New Zealand social media influencers detained in Iran finally allowed to leave

Two New Zealand social media influencers believed to have been detained in Iran for the past four months have been allowed to leave the Islamic country.

Travel bloggers Topher Richwhite and Bridget Thackwray were traveling the world in a van, documenting their trip on their Instagram page called Expedition Earth.

The couple disappeared after entering Iran around the first week of July.

Concerns grew after the couple were inactive on social media, as they last posted on their Instagram page from Turkey on July 5.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) said on Wednesday the couple were “out of the country” and “safe and sound”.

“We helped two people to obtain the necessary documents to leave. During the period we were working alongside them, their movements were restricted,” Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said.

“They were being watched but they were safe and sound. So we worked, as I say very hard, to make sure we could speed up that process.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was with “great relief” when she learned the couple had left Iran safely, adding that her government had worked “hard” over the past few months for their release.

“Over the past few months, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the New Zealand government have worked hard to ensure the safe exit of two New Zealanders from Iran,” she said, without naming. the couple.

“I can’t give many more details, but I can confirm that it happened and that it was particularly difficult for the two people involved to understand.”

Ms Ardern and the Foreign Office declined to release details of the detained couple or where they had been held.

The Prime Minister also did not provide details of negotiations with Iran, but said New Zealand condemned the brutal crackdown on women protesting the death of Mahsa Amini, who died after being detained by Iran’s morality police for violating the country’s strict dress code.

“Of course we shared our condemnation at the same time as we also had a duty to ensure that these New Zealanders could leave Iran,” she said.

“We have worked hard to do both: keep them safe but also make our values ​​known about what is happening in Iran. »

The Ardern government has also updated its travel warnings for Iran, urging New Zealanders to leave Iran.

“Do not travel to Iran due to the potential for violent civil unrest, the risk of arrest or detention and the volatile security situation in the region,” reads the country’s advisory.

“New Zealanders who are currently in Iran are advised to leave.”

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