British-Iranian gender expert jailed for nine years in Iran

UK-educated scholar is outspoken about the unjust treatment of girls and women

December 14, 2020
 Kameel Ahmady
Source: Facebook (file photo)
Kameel Ahmady at the University of Law, Moorgate

Kameel Ahmady, a British-Iranian anthropologist who specialises in girls’ and women’s rights, has been sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment and fined $700,000 (£525,000) by an Iranian court, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

Mr Ahmady, an independent scholar who studies child labour, child marriage and female genital mutilation, was charged with cooperating with European embassies on promoting homosexuality, visiting Israel and other accusations  

According to his CV, Mr Ahmady received his undergraduate education in London, acquired an MA from the University of Kent, and also studied at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

He has spoken about gender-related issues at the University of Oxford, the University of Tehran, Shiraz University and Cairo University. He was the co-founding chair of a Kurdish research network at SOAS University of London.  

In 2019, he was detained for about three months. 

Scholars at Risk (SAR), in its annual 2020 Free to Think report, lists several other academics detained in Iran, including Ahmadreza Djalali, a Swedish-Iranian specialist in disaster medicine. 

SAR told Times Higher Education this month that it had learned that Dr Djalali “was to be transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison, where his death sentence would likely be carried out shortly thereafter. We are deeply concerned about Dr Djalali’s situation and trying to raise as much attention as possible at this time.”

Before his imprisonment, Dr Djalali had taught at universities in Italy and Belgium. The charge against him, including “collaboration with hostile governments”, is similar to that of other jailed academics.

SAR, a global network of scholars and institutions based at New York University, also listed Niloufar Bayani, a McGill- and Columbia-educated wildlife conservationist, as a detainee.  

At least three jailed overseas scholars have been released by Iran in the past year, all through negotiated prisoner swaps with foreign governments.

In November 2020, Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Iranian studies lecturer at the University of Melbourne, was freed after two years’ imprisonment in an exchange with Australia. 

In March 2020, Roland Marchal, a sociologist specialising in Africa and a researcher at the Centre for International Studies at Sciences Po, was released in exchange for an Iranian detained in France.  

In December 2019, Xiyue Wang, a Chinese-born American PhD candidate at Princeton University, was released after three years due to a prisoner swap with the US.

However, scholars with joint nationality or Iranian roots have not been so lucky.

Fariba Adelkhah, a French-Iranian anthropologist and Dr Marchal’s colleague, is still in Iran under house arrest, Sciences Po said. 

The International Studies Association wrote in February that it was watching developments in Iran with “increasing concern”, particularly due to “scholars being detained or jailed because of the legitimate research”.

joyce.lau@timeshighereducation.com 

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Reader's comments (1)

Another example of the indefensible actions of a disgusting regime. We should all boycott Iran.

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