Integrity investigation into arts lecturer, UG calls her situation ‘particularly unpleasant’

Lecturer Donya Ahmadi of the Faculty of Arts is accused of libel and slander by an Iranian man following her publication on sexual violence crimes in Iran. Colleagues, the faculty and the UG support her.

‘The situation our colleague is in is particularly unpleasant,’ says Thony Visser, Faculty of Arts dean. ‘We take this very seriously.’ The university administration, which is obliged to investigate every complaint, says it is sorry that Ahmadi feels unsafe, and is offering support.

The complaint was made by someone who Ahmadi cited as an example in a list of perpetrators of sexual violence in Iran in an academic article published last year.

Scientific article

In May 2023, Women’s Studies International Forum, an academic journal on feminist research in the field of women’s studies, published an article by Ahmadi. In this article, she examines the politics and internal dynamics of the feminist movement in Iran.

One aspect she examined was the MeToo movement in the country. She included a description of retaliatory tactics used by Iranian men accused of sexual violence.

In the article, she cites examples of men who she says are openly known as perpetrators. One of those men now claims that her research is incorrect and that he is wrongly listed as a perpetrator of multiple violent sexual assaults.

Slander

In November, the magazine contacted Ahmadi because the man had approached the editor. ‘He claimed that I slandered him, after which the magazine asked me for my sources. I gave those to the magazine, including transcripts of interviews. I heard nothing more about it and thought it was done.’

But last December, Ahmadi received an email from a lawyer, summoning her to immediately take the article offline. The latter also threatened a lawsuit and a fine if she did not do so. Meanwhile, the man had filed a complaint not only with the magazine and publisher Elsevier, but also with the UG.

Possible solution

In consultation with her lawyer, Ahmadi decided to remove the sentence about the man from the article – he is mentioned once. ‘The article is not about him; he is just an example. What matters to me is that the actual research and the article remain. That is much more important,’ she said.

The man did not agree and insists that the article should be taken offline. Therefore, his name is currently still in the article.

Whether a lawsuit will follow, Ahmadi does not know. However, an integrity investigation is currently ongoing at the UG. ‘It is a frightening period in my life, but I stand by my research and will continue to do so.’

Petition

Ahmadi is getting a lot of support from the faculty community.  On Wednesday, for instance, a petition was sent to the UG’s board of directors, asking them to provide Ahmadi with legal assistance. The drafters are also asking the board to prevent the article being removed.

According to dean Visser, the past few months have seen a lot of contact between Ahmadi, her supervisor, and the cluster board president. Other support departments have also been involved. ‘The UG has various support options, such as legal support, help with a person’s safety, or our confidential advisers,’ she says.

Safety

UG spokesperson Anja Hulshof says that ‘everyone should be able to safely work and study’ and that the UG values academic freedom.

‘We do what we can to protect our academics by offering them various forms – legal, mental and safety-related – of help. Specifically, this means that we also provide support for dr. Ahmadi.’

In addition, the UG follows ‘independent and transparent procedures’ regarding academic integrity.

Dutch

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