Kameel Ahmady—British-Iranian Anthropologist Arrested in Iran

Updated: May 13, 2020

On August 14, 2019, the wife of British-Iranian anthropologist Kameel Ahmady confirmed that her husband had been arrested on August 11 and that authorities told her he faces “unspecified charges in connection with his activities.” Ahmady is the latest dual national to be arrested in Iran, less than a month after the previous arrest.

British-Iranian academic Kameel Ahmady Photo Credit: Radio Farda

Ahmady is an internationally renowned scholar known for his research on female genital mutilation in rural Iran for which he published a study in June 2015. Before the study, Iran had not been recognized as a country affected by female genital mutilation; however, according to Reuters, Ahmady's research, which was based on 4,000 interviews, showed such that such acts are performed in the “secret pockets” of four Iranian provinces: West Azerbaijan, Kurdistan and Kermanshah in the west, and Hormozgan in the south.

Ahmady joins a string of dual nationals to be detained in Iran, most sharing citizenship with Western countries, and many arrested on arbitrary espionage charges. Last month, the French president called on Tehran to allow consular access to Fariba Adelkhah, an anthropologist and author of several books on Iran who had been detained in June on unknown charges. Adelkhah, 60, is a director of research at Sciences Po's Centre for International Studies (CERI). She is a well-known anthropologist and researcher on Iran and Shiite Islam. Other detainees include Ahmadreza Djalali, a Swedish-Iranian Professor of Disaster Medicine (EMDM), and Xiyue Wang, a Chinese-American researcher at Princeton University.

Neither Iran nor British authorities have commented publicly on Ahmady’s arrest. The detention comes among tensions between Tehran and London over the seizure of a British-flagged tanker by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Iran does not recognize dual nationality.

Endangered Scholars Worldwide deplores and condemns the detention of Kameel Ahmady and calls upon all international organizations, academic and professional associations, and other groups and individuals devoted to the promotion and defense of human rights to protest this arbitrary incarceration; to call for Ahmady’s immediate and unconditional release; to urge the officials of the Iranian government to end the tactic of taking of dual citizen scholars and students hostage for political gains; and to respect, guarantee, and implement the provisions and principles of human rights.

Endangered Scholars Worldwide is deeply concerned about the arbitrary detention of dual nationals in response to their exercise of the rights to academic freedom, free expression, and free association, conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both to which Iran is a party. The ongoing tensions in Iran have a profoundly unsettling effect on academic freedom and represent a grave threat to higher education on an international scale.