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Statements By Kameel Ahmady And A Member Of The Iranian Sociological Association

February 4, 2021

Kameel Ahmady is a British-Iranian-anthropologist who has for many years investigated and campaigned against female genital mutilation (FGM), child and other non-consensual marriage (CEFM), the persecution of e.g. gay people (LGBT) and other human rights abuses. In 2019 he was arrested in Iran and held in solitary confinement, accused of activities against the state; and in late 2020 he received a sentence of some ten years imprisonment. Shortly thereafter he escaped from Iran and now lives in Britain.  (Details of these events here.)

At the same time as the court in Tehran decided his sentence rumours about sexually inappropriate behaviour by Kameel Ahmady began to circulate on social media.  These resulted in his membership of the Iranian Sociological Association being rescinded.  Below are two statements (both in approximate English translations) arising from and challenging this accusation and the ISA action arising from it.

STATEMENT BY KAMEEL AHMADY (April 2021)

I believe we all agree that social media performs miracles. It is, in most cases, the only available and sometimes effective way to see and hear from many of those who are denied, forgotten and oppressed.

 I think many of you, my friends and companions, recently have seen different names in social media groups and web pages publicly accused of aggression. Probably my name has been among them too. My own name has mainly been mentioned on a feminist Instagram page.

I know it has been a difficult time, especially for those who have been faithful to me, my work and research, some of which is focused on issues around harmful traditional practices and social harm. You may ask why you suddenly saw the researcher, not in the same trenches with women and underprivileged groups, for whom I have worked so hard for many years and paid a heavy price, but in a different position and, incidentally, in contradiction to my research and writings? 

Dear friends, even in the most unjust legal systems, the identity of the claimant is known (at least to the court), and they allow the accused to speak and defend themselves against allegations before any verdict is issued. What a devastating judgment it is for people to accuse a person of sexual harassment by telling their ‘side’ of the story on social media, analysing behavior via distorted narratives. Such people cherry pick details of their accounts and others agree, confirm and re-publish elsewhere.

With love and belief in my work, in difficult circumstances and with years of research into harmful traditional practices in the research arena, I have been the messenger of venerable groups whose patriarchal societies ignore their basic rights. Part of my goal has been for my work to be a reflection of the hidden voice of these groups, and I am proud of whatever extent this has been achieved.  

I will of course fully defend the positive aspects of a movement to promote these basic rights, for the least achievement of such a movement would be an increase in the level of awareness and security changing men’s behavior and lead to further reform.

One important key point, however, is that we are all humans and we all make mistakes. Our largely non-transparent and undefined human relationships in our society, which are also very complex, cannot and should not remove our responsibility for our own behavior, choices and mistakes, whether we are men or women.

Looking back at years past, I find it to be a fair criticism of me that in some cases I had insufficient knowledge of the cultural requirements – having been away for a long time [?? away from what?? do you need this phrase?? ]- and of relationships in the workplace, so I did not properly observe the hierarchies of power and domination at work.  I lacked social consideration and was too comfortable in my different views on relationships. In this context, it is [was?] possible to pave the way for misjudgments.

During my lifetime I have made mistakes, and offended some people. I have the courage to apologise to all of them.

I would like to apologise to anyone who, for any reason, has been offended by me. I am sad for all those who were upset by reading these narrations, especially my family and friends who accompanied me sympathetically without judging me.

But I am here speaking about inadvertent offences, which, whether legal or verbal, are different from intentional harassment, aggression, or relationships without consent.

I would like to emphasize that I am not an intentional aggressor or abuser. I acquit myself of, and strongly deny, such allegations and reserve the right to file a lawsuit in defense of myself.

There are those who have judged me as well as those who have been kind to me, but, as a result of recent developments, now find their judgment clouded, or for whom doubts have been raised in their minds. To them, and with the aim of casting a light on what has happened, I suggest the following mechanism:

First, I would welcome any legal claim from anyone against me in the court.  Secondly, if there is doubt about the realisation of rights to a fair hearing in the Iranian legal system I, as a member of civil society, would like to propose the formation of a jury composed of civil activists. With open arms, I will consider myself obliged to respond before such a jury.

Dear friends, let us know that, like many other men, I am, in part, a victim of a patriarchal culture. During this difficult time, and in an atmosphere that was at times very emotional and even extremely unkind, I have learned a lot. Although I know it will not be a short process, I will definitely continue the process of my better learning about relationships and improving my knowledge on such important topics.

POSTSCRIPT

On further reflection I now see how I can turn this into an opportunity to work with other men to challenge the status quo and to work towards a more just and kind world for both women and men. I will respond to this challenge in the best way I can in due course.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

STATEMENT BY DR AHMAD BOLCHARAEI   (January 2021)
Statement on the cancellation by the ISA Board of Kameel Ahmady’s membership of the Iranian Sociological Association

On September 11, 2020 we as members were surprised by the announcement of the Iranian Sociological Association regarding the cancellation of Mr Kameel Ahmady’s membership in ISA. He is a colleague whom I have not myself met before. 

The ambiguity in the hasty reaction of the Sociological Association’s Board of Directors has led some of the society’s several sub group directors and me, as the director of two scientific and specialised groups in the association, to launch an internal investigation into this matter. During two days of interviews with the Board members, we realised that the documents and evidence available to the Association consisted mainly of a few posts which had surfaced on social media. 

We do not wish to sweep men’s aggressions towards women under the carpet, but special care needs to be taken in this context!

Unfortunately, it was less than two weeks after some allegations were published on social media that the decision to revoke Mr Ahmady’s membership was made by the ISA Board, in a hasty and emotional move, without consulting the group leaders or even the director of the Child Sociology group of which Kameel Ahmady was the secretary.

After the decision about Mr Ahmady was made and announced, based on flimsy documents and speculation, I told the Board members that this decision was illegal, unprofessional and immoral. 

The rumours that were being systematically accumulated, organised and spread over social media by a few women should not have caused the cancellation of the membership of one of the rare researchers who was, at the same time, facing prosecution by the Revolutionary Court for conducting major anthropological research, and who had endured 100 days in solitary confinement awaiting yet another trial. 

After some posts were published on social media making claims against Mr Kameel Ahmady, he voluntarily suspended his membership, in order to protect the dignity of the Sociological Association; he decided to address these important issues at a more appropriate time.

It seems that the move by the Iranian Sociological Association to revoke his membership was like planting a minefield in Mr Ahmady’s return path.   This was not honourable.        

I did not raise this issue before, because I was waiting to see the outcome of Mr Ahmady’s trial and how he would confront and react after his court appeal verdict.

Now that Kameel Ahmady has been sentenced to more than 9 years in prison for conducting anthropological research, and has subsequently been forced to leave his homeland, I find it necessary to write and record the result of our investigations into the decision of the Iranian Sociological Association Board of Directors.  I leave the judgment to you, the reader.

# This document was revised on January 25 2021, the date of the Iranian Sociological Association’s statement and of the introduction of the word of “cancellation” to replace the terms “membership suspension” and “expulsion”.

 

 

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