Iran detained 2 travel influencers who were traveling the country trying to 'break the stigma' around it with posts on YouTube and Instagram

Alexandra Ma
jolie king mark firkin
jolie king mark firkin

Jolie King/Instagram

  • Iran detained an Australian couple who were crossing the country on a road trip from Australia to London and had been documenting their travels on Instagram and YouTube.

  • Jolie King and Mark Firkin were arrested in July near Tehran. According to the Persian-language channel Manoto TV, they were detained on charges of flying a drone with no license.

  • They have been detained in the high-security Evin Prison in Tehran, Manoto TV said.

  • The couple, who have more than 40,000 followers across Instagram and YouTube, said they wanted to "break the stigma" around traveling to countries with bad reputations.

  • Iran has detained many foreigners in the past, and they often become leverage in its geopolitical struggles with the West.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Iran has detained two travel influencers who were traveling the country and said they were documenting their trip on social media as a way to "break the stigma" around countries with scary reputations.

Jolie King and her boyfriend, Mark Firkin, are being held in Tehran's high-security Evin Prison, according to Pouria Zeraati, the editor-in-chief of the Persian-language channel Manoto TV.

Zeraati said they had been there since their arrest in July on charges of flying a drone without a license.

Firkin is an Australian national, while King is a British-Australian dual citizen. Officials in Australia confirmed that the couple was being detained.

They were arrested by security forces in Jajrood, an area to Tehran's east, Manoto TV reported Wednesday.

jolie king mark firkin
jolie king mark firkin

The Way Overland/YouTube

"According to an informed source, this arrest had no political element, but was for flying the drone," Manoto TV said Wednesday.

A representative for Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told Insider in a statement that it was "providing consular assistance" to King's and Firkin's families.

News of their arrest came to light Wednesday, with Manoto TV revealing the couple's names later in the day. They have not yet had a trial, Zeraati added.

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King and Firkin were in Iran as part of a long road trip from their home in Cottesloe, Western Australia, to London. The pair quit their jobs to travel the world.

They had been documenting their voyage on their Instagram and YouTube pages — named "The Way Overland." They have about 20,000 followers on each platform.

They have not updated their YouTube channel since June 25 or their Instagram page since June 26.

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The couple said their blogging was meant to "break the stigma" around countries like Iran that "get a bad rap in the media."

"Our biggest motivation behind making 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 wrap in the media," the couple wrote on their Patreon crowdfunding page.

This is the last video they uploaded, shot in Pakistan and uploaded in June:

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Officials in Australia circulated a brief statement from the King and Firkin families after news of their detention became public.

"Our families hope to see Mark and Jolie safely home as soon as possible," the statement said. "We have no further comment to make at this stage and ask that the media respects our privacy at this difficult time."

King is detained in the same women's ward of Evin Prison as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual citizen who has been detained in Iran since April 2016.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe is accused of spying on the government when she had in fact gone to visit family in the country. Her detention has become a defining issue in British-Iranian relations.

nazanin zaghari ratcliffe
nazanin zaghari ratcliffe

Ratcliffe Family Handout via Reuters

Australia is leading the consular efforts in King and Firkin's case, The Times of London reported. Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office declined to confirm or comment on their case.

An FCO spokesman told Insider the agency was lobbying Iran on the detention of British citizens more broadly. The spokesman told Insider that British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab "raised serious concerns" about the issue in a meeting Wednesday with the Iranian ambassador.

Raab has also promised that he and Prime Minister Boris Johnson would bring up the issue of detained British nationals to Iran at the UN General Assembly later this month, The Times reported.

australia iran travel advice
australia iran travel advice

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Tensions between Iran and the West are elevated over disagreements involving Iran's nuclear program and maritime skirmishes in the Strait of Hormuz.

The Australian and British governments have long warned their citizens to seriously reconsider their travels to Iran and have warned people not to travel to the country's eastern and western borders.

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