shy about criticizing Iran’s bloody crackdown, which according to the Iran Human Rights (IHR) report has left at least 141 people, including children, dead in more than a month. ), an NGO based in Oslo.
The disappearance echoes allegations that Iran has been spying on British-Australian bloggers in particular for months in 2019. On the day of their release, Tehran announced the return of Iranian students who had been detained in Australia for more than a year.
The latter, Reza Dehbashi, a PhD student at the University of Queensland near Brisbane, was arrested in Australia for allegedly “trying to buy Dubai sophisticated US military equipment and transfer it to Iran” in violation of sanctions. Americans.
The New Zealand government maintains diplomatic relations with Iran and has an embassy in Tehran since 1975. Iran has repeatedly accused outside forces of fomenting the protests.
Tehran announced in late September that nine foreigners, including from France, Germany, Italy, Poland and the Netherlands, had been arrested.