Kameel Ahmady is a developer and coordinator of social anthropology research, primarily in the field, in relation to local cultures, harmful traditions, children and gender issues and minorities’ rights.

Displacement and exile, pursuit and escape, and the perpetual search for a safe haven have been significant parts of Ahmady’s own life, from childhood to adulthood. His 2019–2020 arrest and detention in the infamous Ward A section of Evin Prison, under the trumped-up charge of ‘trying to secure socio-cultural changes in the Islamic Republic of Iran’ by conducting ‘subversive’ research into gender, children and minorities, culminated in his escape and exile from Iran and Kurdistan.

Ahmady was born to a Kurdish family in 1972 in Naghadeh, Iranian Kurdistan (also referred to as ‘East Kurdistan’).  This multicultural, multi-faith and politically volatile region of Iran was a crucible of constant, bloody unrest:  border insecurity, fighting, the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Kurdistan civil war and its related massacres, and the eight-year Iran-Iraq war.

Kameel Ahmady/Family photo

Kameel Ahmady/Primary school years

Ahmady’s passion for adventure, which took root in his childhood, was fuelled by studying and reading about the world.  It led to him obtaining British citizenship so that he could undertake further study in the United Kingdom.In England, Ahmady completed a Higher National Diploma in design, a Bachelor of Arts in publishing and print media at the London College of Communication and a master’s in social anthropology and visual ethnography at the University of Kent, Canterbury. His master’s thesis topic was ‘Media Consumption, Conformity and Resistance:  A Visual Ethnography of Youth in Iranian Kurdistan’.  He has also undertaken specialised courses in research methodology, Middle Eastern culture, and empowerment at other UK education centres and universities.Since then, in addition to gaining research experience, he has undertaken further learning in social anthropology and research strategies and tactics.His keen interests include photography, watching films, reading and traveling.

کامیل احمدی / مراسم فارغ ‌التحصیلی / لندن

Kameel Ahmady/Graduation ceremony/London

Ahmady and his colleagues’ ethnographic and visual research is published in nine books, several articles and three short ethnographic documentaries produced in Iran, other parts of Kurdistan and certain regions of the Middle East.  His collaborative fieldwork and project management focuses on equality, non-discrimination and peace and has been published in Farsi, Turkish, Kurdish, German, French and English.  It includes:

  • research on the anthropology, ethnography and tourism of Turkish Kurdistan, which resulted in a published travel guide – the first of its kind;
  • multiculturalism and modernity in Iran, the Middle East and other parts of the world;
  • female genital mutilation/cutting (‘FGM/C’);
  • male genital mutilation/cutting(‘MGM/C’);;
  • early child marriage;
  • temporary child marriage/Sigheh;
  • White Marriage’ (cohabitation);
  • homosexuality and LGBTQ+ identities;
  • ethnicity and nationality, with a view to peace;
  • child scavenging in Tehran and other forms of child labour;
  • ethnographies and anthropological research on changes to the Yazidi identity over the past century (Iranian, Iraqi, Turkish and Syrian Kurdistan);
  • honour killings in Europe, Iraq and Iran;
  • self-immolation (particularly of women) and suicide in Africa, Turkey and Iran; and
  • the taboo of incest (child sexual abuse).

Upcoming publications include Symbolic Violence Against Men, Ethnographic Interviews from the Field, and Ahmady’s autobiography.


اقدام پژوهی برای کتاب مردم شناسی و توریسم در شرق ترکیه 2007

Fieldwork for the book Anthropology and Tourism in Eastern and South-eastern Turkey/Turkish Kurdistan 2007

Field research on child marriage in Khuzestan province 2017

کارمیدانی پژوهش مردم شناسی / دیاربکر ترکیه 2008

Anthropological fieldwork/Diyarbakir in Turkish Kurdistan 2008

Ahmady and his colleagues strive to unveil for their readers hidden aspects of people’s daily lives, while upholding scientific standards and avoiding bias. Through anthropological explanations and ethnographies, they aim to be voices for social minorities, vulnerable groups and marginalised or outcast sectors of society.  For example, findings from their research into child marriage provided the basis for a scientific appendix to a parliamentary bill on increasing the legal age of marriage in Iran. It also sparked a wave of public awareness and serious demands from civil society to ban child marriage.

All of this caused numerous security and political problems for Ahmady. It led to his arrest by the intelligence division of the Revolutionary Guard Corps of the Islamic Republic of Iran, his detention and over a hundred days of interrogation in the notorious Ward A of Evin Prison in Tehran.  He was eventually sentenced to nine years and three months in prison by the infamous Judge Abolqasem Salavati of the Islamic Revolutionary Court.  However, while on bail pending an appeal, Ahmady was temporarily released from jail.  Despite the grave risk to his life, he managed to flee Iran.

Field research on child marriage in Sistan and Baluchistan province, Makran region 2017

Research on honour killings 2015

During his research career, Ahmady has been nominated for and received several international awards, including:

  • Ethnographic Research Award, East London Museum of Heritage (2006);
  • Best Research Award, Municipal Mesopotamia Publishing Centre, Turkey (2009) – for tourism book Another Look at Eastern and South-Eastern Turkey;
  • Global Expert of Arts Award – Uganda/UK/Belgium – Refugee Rights in Exile for the Country of Origin (FGM/C) (2013)
  • Honour Award at the University of London Law School (2017), IKWRO Gender Rights Organisation – for research on HTP and children
  • full membership and expert status with the Inter-African Committee (2017) – for research on issues affecting women and children; and
  • First Prize for Literature and the Humanities (2018), the World Peace Foundation at George Washington University – for scholarly writing and work on social harms.

In the field of research ing and lobbying

Receiving the “Literature and Humanities Award” at George Washington University 2018

Ahmady believes (as do likeminded, modern anthropologists who conduct social and ‘engaged’ research) that, when studying social phenomena and harmful traditional practices, efforts must be made to offer practical solutions that are tailored to each situation and feasible to implement in each target community.  Researchers who focus on cultural groundwork should obtain and present more accurate understandings of customs and the significance of traditions and cultures.  At the same time, the direct voices of each target group, as well as supporters and opponents of these social phenomena, must be heard.A powerful aspiration for Ahmady is to study taboo subjects that are often linked with his own life, family background and the region from which he came.  Such topics are obscured by security concerns, social barriers, religious/cultural sensitivities or other researchers’ disinterest.  By innovating and discovering hidden social layers, he aims to analyse and shed light on these issues – although this tenacity sometimes threatens the interests of powerful, wealthy groups or people with certain agendas, resulting in determined opposition to this goal.Kameel Ahmady is an independent but collaborative researcher, who continues his work developing and coordinating studies with commitment, optimism and love for learning and the profession.  He strives to convey inclusive messages with a view to constructive engagement, wellbeing, progress and sustainable peace.

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