Academic flees Iran for UK to avoid years in notorious prison

Kameel Ahmady on the day he escaped. Credit: Facebook

A British-Iranian academic has fled from Iran while on bail to avoid spending almost 10 years in a notorious prison in Tehran.

Kameel Ahmady, an anthropologist, was given a nine-year sentence for “working for a hostile government” and had been held in the notorious Evin prison before being placed under house arrest.

He told Channel 4 News he managed to leave Iran while awaiting a court appearance and described the harrowing conditions he experienced while in solitary confinement at the jail, which holds the country’s so-called political prisoners.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert have both also been held at the prison.

In a post on his Facebook, he said fled the country in late December 2020.

"Eventually, in a bitterly cold, dark night, I embarked on a journey.

"Every hour of that unforgettable night, with every path that opened before me through the tough route, I wondered whether there are any roads more impassable than prejudice, ignorance, tyranny and isolation from the rest of the world," the post said.

Speaking to Channel 4, in an interview to be broadcast on Wednesday evening, he said: “I went to court. Again, I had this understanding the judge had no power over the security services and a few weeks later I received nine years and three months.

“With a simple calculation I just realised my son would be near to 15-years-old. Where was I in these 10 years? In Evin. He would have just been a boy coming to see me for half an hour every two weeks, over the phone, no emotional connection whatsoever.

“Taking all this into account, I come to this decision that I would really need to go, even though it would be very dangerous for me to act on it, and if I fail it would be even worse. But then I made a decision and I escaped.”

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Credit: AP

He said he feels his return to the UK is like “coming back home to my other home” having been “forced out of a place that I thought I could make a difference”.

Mr Ahmady, who undertook the first study of female genital mutilation in Iran, said he was held for 100 days in solitary confinement in Evin prison, to the north of Tehran.

Describing the conditions, he told the broadcaster: “You are blindfolded at all times, even in the first or second week of your interrogation, and then finally they will ease it down a little bit.

“You are basically pushed into a room and then you hear the guards are closing or locking the door, and then someone will tell you behind the door that you can lift your blindfold.

“So, when you lift it up, I saw a small room – it was almost like a grave – and you can’t walk on it, you can’t do anything apart from either sitting down or standing up or lying down.”