Kiwi travel influencers Topher Richwhite and Bridget Thackwray issue statement after being released from Iran

The Kiwi travel influencers who became stuck in Iran have spoken out about their ordeal for the first time.

Topher Richwhite and Bridget Thackwray entered Iran in July as part of an 'Expedition Earth' world tour they were documenting on their social media accounts. 

While they may not have been imprisoned, Newshub understands the pair's movements were restricted, they were held in more than one place and could not leave without Government intervention. That could mean they had their passports taken. 

After the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFAT) confirmed on Wednesday the pair was "safe and well", they released a statement.

"We are extremely relieved and happy to be back with our families," they said on Thursday. "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."

New Zealand media, including Newshub, previously agreed not to report the pair's situation due to fear from diplomats the publicity may anger Iran's dangerous ruling regime and put their safety at risk.

MFAT's Safe Travel website warned Kiwis against travelling to Iran.

Since the pair's release, that advice was being stepped up further, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said. 

"The new advice for Iran reiterates the existing 'do not travel' warning and adds that due to the potential for violent civil unrest, the risk of arrest or detention and the volatile security situation in the region, the risk to safety in Iran is significant," Mahuta said. "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has warned against travel to Iran since early 2020. New Zealanders currently in Iran are advised to leave."

Protests were continuing throughout Iran and there was an increasing number of foreign nationals being arrested, she said.

The protests were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini. The 22-year-old Iranian died earlier this year while in police custody, prompting protests across Iran and around the world in opposition to the Iranian regime's treatment of women.

Now the couple has been released, Kiwis Iranians have called for stronger New Zealand Government action against the regime.