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British-Iranian academic arrested in Tehran, his wife says

Kameel Ahmadi, a renowned social anthropologist, was detained on Sunday on charges unknown as tensions between the UK and Iran soar
Kameel Ahmadi is internationally recognised for his work on female genital mutilation (FGM), as well as child marriage and 'white marriages' (Twitter)

A British-Iranian academic has been arrested in Tehran, his wife has revealed, at a time when tensions between Iran and the United Kingdom are soaring.

Kameel Ahmadi, a prominent social anthropologist, was taken by authorities on Sunday from his home in the Iranian capital and is being held in Evin prison, his wife said.

In an Instagram post on Wednesday, Shafagh Rahmani said: “A security prosecutor in Evin has issued a one-month arrest warrant for Kameel. No information about Kameel’s arrest or charge has been provided.”

Rahmani told Radio Farda that the prosecutors have refused to tell her what charges her husband is being held on.

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"My husband was granted British citizenship 25 years ago but has been living in Iran in the past fifteen years," Rahmani told the Iranian branch of the US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Ahmadi is internationally recognised for his work on female genital mutilation (FGM), as well as child marriage and “white marriages”, when young Iranian couples cohabit illegally.

In 2015, Ahmadi’s research into FGM revealed the process was practised in at least four Iranian provinces and was far more prevalent than thought.

“I returned to Iran in 2005 to study FGM in my home country and instantly I was shocked to discover that it even happened to the closest members of my own family and relatives,” he told the Guardian at the time.

Ahmadi’s arrest comes as Iran and the United Kingdom face down over the detention of two oil tankers.

British authorities detained the Iranian Grace 1 tanker off the coast of Gibraltar on 4 July, accusing it of attempting to smuggle oil to Syria in contravention of European Union sanctions.

Two weeks later, Iran impounded the UK-flagged Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz, accusing it of breaking "international maritime rules".

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Despite saying that the Grace 1’s impounding would not go unanswered, Tehran has insisted that the Stena Impero's detention has nothing to do with the Iranian vessel.

On Wednesday, Iranian media reports suggested that Tehran believed the Grace 1’s release was imminent – which was swiftly denied by authorities in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar.

Ahmadi is not the only British-Iranian to be held by authorities in Iran.

Most prominently, charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been held since being arrested at Tehran airport in April 2016.

In June, Zaghari-Ratcliffe undertook a hunger strike in protest at the conditions she is being held in and denies the charges of spying levelled at her.

More recently, an employee of the British Council, a cultural and educational organisation that operates overseas, was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in May for “spying”.

Aras Amiri was arrested in 2018 during a trip to visit relatives.