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Kameel Ahmady

In the Name of Tradition: Female Genital Mutilation in Iran.

From the Prologue: Although efforts to eradicate a thousand-year-old custom are challenged by the very tenacity – and increasingly recognized ubiquity – of the practice, Female Genital Mutilation is an issue of urgency to feminists, human rights campaigners and social activists as well as international organizations such as UNICEF and many responsible governments determined to end it. I join them. ... This research [began] when I returned from Europe after a prolonged absence to my birthplace, Iranian Kurdistan, to learn more about FGM. For several years I had worked in Africa with humanitarian relief NGOs and observed UN projects to combat excision in countries like Egypt, Somalia, Kenya and Sudan. Remembering hushed tones from my childhood suggesting that FGM -- locally called sunnet -- existed in some parts of Iranian Kurdistan, I decided to conduct some preliminary research beginning with my own family and close relatives. Imagine my shock when uncovering evidence that FGM had long existed in areas of Mukriyan and that my grandmothers, mother and sisters had all endured it. In fact, within Iran, a heavy omerta hangs over the practice. Only a limited number of people from non-FGM-practicing provinces know of its concentration within some regions of the country. Being male and having a ‘non-traditional’ background in the sense that I lived abroad, my detailed questions about this extremely sensitive topic—the cutting of women’s ‘private parts’— created resistance and bewilderment. Some local residents, especially men, refused to take me seriously, while others, including a number of my own relatives, opined that this subject was unworthy of an educated male’s attention. Researching FGM was deemed not a “manly” job. Here I would like to thank my late father who, despite the pressure of neighbors’ viewpoints and from time to time also the government’s, supported me throughout.

The scope of the project gradually extended into regions of Iran beyond my home, and in this journey, I enjoyed assistance in fieldwork as well as in analysis and assembly of data.

About In the Name of Tradition: Female Genital Mutilation in Iran.

In the name of tradition.PNG

The first book on female genital mutilation in Iran, Ahmady focuses most sharply on FGM-affected areas West Azerbaijan, Kurdistan and Kermanshah provinces, and some areas in southern Iran, Hormozgan province and its islands, but you will find a comprehensive overview of the custom's prevalence throughout the entire country. A pioneering work.


Review Quotes


"No more can it be said that genital ablation is a problem in Africa alone. Ahmady and his colleagues have uncovered data critical to stopping a harmful tradition in Iran. Enhanced with photographs, tables and charts, Ahmady's study provides insight into the issues and challenges faced by Iranian authorities if women and girls are to remain intact. Based on solid scholarship, this book contributes to ending FGM."

Hilary Burrage, sociologist and author of _Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation. A UK Perspective_. London: Ashgate, 2015.

"Ahmady and his team have done ground-breaking research on FGM in Iran. Publication of their work accelerates progress to end it, and the book itself, a testimony to courage, asks questions about a completely tabooed subject brought to the fore against all odds."

Thomas von der Osten-Sacken, co-founder and director of the German-Iraqi NGO Wadi, working for 25 years in the Middle East.


This book has four sections. Following the acknowledgment and prologue, the first chapter defines FGM, explains terms and types. It then examines historical roots and describes influential factors. After that you will find an overview of FGM prevalence worldwide and evidence of its declining trend.

The second chapter homes in on FGM in Iran, describes several precursor studies, presents my research and analyzes findings. It also introduces the regions in which FGM is prevalent, naming villages and discussing factors that influence sunnet such as reasons and beliefs. Finally, I outline efforts made so far to end the cutting and include my own pilot interventions.

The third chapter first chronicles advocacy and legal actions against FGM worldwide before turning to the evolving legal situation in Iran, relevant Islamic jurisprudence, and the role that outspoken imams and scholars are playing in this process.

The fourth chapter offers conclusions and recommendations for affected communities and responsible government representatives, such as those in the health, education and social service sectors.



A social anthropologist and scholar, Kameel Ahmady received the IKWR 2017 Truth Honour Award from London Law University and placed first in the literary category at the 2017 Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation ceremony hosted by George Washington University. Dual British-Iranian national, Kameel Ahmady studied economic environment and publishing at the University of Communications in London, earned an M.A. in Social Anthropology from the University of Kent, and pursued additional courses on research methods and Middle East Studies at the London School of Economics and Birkbeck, University of London.  Kameel has worked mainly on international and social development focusing on gender and minority issues. Published in English, Farsi, Turkish and Kurdish, his previous pioneering research has garnered international attention.  In 2011, Etkin in Istanbul brought out Another look at east and south-east Turkey, and his ground-breaking research, In the Name of Tradition. Female Genital Mutilation in Iran,  appeared in 2015 with UnCUT/VOICES Press. Nova Science Publisher added An Echo of Silence – the study of Early Child Marriage (ECM) in Iran -- to its program in 2017, a work that Shiraze publishing made available in Farsi. In 2020, A House on Water, investigating temporary marriage in Iran, was brought out by Shiraze in Tehran and Mehri in London, as well as, in 2019, Childhood Plunder (scavenging—i.e. waste picking—in Tehran), printed by IRSPRC. In the last few years he has focused on LGBT and ethnicity in such works as Forbidden Tale, a comprehensive study of LGB individuals in Iran, printed in English and Farsi by Mehri publishing in 2020 along with The House with an Open Door, a comprehensive look at temporary marriage in Iran, and, in 2021, From Border to Border, an analysis of Iranian identity and ethnicity, based on research with five major Turkish (Azari), Kurdish, Baloch, Arab and Fars (Persian speaking) ethnic groups also published by Mehri in Farsi and English. His latest research on male circumcision (MGM) will appear soon.


Kameel Ahmady receiving the IKWRO True Honour Award in 2017. See:


First prize winner, literary category, Kameel Ahmady, UnCUT/VOICES author of In the Name of Tradition. FGM in Iran (2017). Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation Awards Ceremony. George Washington University, Milken Institute for Public Health. 26 October 2018.


‘BanFGM’ Conference. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Italian Senate. Rome, Italy. 30-31 January 2017.


Geneva, Human Rights Council May 2016, Kameel with left to right Godfrey Williams-Okorodus, Holger Postulart, Tobe Levin von Gleichen,  Elisabeth Wilson, Edna Adan Ismail

In his study's first phase, Kameel Ahmady wanted to measure educational impact on reducing the prevalence of female genital mutilation in Iran; his new report study in 2016 suggested that education via pilot programs has led to a significant decrease in the practice.

The report, titled The Changing Paradigms of Female Genital Mutilation, appears as an appendix to the second edition of In the Name of Tradition.

Moreover, Kameel Ahmady's eponymous documentary film (In the Name of Tradition), shot during fieldwork, has been broadcast on numerous television programs including BBC and various festivals outside of Iran.

 Documentary film (In the Name of Tradition) - Long Version:

Documentary film (In the Name of Tradition) - Short Version:


Link to his study in international media:

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