A blogger couple who traveled from Australia to Asia and the Middle East in an attempt to “break the stigma” surrounding developing countries was reportedly arrested in Iran.
The duo were recently identified as Jolie King and Mark Firkin, the BBC reported on Thursday. Although the couple was arrested 10 weeks ago near Tehran, it wasn’t until Wednesday that the news became known.
In 2017, they planned to leave Australia and drive from Asia to London. Along the way, the pair shared videos documenting the trip with their thousands of followers on social media.
Their posts on Instagram and YouTube are full of stunning landscapes, cerulean beaches and lush waterfalls that look ripped out of a luxury travelogue – a far cry from the reality many associate with less developed areas of the world.
“Our biggest motivation… is to hopefully inspire anyone wanting to travel, and also try to break the stigma around travelling to countries which get a bad wrap [sic] in the media,” the pair wrote online.
The journey seemed to be proceeding in perfectly idyllic fashion, as evidenced by the couple’s regular posts to Instagram.
“The warm hospitality we received in Pakistan continued to deliver though. A local Shepard, (who spoke zero English) rode up on his horse, got off, then offered his horse to go for a ride,” they said in one such post. “Jolie went for a spin then with nothing but a smile and a wave he rode off down the valley with two of his mates who had also arrived.”
But the frequent updates King and Firkin shared to the Instagram account, The Way Overland, they’d set up just for the trip abruptly stopped in late June.
Australian officials have repeatedly petitioned Tehran for the pair’s release, according to the BBC.
“[We] hope to see Mark and Jolie safely home as soon as possible,” the couple’s families said Thursday in a statement released by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs.
According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, King and Firkin were arrested for reportedly flying a drone without a permit. They’ve been imprisoned ever since.
A source told the BBC that King was told Iran is holding her as part of a potential prisoner exchange with Australia.
Jolie King, Mark Firkin and other citizens of the world
King and Firkin aren’t the only couple to have taken turned their idealism into action by traveling to potentially dangerous foreign lands.
In July, a Somalian-born Canadian journalist returned to her homeland to tell “uplifting” stories of how people lived there. However, her homecoming ended in tragedy when she was killed in an attack perpetrated by al-Shabab militants.
Last July, Jay Austin and Lauren Goeghegan were biking in southwest Tajikistan – a region that borders ISIS-territory in northern Afghanistan – when they were murdered by five men who stabbed the couple to death. The attack was led by an Islamic State terrorist.
The two had embarked in 2017 on a bike trip around the world. In an echo of Firkin and King, the couple was motivated by their belief that, “By and large, humans are kind,” as Austin put it in a blog post documenting the journey.
“You read the papers and you’re led to believe that the world is a big, scary place,” Austin wrote from Morocco. “I don’t buy it. Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own.”