Iran arrests British-Iranian academic Kameel Ahmady

Kameel Ahmady, a renowned anthropologist, was arrested by police in Tehran on Sunday on unspecified allegations. (Photo/Kameel Ahmady Facebook account)
Updated 14 August 2019

Iran arrests British-Iranian academic Kameel Ahmady

  • A one-month temporary detention order has been issued against Ahmady
  • Ahmady has researched female genital mutilation and child marriage in Iran, among other subjects

LONDON: Iran has arrested a British-Iranian dual national, further threatening tensions between the UK and Tehran following the seizure of a British tanker last month.
Kameel Ahmady, a social anthropologist, was arrested on Sunday from his home in western Iran without any reason, his wife told BBC Persian.
Shafaq Rahmani claimed security agents came to their house and confiscated documents, including his ID card.
She said he had not been officially charged, but officials at Evin prison say he faces several charges related to his activities.
“They have not provided any information about the reason for the arrest or the charges against Kameel,” Rahmani wrote on Instagram.
According to a website affiliated with his name, Ahmady has researched female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriages and other issues related to gender, children and minorities in Iran, the Middle East and Africa.
Ahmady, who was born in Iranian Kurdistan but moved to Britain in his 20s, took global campaigners by surprise in 2015 when he published a study suggesting tens of thousands of Iranian women have undergone FGM.
The report called on the Iranian government to introduce laws on FGM, develop a national plan to end the practice and incorporate the issue into education and health programs.
“Iran doesn’t have a brilliant record when it comes to women’s rights and is very worried about destabilizing border areas,” Ahmady told the Reuters. “It doesn’t want a headache with these communities where its motives are generally not trusted.”
A spokesman for the Kurdistan Human Rights Network, who reported his arrest, said Ahmady has lived in Iran for many years, the BBC reported.
Rahmani also said Iranian authorities told her that a local judicial official, based at Evin Prison, had given Ahmady a temporary one-month detention court order.
Located in northern Tehran, Evin prison is notorious for keeping political prisoners, dissidents and dual Iranian nationals accused of plotting against the government since 1972, even before the Iranian revolution started.
They are held in a purpose-built wing nicknamed “Evin University” due to the number of intellectuals imprisoned there. The prison has been accused of committing “serious human rights abuses” against its political dissidents and critics of the government, according to the US government.
Iran does not recognize dual nationality.
Another British-Iranian national, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in Iran in April 2016 at Tehran airport as she headed back to Britain with her daughter after a family visit. She was sentenced to five years in jail after being convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment, a charge she denies.
In May, the UK Foreign Office advised British-Iranian dual nationals not to travel to Iran out of fear they face an “intolerable risk of mistreatment” and arbitrary detention.
It came after British Council worker Aras Amiri was jailed for 10 years for spying, while visiting her grandmother.
The recent arrest comes amid heightened tension between Britain and Iran over the seizure of oil tankers.
The British territory of Gibraltar is holding an Iranian oil tanker seized by Royal Marines in the Mediterranean.
In retaliation Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps troops seized the British-flagged Stena Impero tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19.


UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

A Palestinian refugee holds a placard at a school belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in the town of Sebline east of the southern Lebanese port of Saida, on March 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2019

UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

  • UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses

BRUSSELS: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees is waiting anxiously on the outcome this month of a probe into alleged mismanagement that has dented its already severely depleted funding, one of its top officials said Monday.
The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.
UNRWA’s director for West Bank operations Gwyn Lewis told AFP in Brussels: “We’re waiting with bated breath because it obviously has financial implications.”
She said the conclusions of the probe are expected to be delivered “around the end of October” to UN chief Antonio Guterres, who would then issue public and internal “follow-up steps.”
The timing is crucial as the agency’s three-year mandate is up for renewal this month, and money is tight.
UNRWA has been skating on very thin financial ice since last year, after US President Donald Trump decided to suspend, then yank entirely his country’s contribution to the agency’s budget, robbing it of its top donor.
Those woes were compounded by the allegations of abuse by the agency’s management, leading other key donors — the Netherlands and Switzerland — to snap shut their purses.
That has left the agency struggling to provide the schooling, medical and sanitary programs it runs for Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.
According to a copy of an internal UN report obtained by AFP in July, senior management at UNRWA engaged in “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain.”

FASTFACT

The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.

Lewis did not confirm those allegations, noting only “rumors” and leaks to the media.
“None of us have actually seen it,” she said of the report, adding: “Our sense is that it’s not about financial misappropriation or corruption, it’s linked to management and human resources issues.”
She did note that the agency’s deputy chief, Sandra Mitchell, had been replaced in August by an acting deputy commissioner-general tasked with strengthening human resources and financial oversight.
Lewis said she was in Brussels for two days of meetings with European Commission officials to shore up UNRWA’s mandate renewal and, importantly, to maintain funding.
Despite program cutbacks, the agency faces an $89 million shortfall for the rest of this year, she said, and “financial uncertainty” beyond that.
UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses. Making up for the pulled US funding was a “challenge,” she said.