By Janet Rudman
Reza Parchizadeh is the author of the article “Iran’s Postmodern Jihad against the Jews” that was published by the newsletter of the Central Committee of the Jews of Uruguay. He was happy and thanked the institution on Twitter for publishing his article, so I reached out to him and he agreed to give me an interview for the Hebrew Weekly.
Biography: Reza Parchizadeh is a political theorist, historian of ideas, and senior analyst. He holds a BA and MA in English from University of Tehran and a PhD in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), all with honors. Reza wrote his Master’s thesis on Middle Eastern and Orientalist philosophy and political thought; and his doctoral dissertation on theology, political thought and cultural studies in Western Europe and the United States, and defended both with distinction. He is a member of the international committee of correspondents for World Shakespeare Bibliography, the prestigious joint project of Johns Hopkins University and Shakespeare Association of America that constitutes the single-largest Shakespeare database in the world.
Please tell me about your childhood. What books did you read?
My childhood passed during the terrible Iran-Iraq War under a totalitarian Islamist regime. It was not the most pleasant of childhoods, but my family members were intellectuals who would do their best so that we could pass time in positive ways. We read a lot of great books and watched a lot of wonderful movies. The books that I particularly liked were about Persian, biblical and classical literature and history. So I read a lot of Sa’di and Ferdowsi, the Bible, Homer, Herodotus, and Shakespeare.
What memories do you still have from your homeland?
I am missing my family and my travels in Iran. As a child I travelled across the country with my family to see different historical and natural places. Iran has a mesmerizing landscape if you are into nature and history, with phenomena going back for hundreds or thousands of years. I am particularly missing the pre-Persian archaeological sites in southwestern Iran near the Mesopotamia.
When did you go to the United States?
I came to the United States almost a decade ago. I was a doctoral student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), and then married and took up residence in Maryland. My wife, Sacha, is Ashkenazi Jewish by ancestry, and she and I are considering conversion. We have already been through some preparatory courses, and if it had not been for the Coronavirus that closed all the temples, we would have become Jews by now. But maybe we should take that as divine intervention to test our determination. We have been steady on the course despite all the handicaps.
When did you decide to study international politics?
It was not a conscious decision. When I was a child, my family was very political-conscious, and they followed the news all the time. So as a child I developed an interest in politics and would follow all sorts of political issues. That’s how I got into politics. In my late teens, when I had just entered college, I was arrested by the Iranian regime’s security forces and then expelled from university due to my activism. And I was under a lot of pressure for as long as I was in Iran. That is why I finally left.
Do you teach?
I don’t teach, because academia is overrun by the Left’s agenda, and I don’t want to sell my soul and self-censor just to get a career. I’m not saying the Left is wrong in all regards; but I believe the ideology of the Left should not be dominant in academia, and that there should be room for other ideas and points of view. The so-called pluralism and tolerance that the Left keeps talking about are virtually non-existent when it comes to the Left’s treatment of other ideologies. I don’t want to be part of that parochialism.
What is the role of Israel in the Middle East nowadays?
Israel is the major promoter of liberal democracy in the Middle East. That is because Israel, unlike most other countries in the region, was created based on the principles of Western democracy. So while Islamists and other extremists in the region are trying to throw the Middle East into chaos, Israel is a sanity factor and a beacon of hope. Most Arabs are also coming around to see Israel’s stabilizing effect on the Middle East.
Iran is a strong center of power today. Do you think the situation will change in the near future?
Yes, because the regime’s overwhelming tyranny and brutal imperialism cannot go on forever. The people in Iran and the neighboring countries are extremely upset with the regime’s oppression and interference. And we dissidents are also trying hard to bring the Islamist regime down and establish democracy in Iran. If we democratic dissidents play our cards right, and if the world is willing to give us a good hand, I strongly believe that Iran can finally reach democracy.
In the Spanish media there is a lot of talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. How do you asses it with your great knowledge of the political situation in the Arab world?
This has been a sore subject for the past seventy years that needs to be finally resolved. And it will be resolved only through the cooperation of both sides of the conflict. As long as that conflict stands, other nefarious actors, such as the Iranian regime, can chime in and wreak havoc. But fortunately, it looks like both Arabs and Israelis have realized that in order to have permanent peace and stability in their countries and the greater Middle East, they need to work together. This is really happening even as we speak.
What do you think of intersectionality? The leftist parties all around the world defend the Iranian regime regardless of the political prisoners and the persecution of gays in Iran.
Unfortunately, these days most of the Left follows what can be called “tribal politics.” It means, just because they have a blood feud with the principles of Western civilization, what they call “capitalism,” they are willing to get in bed with the most nefarious anti-Western forces in the world like the criminal Islamist regime in Iran. This tribal behavior has divested the Left of even the thinnest shred of credibility. And that is a pity, because the Left could have been a source of good in this world. But they chose otherwise.
What about the Jews that still live in Iran and don’t want to leave the country? Are they considered dhimmis?
Under the Islamic Republic’s constitution, Jews are considered the “People of the Book,” so their existence and living in the country is legal. However, they lead a cloistered life due to the Islamist regime’s inherent antisemitism. And when they are discriminated against, they can’t speak out for fear of the regime’s reprisal. Jews and other minorities will be delivered only when secularism, liberal democracy, and civil society take root in Iran.
Thank you very much for your time, Reza. It was a pleasure that you accepted the invitation of the Hebrew Weekly.
Follow Reza on Twitter: https://twitter.com/rezaparchizadeh
Follow Reza on Academia: https://iup.academia.edu/RezaParchizadeh