A number of women have accused a prominent British-Iranian anthropologist who recently fled Iran of being a sexual predator who should not be allowed to continue working with women or with the vulnerable groups that are a focus of his research.
Kameel Ahmady, known for work on child marriage, female genital mutilation and LGBT communities in Iran, denies the allegations of sexual assault and harassment, which have led to his suspension from Iran’s Sociology Association.
But in a now deleted post on social media addressing the accusations, he apologised for “mistakes” in the workplace and for “hurting people with my relaxed attitude to relationships”.
Four women have separately claimed to the Guardian that he assaulted them, and others have made allegations of repeated sexual harassment.
Friends and colleagues of the women support their accounts, saying they were told about three of the alleged assaults and multiple cases of alleged harassment before survivors made their stories public.
The women spoke to the Guardian after Ahmady, who was recently sentenced to nearly a decade in jail on unrelated national security charges in Iran, skipped bail, fled the country and did multiple media interviews in the UK, including in the Guardian, telling a heroic story of his escape from the clutches of a brutal regime.
They say they fear that when he restarts research, other women could be at risk. Although he cannot return to Iran, many of the issues he has studied affect cross-border communities in the region, where he could continue working.
“When I heard about his other [alleged] victims, and the fact that they were being largely, if not completely ignored, I could not bottle it up any longer,” said one woman, who is speaking publicly about her experience for the first time.
“Every single thing I know about [Ahmady] makes their testimonies credible. He is a predator and a serial abuser. I am so afraid that he will go on to have other opportunities to work with vulnerable women, and hurt them the way he hurt me.”
Ahmady said in a statement that the accusations were “baseless slander” organised by professional rivals and the Iranian state in an attempt to smear him and undermine his work.
He also said two accusers had been in consensual relationships with him. He did not say which ones or how he had identified them from anonymous accounts.
Some of the claims were first made public last year, when the global #MeToo movement found voice in Iran in an outpouring of accusations against prominent figures, including Ahmady. At least seven allegations against him were published anonymously on social media accounts in August and September last year.
That led to an investigation by Iran’s Sociology Association, which suspended his membership and ended his role as secretary of the Children Sociological Studies Group after finding that “at the minimum, some abuse of power had occurred”.
“(His) behaviour resulted in the sexual abuse of several young researchers and violated ethical codes governing scientific and research activities,” the group, which does not have political affiliations, said in the statement.
Ahmady said the accusations had not been tested in court, and described them as part of a campaign to “silence my voice”, which involved the Iranian security forces as well as personal enemies in academia.