Two New Zealand social media influencers who went missing for four months in Iran escaped unharmed.
Topher Richwhite and Bridget Thackwray traveled the world in a van, documenting their journey for hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers under the name Expedition Earth.
Their social profiles haven’t been updated in nearly four months, raising concerns about their well-being as protests and rising unrest in the country have risen.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this morning that over the past few months MFAT and the New Zealand government have worked hard “to ensure the safe escape of two New Zealanders from Iran.”
She said she couldn’t give more details, but the pair left the country and it was “particularly difficult” for the pair involved.
When asked where they were detained, Ardern won’t go into detail other than to confirm that the government is working hard to ensure their safe escape.
“I think we should let families and couples talk for themselves about other details.”
She said she felt “great relief” when she heard the news of her escape from Iran.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) said through a spokesperson that the couple who received consular assistance in Iran were “in foreign countries.”
They arrived in Iran in the first week of July and have never heard of it again.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has repeatedly declined requests for comment on the couple’s situation since last August.
As to why the MFAT asked the media not to disclose details about the couple’s situation, Ardern said there are a few examples of cases where foreigners find themselves in a difficult situation in Iran, and that the government and MFAT have “the best advice possible” to prioritize them. He said he worked hard to get it. pair safety.
“I think the fact that they were able to leave speaks to the fact that it was the right strategy.”
The last post the duo posted on Instagram was on July 5th with a stunning photo taken from the Tas Yol passage in Karanlık Kanyon, Turkey.
Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta this morning updated travel advisories for New Zealanders staying in Iran and urged them to leave the country.
She didn’t mention Richwhite or Thackwray.
“The new advisory on Iran repeats the previous “no travel” warning and adds that the risks to Iran’s safety, owing to the potential for violent civil unrest, the risk of arrest or detention, and the unstable security situation in the region, include: It is important,” said Mahuta.
“The new advisory warns New Zealanders of the risk of arbitrary arrest or detention. Your risk may be higher if you are carrying out activities that may be of interest to local authorities.”
Mahuta said the government’s ability to provide consular assistance if arrested or detained in Iran is “extremely limited”.
“New Zealanders living in Iran can turn violent with little or no warning, so it’s best to avoid all protests, rallies and large public gatherings,” she said.
“New Zealanders living in Iran should stay away from any areas where police or security forces are deployed. Their presence alone can be misleading.”
According to MFAT, 19 New Zealanders are registered with SafeTravel as being in Iran.
Many of them are known to have dual New Zealand and Iranian citizenship.
An MFAT spokesperson confirmed that since the protests began, three messages have been sent to 19 individuals in Iran. The first message was September 27th, the second message was October 6th, and the most recent one was this morning.
All three messages warned of protests and provided advice on what to do. The last two messages included a departure advisory.
The couple traveled the world after deciding to explore the planet early in 2017.
Since then, they have traveled to dozens of countries in jeeps.
Before starting the final odyssey of a long journey of many years, they left 33 countries on their list to complete their expedition.
The day after the wedding they were due to return to London to collect a vehicle called the Gunther. There he was working on the machinery to prepare him for a trip to Europe and the Arabian Desert for his third and final journey.
After going through all sorts of precarious situations in hotspots around the world, the two were advised to get married before going to the Middle East. Escorts had to meet them at the border and accompany them across the Iranian bridge.
The third leg of their trip was through Iran according to the map on the expedition website.
The purpose of the expedition was to “promote environmental issues and the teams and organizations that are working to solve them”.
The team was scheduled to speak at the Royal Geographic Society in London, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Richwhite, 34, has listed his work as drones, editing/production, machinery, media, city and night driving.
He described his background in entertainment management, both in the event and in the music industry.
Thackwray, 27, had to be involved in photography, partnerships and brand relationships, PR, social media strategy and daytime driving.
Both traveled extensively around the world before starting their expeditions.
This article was originally New Zealand Herald Reproduced with permission