OUR SCHOLARS | Dr. Houchang Chehabi

Houchang Chehabi is a professor of International Relations and History at Boston University, and has been concurrently teaching at Harvard University since 1987. Although he is a leading expert in history with specializations in Middle Eastern politics and cultural history, Shiism, and international law, his main research focuses on the history of Iran and surrounding countries.

He previously taught at Oxford and UCLA and impressively acquired fellowships with both the Alexander von Humboldt and Woodrow Wilson foundations. Chehabi received both his MA and PhD from Yale University and has written numerous articles, book reviews, and translations.

He published two books, Iranian Politics and Religious Modernism: the Liberation Movement of Iran Under the Shah and Khomeini (1990) and Distant Relations: Iran and Lebanon in the Last 500 Years (2006). He also co-edited Politics, Society, and Democracy: Comparative Studies (1995); Sultanistic Regimes (1998); Iran’s Constitutional Revolution: Popular Politics, Cultural Transformations, and Transnational Connections (2010); and Iran and the Challenges of the Twenty-First Century: Essays in Honour of Mohammad-Reza Djalili (2013).

“The fact that Iran was never formally a colony actually matters a lot because they, there are very, very few countries in the world, non-Western countries who survived the age of imperialism without becoming European colonies. In fact, there are only six of them, namely China, Japan, Thailand which was then called Siam, Iran, which was then called Persia, the Ottoman Empire and Ethiopia, which was then called Abyssinia.”


“If Iranian were to be accepted by Europeans as equals, they had to look like Europeans. So at the beginning of this, is actually men’s attire because in 1928 uh the European suit and tie are made obligatory. However, there was still the issue of the hat, because one of the main differences between Muslim etiquette and Western etiquette is that to show respect, a Western man doffs his hat, takes his hat off, for instance when greeting a woman or when entering a church. Whereas, in Muslim societies, and in Iran, a man’s head is always remains covered, including during prayer time. So after 1928, while the European suit was made obligatory and you had to pay a fine if you did not wear it.”


“After 1970, Palestinian groups established bases in Lebanon where they trained their guerrillas for the fight against Israel. The Lebanese government was in no position to close these camps or to impede the access of foreign guerrillas to these areas. And so that’s why beginning in 1970s, we have Iranians who go to Lebanon to receive training for guerrilla warfare. And these is really the beginning of Iranian presence in Lebanon. These people are leftists, most of them are leftists, many of them are also uh militant Islamic fundamentalists.”

Culture and State

Foreign Presence

World War II

The Shii State

Language and Nationhood


Shiraz: Pig Child Fire




Iran-Turkey Relations