Jonny Gould’s Jewish State

94: Catherine Perez-Shakdam: "I was part of Iran society, met the Ayatollah and Raisi. I'm Jewish"

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Episode notes

You’ve never heard a story like this. Catherine Perez-Shakdam lives in the UK. She’s also lived in France, Yemen and Iran. While in Tehran, married with kids, she mixed in the theocracy’s higher echelons, socialising, even going on pilgrimages to Iraq. Nothing unusual about that, you say. Are you ready? She’s Jewish, of French Sephardi background. As an outsider in plain sight, Catherine never revealed her Jewishness - obviously - and so got up close to the regime and she says it’s a deeply political and ideological regime, not religious. Even Nihilistic, she says. In Yemen, Catherine started writing articles critical of the Saudis, which came to the attention of Iran. And while living in Iran, she travelled with President Raisi on his private plane - and asked for and got a private audience with the Ayatollah Khamanei. This is Catherine’s highly revealing and detailed story of what drives Iran’s ruling class, it’s a forensic eyewitness of a regime, which she says infiltrates the West - with murder on their minds. And that’s not all about Catherine. She’s descended from Sephardim who stayed in Spain for centuries after the 1492 expulsion. The 1930s, in fact, when her family ran from Franco’s fascists aiming for Palestine - with tragic consequences. So this is also a story of Jewish resilience. How trauma can travel through generations yet Jews emerge triumphant in a culture which strives for a better life for its children even at cost to oneself. Catherine is now a research fellow for the Henry Jackson Society. This is the extraordinary life of Catherine Perez-Shakdam.