27 Oct 2022

NZ couple held in Iran 'relieved and happy' to be back with family

12:51 pm on 27 October 2022
Topher Richwhite and Bridget Thackwray have recorded their travels on their Expedition Earth Instagram page.

Topher Richwhite and Bridget Thackwray were on a round the world trip they called Expedition Earth when they entered Iran in July. Photo: Expeditionearth.live / Instagram

The New Zealand couple trapped in Iran for four months say they are "extremely relieved" to be back with their family.

Topher Richwhite and Bridget Thackwray entered Iran in July against official advice on a round-the-world trip in a jeep.

The couple's movements were restricted by Iranian authorities before they were able to leave safely with assistance from the New Zealand government.

In a statement they said they were "extremely relieved and happy" to be back with their families.

"We are most grateful to all those who have supported us over recent months and thank them sincerely for all their help during this challenging chapter in our Expedition Earth journey.

"We are safe and well, however we would ask for privacy for ourselves and our families over the coming days while we collect our bearings and enjoy being reunited with our families."

Strong travel warnings remain in place against any travel to Iran where the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini has sparked major protests and civil unrest.

Massey University lecturer Dr Negar Partow, who was born and raised in Iran, said it was not necessarily naive for the couple to visit the country.

When they arrived in July it was much quieter than what it became when the unrest started in September after the death of Amini, who was detained by morality police for allegedly not covering her hair properly.

But Partow emphasised hostage diplomacy was a well known tactic of the Iranian regime and New Zealanders should not go to the country.

The government has insisted no deal was done to get the pair out of Iran but will not give any details about what happened, or why the two social media influencers were eventually allowed to leave.

There have been conflicting reports on how the couple were restricted in Iran.

Richwhite and Thackwray would have had their passports confiscated and their cellphones removed with their Instagram posts stopping in July, Partow said.

She believed they were not put in prison.

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson told First Up Iran was a dangerous place and New Zealanders should obey the travel warnings not to go there.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs