SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: August 11, 2019

Attack Types: Imprisonment


Region & Country:Southern Asia | Iran

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On August 11, 2019, Iranian authorities detained anthropologist Kameel Ahmady on “national security” grounds.

Kameel Ahmady is a dual Iranian-British citizen who studied anthropology and politics at the London University of the Arts and the University of Kent. Despite being a British citizen, he has reportedly lived in Iran for the past fifteen years. As an independent researcher, Ahmady has published several well-known books and articles on controversial topics such as female genital mutilation and child marriage in Iran.

On August 11, Iranian intelligence agents reportedly detained Ahmady at his home in Tehran and transferred him to Evin prison. Ahmady’s wife, Shafagh Rahmani, has claimed that authorities informed her on August 13 that they had issued a one-month detention order for her husband on “security grounds” that would likely be extended. Later that day, Ahmady reportedly called Rahmani and told her that he needed a lawyer.

As of this report, Ahmady has not been publicly accused of a specific crime. Neither the Iranian nor the British governments have issued statements regarding his detention.

Ahmady’s detention has occurred against the backdrop of escalating tensions between the UK and Iran and a steady growth in the number of Iranian, foreign, and dual-national scholars and students imprisoned on national security and espionage-related charges. Detainees have experienced mistreatment, including torture, harassment, cramped living conditions, and denied access to appropriate medical care, family and legal counsel.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary detention and incarceration of a scholar in apparent connection to their academic conduct. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from restricting, retaliating against, or otherwise interfering with the nonviolent exercise of academic freedom. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.

UPDATE: On November 17, 2019, Ahmady was reportedly released on 500 million toman (roughly US $42,000) bail.

UPDATE: On December 13, 2020, an Iranian court convicted Ahmady of conducting “subversive” research work, sentenced him to nine years’ imprisonment, and fined him $700,000.

UPDATE: On February 3, 2021, it was reported that, after being released from detention on bail following his conviction, Ahmady fled Iran, escaping on foot, ultimately making his way to London, where he resides as of this report. Following his escape, Ahmady reported being placed in solitary confinement in Evin prison and interrogated.