Iran jails anthropologist for “subversive research”, “seeking cultural changes” and “promoting homosexuality”

14 years ago I wrote about his website: Visual ethnography and Kurdish anthropology by Kameel Ahmady and Photography as research tool: More engaged Kurdish anthropology. I also remember we had a short email exchange. Now I am shocked to read the BBC headline: Kameel Ahmady: British FGM academic ‘jailed in Iran’.

Ahmady has researched child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM) and sexuality in Iran. In 2015, the BBC reminds us, he published a study suggesting that tens of thousands of Iranian women had undergone female genital mutilation. Until then, Iran had not been widely recognised as a country affected by FGM.

BBC refers to to the Tasnim news agency that is “linked to Iran’s hardliners”. Ahmady had been sentenced to nine years in jail and fined €600,000 ($730,000; £545,000) for “accumulating wealth through unlawful means from institutes seeking to overthrow the Iranian regime”.

The news agency also said that the anthropologist was also accused of seeking “cultural changes” related to women and children, and that he had allegedly been in contact with foreign media and with the embassies of European countries with the aim of “promoting homosexuality” in Iran.

>> continue reading at BBC News

Kurdistan based journalist Wladimir van Wilgenburg writes on his blog that Kameel Ahmady accused on social media the Iranian judicial authorities of targeting him and trying to stop his research.

According to him, Ahmady wrote:

“The main judicial point of accusations against my research is about the most harmful traditions against the children in the least privileged regions (minority areas of Iran) but the main goal is to accuse my researches’ relation with the cultural influence of 2030 document and halting my activities and research regarding minorities.”

With the “2030 document” he means UNESCO’s education agenda that Iran refused to implement. The goal of the global Education 2030 agenda is to “guarantee access to education for all people, irrespective of age, sex and religion”.

The journalist mentions Ahmady’s documentary “In the name of tradition” about FGM in Iran that I am embedding below. Ahmady travels with his colleagues in rural areas in west and south of Iran and talks with women about circumcision of girls: Are girls circumcised here? Why do you do it? Who does it? The film concludes with statements by a doctor and a cleric who condemn this tradition.

Ahmady has recently redesigned his website with a large amount of articles and several documentaries.

Kameel Ahmady, who grew up – as he writes – in a “bi-cultural town with Kurds and Turks” and spoke Kurdish at home, Turkish with his neighbourhood friends and Farsi at school, left after the 1979 Revolution home to study in the UK. In Europe, people from Iran (and many other so-called non-Western countries) might face other issues, see my post from 2006 Censorship of research in the USA: Iranians not allowed to publish papers and from 2010: The “illegal” anthropologist: Shahram Khosravi’s Auto-Ethnography of Borders about everyday racism and global apartheid.

I remember having read about several anthropologists that have been detained in Iran, among others French-Iranian Fariba Adelkhah earlier last year and Homa Hoodfar four years ago.

UPDATE 3.1.2020

Kameel Ahmady contacted me to inform that one of the charges against him was a university visit to Ramallah university in Palestine through the occupied territories. According to Iranian law vising Israel is not allowed and carries prison sentence. The evidence of his travel is the article on his website Hijacked nations; Ethnography of Palestine and Israel (2005)

UPDATE 7.1.2021:

British filmmaker and scholar John Chua, who has worked together with Kameel Ahmady, calls in The Independent for help from the UK: Helping the British academic imprisoned in Iran is Boris Johnson’s chance to redeem himself

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