New Zealand couple trapped in Iran allowed to leave

WELLINGTON: Two New Zealand travel bloggers who disappeared in Iran for nearly four months are “unharmed” after fleeing after secret talks between the two governments, Wellington revealed on Wednesday (October 26th).

Newlyweds Bridget Thackwray and Topher Richwhite moved from Turkey to Iran in early July, when their social media feeds – usually filled with glamorous and carefully curated photos of them in exotic locations – fell silent.

For months, some of the couple’s 300,000 fans have been posting increasingly anguished messages asking for their safety, with no response. At the same time, the New Zealand government has refused media requests to comment on their fate.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern broke her silence, revealing that officials had been “working hard” for several months to “ensure the safe exit” of the couple, who had endured “difficult circumstances”.

The exact details of the couple’s stay in Iran remain unclear.

Iranian officials told AFP the couple had not been detained or arrested, and the New Zealand government was careful not to imply formal captivity.

“SOMETHING WAS WRONG”

Westerners are frequently shut down by Iran’s hardline government – which has been at odds with the United States and its allies since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Inmates are languishing in prisons or have been released after intense behind-the-scenes negotiations.

Many releases have included prisoner swaps, leading to accusations that Tehran is engaging in “hostage diplomacy”.

Most countries advise against traveling to Iran.

‘Topher’, short for Christopher, who is in his thirties and the son of one of New Zealand’s wealthiest bankers, toured with a band before the pair began their world tour.

His wife Bridget, in her late 20s, founded fashion site Fashbae in 2017, the year before they started travelling.

They traveled in an American-made Jeep 4×4 named “Gunther” after German traveler Gunther Holtorf, who visited 215 countries in 26 years before his death in 2021.

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