British-Iranian Anthropologist Kameel Ahmady, Sentenced to Nine Years in Prison, Escapes Iran

Updated: Feb 13

A British-Iranian anthropologist who was sentenced to nine years and three months in jail in Iran for “cooperating with a hostile state power” and undermining “the national security” has smuggled himself out of Iran, escaping over the country’s treacherous mountainous northern border. Kameel Ahmady described his journey as “very cold, very long, very dark and very scary.”



On February 3, 2021, in an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Ahmady revealed that he was left with no option but to flee the country while on bail pending an appeal for his prison sentence. He told the Guardian that he walked to Turkey across remote mountains via dangerous routes used by smugglers, through five-foot-deep snow and fog while ducking Iranian border patrols.


On December 13, 2020, as we have reported, a court in Tehran sentenced the British-Iranian anthropologist to nine years of imprisonment in addition to a 600,000 euros fine on charges of “collaborating with a hostile government,” according to the semiofficial news agency Tasnim.


According to the court documents, Ahmady was indicted for obtaining “illicit” materials by collaborating on projects directed by “subversive institutions” with the purpose of altering the “social and cultural changes in the country and influence the drafting of the bills on ‘raising the age of marriage’.”


“I’m Kurdish by ethnicity and I know some of the routes, but it was very dangerous. I had to try several times… I smuggled myself out of Iran out of despair.” In another interview with Channel 4, Ahmady revealed that “being a dual national, you’re always a potential case,… My chief interrogator said, ‘you’re very delicious,’ because I was Kurdish, I was coming from a Sunni religious background as opposed to the majority Shiites in Iran, and I was a researcher who was digging up sensitive issues … and using it for awareness-raising.”


Iran does not recognize dual nationality.