An “Israeli” journalist “infiltrated” Iranian Supreme Leader Ali' Khamenei's website, according to a post by supporters of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
But Catherine Shakdam has been variously a contributor to Iranian official media, to United States-based outlets, and to Russian state-owned RT. She has been a French-born Jew, a UK resident, and a convert to Shiism.
In a post headlined "Writer of Ayatollah Khamenei's Website, An Israeli Infiltrator in Media Outlets of Supreme Leader's Office and IRGC [Revolutionary Guards],” the Sols Media Telegram channel claimed Shakdam, who had published articles on Khamenei's website and in major state-affiliated media outlets, was an Israeli “infiltrator."
In less than a day, the post was seen by nearly 10,000 Telegram users.
Ahmadinejad and his supporters are not allowed to publish their own newspapers or appear in state-controlled media. Instead, they use Telegram for 'revelations' and to promote his political views. In less than a day, the controversial post about ‘infiltration’ of Khamenei's office and state media has been seen by nearly 10,000 Telegram users.
The Telegram claim was based on a blog published over two months ago in The Times of Israel written by Shakdam, who traveled to Iran in 2017 to interview then presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi. In the blog, Shakdam claimed she had pretended to be a Muslim, did not mention her earlier conversion, and gave no indication how she had written for Khamenei’s website (Khamenei.ir) or other Iranian outlets.
Over a period of several years, Iranian state-run media such as the English-language Press TV and the national broadcaster (IRIB) interviewed Shakdam, introduced as "political analyst and author based in London," while the Tasnim and Mehr news agencies published her articles.
Press TV has now removed programs featuring Shakdam from its archives, although her name still appears on its website in a few places. Many of her articles remain on Tasnim and Mehr websites. Tehran Times and some other Iranian publications have removed her articles too.
"Keen to be let in to [Iran], I neither argued nor revealed my true motivations,” Shakdam wrote in The Times of Israel. “I realized pretty early on that if I was to witness first-hand what it is that the region [Islam] is really about, I’d better blend in and listen.”
Shakdam said it had been "fascinating” for her to find out in Iran “how Islam’s disdain for women" and "its communities’ propensity to disappear a wife to her husband’s identity" could absolutely “wash her” of her Jewish ancestry.
Despite her ‘discovery’ of this ‘disdain,’ Shakdam apparently earlier converted to Shia Islam and married a Yemeni Muslim. She has written for the state-owned Russian site, RT.com, where she argued in 2017 that “Saudi Arabia’s war crimes have become much too unpalatable for any responsible power to entertain.” RT describes her as a former consultant on Yemen for the United Nations Security Council.
The Huffingdon Post website, where in 2018 Shakdam wrote the US was becoming “a dictatorial police-state,” describes her as “the Executive Director of PASI (Prince Ali Seraj of Afghanistan Institute for Peace and Reconstruction) …[as well as] director and founder of Veritas-Consulting.”
Shakram claimed ‘free pass’
In the Times of Israel piece, Shakdam claimed she had been introduced to Raisi by a US-educated person whom she called "one of the main propagandists of the Islamic Revolution." Her patron's vote of confidence for her good morals, she wrote, was enough to secure her the “one interview” most westerners were denied.
She claimed that "a girl like me” had ended up where few people with Jewish ancestry were ever allowed to enter either because she had been lucky or as a "result of a hunger so fierce" in the Iranian media for "rallying western thinkers to Iran’s cause.”
"I nevertheless walked right into the belly of the Beast – invitation in hand, by the request of the very government whose motto calls for the death of all Jews and the annihilation of Israel," Shakdam wrote for the Times of Israel. She also boasted that her holding a French passport and former marriage to a Yemeni Muslim gave her "a free pass to many Islamic countries."
The is social footage of Shakdam speaking with enthusiasm of Shiism. She appeared in hijab in interviews with Iranian media but not in other photos, for The Times of Israel and for RT.She is the author of Arabia’s Rising - Under The Banner Of The First Imam.