Life Beyond the Peacock Throne

Queen Farah with her dog Mowgli. Princess Noor Pahlavi wears dress, Alexandre Vauthier. Photo: Stéphanie Volpato for Vogue Arabia

He was laid to rest in the Al- Rifa’i Mosque, also known as the King’s Mosque, in Cairo. Their two youngest children, Princess Leila, and Prince Ali-Reza, who never reconciled with life in banishment, took their own lives. As I consider these misfortunes, from the window, Her Majesty turns, smiles, and says, “I am not bitter. Such thoughts only invite the enemies to win.”

It is only a few days into the new year, and though not particularly cold, the city is moody. What little light enters the floor-to-ceiling, wood-paneled salon dims considerably during my three-hour audience with Her Majesty, until we are almost cloaked in darkness. Sitting to my left on a white cushion couch is the Queen’s 26-year-old granddaughter, Her Highness Princess Noor Pahlavi. The firstborn of Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi – the man who would have been shah – is an MBA student at Columbia University and an advisor to the non-profit impact investment fund Acumen. In black leggings and a red sweatshirt, her frame is as slight as a couture model.

Princess Noor Pahlavi in Maison Rabih Kayrouz. Jewelry Van Cleef & Arpels. Photo: Stéphanie Volpato for Vogue Arabia
By 1983, it had become mandatory for women to be veiled in public regardless of religious belief, in a country where Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians coexisted.

“My memory is not what it was,” starts Her Majesty, when I ask her to recall her emotions at the birth of her first granddaughter in Washington. “I was just happy to have a healthy grandchild.” How different the scene, when Queen Pahlavi – the third wife of the Shah, following his divorce from Princess Fawzia Fuad of Egypt and Soraya Esfandiary-Bakhtiari – gave her husband and country a long-desired male heir. “My wedding dress was designed by Yves Saint Laurent, who was working for Dior at the time. His seamstresses sewed blue thread in the dress to help me have a boy,” she recalls, smiling at the memory.

With a slight shake, as though she is physically stepping out of the past, the Queen next pronounces that her granddaughter has a talent for painting.

Princess Lalla Salma Of Morocco, Anne-Aymone Giscard D’Estaing, Queen Mathilde Of Belgium, And Queen Farah Pahlavi at Versailles, 2003.
I have the canvas and the colors.’ It helped me…” She speaks easily and lovingly of her four children. Of her eldest, Crown Prince Reza: “A great pilot, he sees the world from ‘up there.’ He doesn’t keep animosity in himself.” Her second child, Princess Farahnaz: “As a girl, she was a garçon manqué, as they say in Iran, but very sweet and with a good heart. Her siblings called her Mother Teresa. One day, Leila came to her and said, ‘I saw the homeless person near the apartment wearing the pullover I gave you!’ Farahnaz is that kind of woman.” Of Princess Leila, her youngest, who died at 31 in London in 2001, the Queen recalls: “She was intelligent, with so many good ideas. I’ll never forget when she said we should tell Walt Disney to make cartoons about the heroic poems of an important Iranian poet…” Her voice trails at the memory of her deceased children.
Princess Noor Pahlavi wears dress and belt by Dior. Photo: Stéphanie Volpato for Vogue Arabia
“My parents had this fear, I think, because of what happened with the revolution, and how it affected my aunt and uncle. They never wanted our identity to surround that and that life. They wanted us focused on our education; never thinking that anything would be handed to us because of a title or lineage.”

A few weeks after the interview, I am on the phone with one of the one million registered displaced Iranians. She agrees to speak with me on condition of anonymity, to protect her family in Iran. “Queen Farah is very popular, well-loved, and respected. We call her ‘Mother of Iran,’” she starts. “As queen, she was always encouraging women – she did things that other wives of shahs had no history of doing. She played a big role in women’s lives at a time when we were starting to become equal to men, including joining the army – all the things not possible before,” she shares. “I had finished law school and, after the revolution, was building a practice with my brother.

The Queen With Noor as a baby. Photo courtesy Crown Prince Reza
He proceeded to launch a central government and build the infrastructure that remains today – the army, police, the first universities, roads, railroads, and hospitals. The late Shah Mohammad and his queen built on that legacy with land reforms, suffrage for women, nationalization of oil, globally unmatched GDP growth, and the celebration and patronage of arts and culture. “I don’t know many cultures that have gone backward like ours,” comments Princess Noor. “Under my grandfather, women were extended extensive legal protections and were given the right to vote [in 1963] – even before women in Switzerland.”

Today, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Gender Gap Report, Iran ranks 142 out of 149 countries.  Iranian women are systematically barred from social, educational, and legal rights and protections. The princess underlines the disparity between people living in the city versus those in provincial villages. “There are drastic differences, even in healthcare, available to women.

Her Imperial Majesty Queen Farah Pahlavi of Iran and her eldest grandchild, Her Highness Princess Noor Pahlavi, reveal their close bond as they look to the future in their first-ever joint interview.

From a fifth-floor window overlooking Paris’s murky Seine River, an 80-year-old lady stands straight and tall; the white of her pantsuit illuminating the dull, surrounding wintery gray. Her Imperial Majesty Empress Farah Pahlavi, the last queen of Iran following 2 500 years of imperial rule, is as still as a sculpture. I observe her quietly from the doorway as she appears to undulate between myth and reality.

Forty years have passed since the Queen and her late husband, His Imperial Majesty Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was forced into exile during the Iranian Revolution. On January 16, 1979, the Shah piloted his Boeing 707 with his wife and their closest confidants on board out of Iran for the last time. The path thereafter would be long and at times tragic. The King would die of lymphoma cancer 18 months after being forced out of the homeland he ruled for 38 years.

Queen Farah at her home in Paris. Photo: Stéphanie Volpato for Vogue Arabia
Her brown hair is pulled into a ponytail revealing high cheekbones while her large almond eyes mirror those of her late grandfather’s.

We speak uninterrupted for hours, but it is the following day, when the Queen’s residence is alive with the photo shoot crew, that I witness a feisty exchange common to the family. “There is nothing wrong with this dress!” exclaims Princess Noor to her grandmother. She is wearing a skin-toned Dior gown; its delicate bustier resembles a sleeveless unitard. While she appears like a ballerina, the Queen firmly objects to the attire. The shoot has not yet begun and she can shut down production at any instant. Princess Noor’s outburst is not the nature of a glamour-seeking woman, however. Rather, that of one stifled by the weight of a regime that now demands women to be modest.

Her great-grandfather, Reza Shah Pahlavi, founder of the Pahlavi dynasty, decreed the removal of the veil in 1935. The veil returned as a symbol of resistance against the imperial dynasty during the revolution of 1979, led by Ayatollah Khomeini.

Queen Farah Pahlavi in a Ralph Lauren suit. Princess Noor Pahlavi in a dress by Giambattista Valli. Photo: Stéphanie Volpato for Vogue Arabia
It is a high compliment coming from a woman who befriended the likes of Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol, and, ultimately, launched the region’s first and most complete art museum, the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, in 1977. “I got it from you, Mama Yaya,” smiles Princess Noor, revealing her grandmother’s nickname. “I used to watch you make us watercolor bookmarks that you would gift me and my sisters [Princess Iman, 25, and Princess Farah.

You would have all these art supplies at the house in Greenwich.” The Queen is swiftly drawn back into her memories. “After I lost my son Ali-Reza in 2011 – he was so intelligent and hardworking; he knew the history of Iran unbelievably well – a friend of mine, said, ‘Why don’t you come to my house and draw?

Queen Farah Pahlavi with her four children Crown Prince Reza, Princess Farahnaz, Prince Ali-Reza, and Princess Leila, 1976.
“There is not one day that I don’t think about Leila and Ali Reza. But I have to keep my spirit and my courage for my other children and for Iran.”

The Queen’s two-story Paris residence, with winding hallways and hidden rooms, is filled with family photographs of smiling faces celebrating Iranian traditions, such as burning Esfand as incense and fire-jumping Chaharshanbe Suri, and joyous milestones, like birthdays and graduation ceremonies. “I keep all the letters, pictures, newspapers, and so many books in this house and in the US – I’m what Americans would call a ‘hoarder,’” smiles the Queen. “I wonder what will happen to all this,” she ponders, looking around. On the second floor of the apartment hangs a painting of the late King and the Queen on a motorcycle. “It’s my favorite image of her,” says Princess Noor. “It makes me think, my grandmother was a badass.” “A what?” her grandmother laughs. “A badass, Mama Yaya,” repeats the Princess articulating each syllable. Certainly, no one has ever dared refer to her as such in her presence. “I was on a motorcycle on Kish Island,” she explains. “I was going too fast and fell.

Queen Farah Pahlavi wears: suit by Ralph Lauren. Photo: Stéphanie Volpato for Vogue Arabia
I had many dreams at the time, but none of them came true. I wanted to be a judge – but there are no female judges in Iran. Women are deemed ‘too emotional’ to make a decision.” She continues to describe how the revolution tore families apart. People became poor. Inflation followed. Women were stripped of their rights. “Now, in Iran, they say the only one who wants to come back is Crown Prince Reza – Iranians want to leave. I once wrote to Her Majesty and told her my story about fleeing Iran pregnant, and that I looked forward to one day returning. ‘I am sure that Iran will rise from its ashes,’ she responded.”

In 1925, following the 1921 Persian coup d’état, Reza Shah Pahlavi was put on the throne by the constitutional assembly.

The Queen at her coronation, 1967. Regalia by Van Cleef & Arpels
A lot of this has come to our attention with my mom’s illness,” she says. In November last year, Crown Princess Yasmine announced on Instagram that she was suffering from breast cancer and would undergo a double mastectomy.

“She’s created this open portal into her treatment to raise awareness for breast cancer and women’s health,” says the princess, proudly. “But what she discovered is that in Iran, a lot of care surrounds reproductive health only. Apart from delivering a child, a woman’s feminine care is ignored.”

“Some of the older generations ask, ‘Why does she talk about that?’” notes the Queen. “But it’s very positive that she opens up to people.”

Princess Noor continues, “My mom wants to see certain cultural stigmas eliminated. She’s received a lot of heat throughout her marriage – sometimes for just traveling without her husband. I don’t know if it’s because she is a woman, or if it is just an idea of what the imperial family should be. But for her, speaking out about her illness is important.” She adds that was her mother not living and being treated in the US, she might have died.

As if for comfort, Princess Noor gives her grandmother’s Cavalier King Charles spaniel’s belly a rub. Mowgli, a gift to the queen from her granddaughter, has spent the past few hours alternating between the women’s affections. Looking tenderly at her Mama Yaya, Princess Noor comments, “She is kind to all living things and has empathy for anything innocent. Seeing her experience so much and maintaining her composure, we feel stability and strength in turn.”

Of her aspirations for the Pahlavi legacy, which she will one day carry on her slight shoulders, she comments: “Our legacy lives on today – because of the contributions my family has made and the beliefs we espouse.” She stresses that her father advocates liberalism and democracy. “Iran means everything to us, but whether we occupy any official role in the future is not up to me but to the people. The future is in their hands, as it should be.”

Photography: Stéphanie Volpato
Style: Sarah Cazeneuve
Hair: Olivier Lebrun
Makeup: Camille Siguret

by Caterina Minthe

With Special Thanks To Nazy Nazhand.


Iranian people can bring change

CAIRO – 2 January 2018: “Iranian people have the unwavering ability to bring about the desired change,” Iran’s former Empress Farah Deba said in press statements to Youm7 on Monday.

Diba also added that more than 70 cities and about 22 provinces joined the protest movement in Iran that has been ongoing for more than seven days now. “The Iranians have endured 39 years of corruption and brutality under an oppressive regime and their patience had run out; they are willing to make a move.”

In previous statements to Youm7 on July 30 after the death anniversary of her husband Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who passed away on July 27, 1980, Diba said that she staunchly believes in the awareness of the young Iranian people who have regularly been facing difficult circumstances under the current regime, including falling living standards, high rates of poverty, murder and torture.

She further called on them to not give up their rights and to gradually win them back.

On January 16, 1979, the Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi left Tehran after being overthrown by the Iranian Islamic Revolution. The airplane carrying Shah Pahlavi and his family, including his wife Empress Farah Diba, took off from Tehran Airport and headed to Aswan International Airport in southern Egypt, where they were received by the late President Mohammed Anwar Sadat, and his wife Jehan Sadat.

By: Mohammed Mohsen Abo El-Nour

Gratitude towards the Egyptians

CAIRO – 30 July 2017: On January 16, 1979, the Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi left Tehran after being overthrown by the Iranian Islamic revolution. The airplanes carrying Shah Pahlavi and his family, including his wife, Empress Farah Diba took off from Tehran airport and headed to Aswan International Airport in southern Egypt, where they were received by the late President Mohammed Anwar Sadat, and his wife Mrs. Jehan Sadat.

Therefore, on the 37th anniversary of the death of her husband the Shah, who passed away on July 27, 1980, and was buried in Al-Rifai Mosque in Al-Qalaa district, south of Cairo, the former Empress visits her husband’s grave every year and commemorates his death and is accompanied by her friend, Mrs. Jehan Sadat.

The former Empress of Iran shares a strong friendship relation with Jehan Sadat, which lasted 47 years, as well as deep feelings for Egypt and the Egyptians.

In Youm7’s interview with Diba, she started by expressing her and her family’s gratefulness to the Egyptian people and the late President Anwar Sadat for their hospitality to them when they came to Egypt in 1979.

When asked about the relationship that she has with Jehan Sadat, Diba said that Mrs. Jehan “is a great friend,” and that she considers what Mrs. Sadat, President Sadat, and the Egyptian people did for them in the wake of what happened in Tehran in 1979, when many friends refused to host them, “is a debt that they appreciate and recognize.”

On the other hand, Youm 7 also talked to Jehan Sadat on Thursday, after she placed flowers on the tomb of President Sadat in Nasr City and the tomb of the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in the Rifai Mosque, about receiving Shah Pahlavi and his family in Egypt.

Mrs. Jehan noted that Sadat received the Iranian Shah because “no one else received them” and because he never forgot the favor when the Shah supplied Egypt with petroleum products during the October War in 1973, denying what some historians claimed that President Sadat received the Shah because he aspired to obtain a number of economic and military gains. Diba further talked about the secret behind the friendship that originated between President Sadat and the Iranian Shah, saying that the reason was that “they believed in each other.
Their friendship was based on many mutual interests, the most important of which was the development of their respective countries.” On the current Egyptian-Iranian relationships, Diba commented that in her opinion, “Egypt and Iran enjoy a special position when it comes to regional politics,” they both also have great deep-rooted civilizations and their nations share similar nature in kindness and hospitality, pointing out that Egypt and Tehran once had an amazing relationship during the time of President Sadat and Shah Pahlavi.

Diba refused to discuss the current Qatari crisis, but when asked about the Hassan Rouhani administration in Iran, she responded that “Rouhani will not be able to implement the things and promises that he said he would do for the Iranian people, but hopes he succeeds.”

On the future of Iran, Diba affirmed that she trusts the Iranian youth to be aware enough, as well as the brave Iranian woman, pointing out the difficult circumstances facing the people in Iran from “executions, imprisonments, poor salaries, the very high poverty rate, as well as the corruption of the Iranian government,” which the Iranian people are aware of.

Article by Mohammed Abo El-Nour
Translated by Mariam Mostafa
Photos by Hazim Abdel Samad

The collection of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art

The collection of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art was to be shown in Berlin in December, but Iranian officials declined permission to send the artworks out of the country. SPIEGEL spoke with former Empress Farah Pahlavi, who assembled the collection in the 1970s. She’s been living in exile for 38 years.

The photos of the opening ceremonies for the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art from 1977 depict a country that no longer exists. They show men dancing bawdily in tight pants and dark glasses while female performance artists are dressed only in red wool yarn. The hedonism of the 1970s is on full display in the images, demonstrating that Tehran, too, was experiencing the rise of a younger generation.

These images, which are now on display in the Box Freiraum exhibition space in the Berlin neighborhood of Friedrichshain, were taken by the Iranian photographer Jila Dejam. Originally, the photos were to accompany a planned December exhibition in the Gemäldegalerie art museum in Berlin of works from the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibition had been conceived as a symbol of cultural rapprochement between the West and Iran following the so-called nuclear deal.

The empress of Iran at the time, Farah Pahlavi, had initiated the collection in the 1970s, partly in pursuit of the dream of establishing Iran as a cosmopolitan, modern country, which at the same time was cruelly unjust. The 1979 revolution ended the dream, but amazingly, the artworks themselves survived. They lie essentially inaccessible in the museum’s basement.

During a visit to Tehran in 2015, then-German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier received permission for an exhibition in Berlin of 60 Iranian and international works of art from this collection, including a painting by Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollack’s “Mural on Indian Red Ground.” Hermann Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, said of the potential exhibition that he hoped it wouldn’t just promote dialogue with Iran, but also strengthen “liberal forces, civil society.” Ultimately, however, official permission to send the artworks to Berlin was withheld.

Farah Pahlavi, who is now 78 years old, has been living in exile since 1979. She receives guests in her Paris apartment, surrounded by modern art and pictures of her family.

SPIEGEL: Madame Farah Pahlavi, would you have traveled to Berlin to see the exhibition of the art collection that you assembled in Iran?

Pahlavi: Oh yes! I would have definitively traveled to Berlin and visited, although only after the official opening. They could not have stopped me. It is a free country!

SPIEGEL: When you say “they,” you mean the Ayatollah regime in Tehran?

Pahlavi: Yes. The exhibition was interesting for me for two reasons. First, it would have shown the positive things that were done before the revolution, during our time. Second, all of a sudden people, the media, were speaking about me again, about what we did and not so much about what the current regime is doing today.

SPIEGEL: The Iranian government declined to grant permission for the art collection to leave Iran. Are the ayatollahs still afraid of you 38 years after Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi left Iran?

Pahlavi: Many people are still talking about my husband. It gives me energy and courage that Iranians on the street, both here in Paris and in the U.S., kiss and hug me out of the blue, especially young people; people who were born after we had to leave. Through the internet and television, they know what Iran was like at that time. They know what it could have been today, and they blame their parents for what happened.

SPIEGEL: With the cancellation of the exhibition, did Iran and the West, and did Germany, miss an opportunity for real rapprochement?

Pahlavi: If you want to create a dialogue that might help open Iran, it takes more than showcasing a Picasso. You would need to do something inside the country, to work for more freedom, for more human rights. But Germany has already started doing business again with Iran. To me, it seems that this is more important than anything else.

SPIEGEL: Why did you begin buying modern art when you assembled your collection?

Pahlavi: In the early 1960s, I went to many art galleries, met artists, and bought their work. The wealthy people of Iran were buying old Iranian art, not the work of modern artists. A female painter told me: “I wish we had a permanent place to keep our works of art,” and the idea was born to build a museum for Iranian artists. And why not have foreign artworks as well, when the rest of the world has Iranian art in their museums?

SPIEGEL: The collection’s curator, Donna Stein, came from the U.S. The dance performances at the opening ceremony were quite avant-garde; some were downright lascivious and provocative, at least for a rather traditional and conservative country like Iran at the time. Most of the population lived in poverty. Did you live in a bubble?

Pahlavi: I don’t think so. Iran was not a conservative country. I don’t know why some people think that only the West can have contemporary and modern art museums. I was traveling a lot in Iran and talking to people. My husband was working to bring the country forward. He called it the White Revolution.

SPIEGEL: A program to modernize the country, intended to reduce the influence of traditionalists.

Pahlavi: We were looking to become a modern country. My husband initiated land reform to bring the feudal system to an end; equal rights for women; worker rights; and the nationalization of forests and water supplies. Education, hospitals, libraries, economy and industry: We wanted to create progress. The religious people, of course, like Ayatollah Khomeini, were against all that.

SPIEGEL: A U.S. newspaper wrote at the time that the opening of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art was akin to provoking a clash between one of the world’s oldest civilizations and the modern Western world of the 1970s.

Pahlavi: In a way, this is looking down on Iranians. Iranians have so much culture and history. Persepolis was built by workers who were paid, not by slaves. Cyrus the Great’s cylinder, from the sixth century B.C., was a precursor of the United Nations human rights charter. People say, “you went too quickly.” But what progressive government doesn’t want to go quickly? I remember a conversation with Henry Kissinger in Egypt many years ago when I said that maybe we should have opened up society five or six years earlier and the revolution would not have happened. He replied that (had we done so) it would then have happened (five or six years) earlier.

SPIEGEL: The collection contains Francis Bacon’s “Two Figures Lying on a Bed with Attendants,” showing two naked men lying together. Was this appropriate for 1970s Iran?

Pahlavi: There was no reaction to such paintings when the museum opened. Everybody was very happy and proud. Not everybody in society accepted gays then. They were there, but not as open as they are in today’s Europe. But these people now …

SPIEGEL: … you are talking about the revolutionary clerics?

Pahlavi: Correct. They say they don’t like this picture. But please, remember what they did when they took over: They raped virgin girls who were opposed to them before hanging them – to make sure they wouldn’t enter paradise.

SPIEGEL: The revolution began only a few months after the museum’s opening. Wasn’t the revolution also a reaction against the deep divide in society, the inequality of wealth distribution, and the lifestyle of the elites?

Pahlavi: I never heard any criticism about the museum. Everybody was happy about it then and everybody is happy about it today. It is a crucial cultural heritage and I don’t even know how much more valuable it is now than it was when I created it.

SPIEGEL: How was it that you failed to recognize the dangerous societal undercurrents that ultimately swept you away?

Pahlavi: We didn’t manage the situation well, otherwise it would not have happened. Our enemies were well organized and we were not. Many of them were trained in camps in Palestine, Cuba, and other places.

SPIEGEL: The Shah had one of the largest and best-equipped militaries in the region.

Pahlavi: The communists from the Soviet Union, from China, and the leftists, were against us and joined hands with Khomeini. My husband called it an unholy coalition of red and black, where red was the communists and black was the religious zealots. Maybe we didn’t know what was happening in the mosques and underestimated what these people were doing. We couldn’t believe that, after all the Shah had done for the country, he would be replaced by somebody like Khomeini. The publicity against Iran from America and Europe also helped them. Khomeini’s speeches were broadcast on BBC before the tapes reached Iran.

SPIEGEL: Many hated the Shah, but at the same time, many liked you, the empress. One prominent Ayatollah offered you a safe return to Iran if you killed your husband first.

Pahlavi: I don’t consider these people Iranians. They killed so many people.

SPIEGEL: Before the revolution, the notorious intelligence service SAVAK employed systematic torture against the opposition to silence them or to get them to talk. They used electric shocks, burns, the extraction of nails and teeth, and rape.

Pahlavi: There were many lies and exaggerations. A number of leftists who initially supported the revolution later went on the record in the Iranian media to confess that they were propagating these lies, which worked. I would like to refer you to the findings of Dr. Emadeddin Baghi, a former seminary student commissioned by the Islamic Republic to ascertain the number of political prisoners in the Pahlavi era. Mr. Baghi was quite surprised to discover that the actual number of political prisoners was 3,200 rather than the 100,000 reported.

SPIEGEL: An internationally recognized study of the number of political prisoners and murders has never been conducted. But even if it was much lower, they were still human rights violations. Why didn’t you intervene?

Pahlavi: I couldn’t do anything about it.

SPIEGEL: You were the empress. You and the Shah could do anything.

Pahlavi: No, it wasn’t that simple. There was a government and there were other influential people.

SPIEGEL: Was it necessary to torture, to kill?

Pahlavi: No. And if it is true, I regret that they did this. I wish they hadn’t done it. Thirty-eight years have passed and all these negative and highly exaggerated stories have been repeated over and over. I wish you would write about what is going on in the Islamic Republic today.

SPIEGEL: Madame, we cover it extensively. Did you know about torture?

Pahlavi: I had heard about it, but I wasn’t really sure whether it was true. You’re comparing our country with Western democracies, but we couldn’t create democracy overnight. It takes time for people to get educated and to become politically engaged. I was involved in so many activities to bring the country forward: helping with leper hospitals, helping the mentally underprivileged, those who could not see, those who could not hear. We made films, published books, and opened children’s libraries all over so people could learn how to read. We brought books to the most remote villages with jeeps, with donkeys. You have to judge everybody on balance, all the positives and all the negatives. In the life of my husband, I think the positives outweigh the negatives.

SPIEGEL: Should your husband have been more decisive about cracking down on the uprising?

Pahlavi: No. Many people wonder why the Shah didn’t act more strongly in the beginning by just killing people or throwing more of them into jail. But my husband would say: “I don’t want to keep my throne over the bloodshed of my people.” And the Western world helped (the uprising).

SPIEGEL: After you left Iran, no country wanted to accept you and your family. How does one survive such a precipitous fall?

Pahlavi: Sports helped me. I forced myself to play tennis. There were still people who supported us. I always knew who my husband was and I knew who I was. I wanted to keep the spirits of my husband and my children high, also for my own self-esteem. I knew that if I was suffering, my enemy wouldn’t suffer.

SPIEGEL: Did you become depressed?

Pahlavi: I did. I went to a psychologist. I had to take medication for a time, but then I stopped because it made me feel even worse. Today I tell myself: I have made it so far and it’s been 38 years. And if I drop dead one day, well, I drop dead. So what?

SPIEGEL: Your daughter Leila didn’t survive. She and one of your sons took their own lives.

Pahlavi: It is a wound in my heart that will never go away. They were both so intelligent and so hard working with all their problems. People were shouting in the street “Down with the Shah” and things like that, and we were moving from one place to another. At a young age, they heard so many negative things, on television, and in the newspapers. God knows. I often think, what could I have done? But it’s no use, they are not here anymore.

SPIEGEL: What will the future bring for Iran?

Pahlavi: I always want to remain positive. In our long history, Iran has been invaded by so many other countries and despite it all, the Iranian identity has survived. People are very courageous, especially women, who are braver than men.

SPIEGEL: Madame Farah Pahlavi, thank you for this interview.

Article by SPIEGEL

Former Empress of Iran: “We wanted to create progress”

Within the basement of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, sealed away from public view the majority of the time, there lies a collection of images bearing silent testimony to a world now long passed. The scenes show men dancing to music, women wearing fashionable clothing sitting in university lectures, and stylish young couples enjoying what is for all appearances a relaxed and easy living. The images could well be of any Western country, but in fact show life in Iran during the final decade of the reign of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who would later be deposed during the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

Upon his visit to Tehran in 2015, the then-Foreign Minister of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier arranged to have the photos, along with numerous other Iranian artworks, delivered to Berlin to be exhibited in a new display within the Gemäldegalerie Art Museum. The exhibit was intended to be a way of reconciling Iran with the West by strengthening dialogue and understanding.

However, two years on, Iranian officials have still refused permission for the works to be sent to Berlin. In the meantime, the photos remain in storage out of sight and out of mind.

The photos, captured by Iranian photographer Jila Dejam, form part of a collection started by the Empress of Iran, HIM Farah Pahlavi with numerous other works by Iranian artists of the time. It was all part of the Empress’s vision to present Iran to the world as a modernized, cosmopolitan cultural hub, as well as provide a venue in which contemporary Iranian art could be presented to the country and the world at large. This collection eventually led to the opening of the Tehran Contemporary Art Museum.

In an interview with Der Spiegel, the Empress expressed her disappointment that the Ayatollah had refused permission for the photos to be displayed in Berlin, assuring readers that she would have attended the exhibition given the chance. She saw it as an opportunity to open a window into what life was like for Iranians during the days of the Shah and contrast it with how life was in Iran under the current government.

She further commented that she believed that, in some way, the Ayatollah may be concerned by how young Iranians could respond to depictions of life as it was before the Revolution.

“Many people are still talking about my husband. It gives me energy and courage that Iranians on the street […] kiss and hug me out of the blue, especially young people; people who were born after we had to leave. Through the internet and television, they know what Iran was like at that time. They know what it could have been today, and they blame their parents for what happened.”

At the pressing of the interviewer, HIM elaborated further that it was the ambition of the Shah and herself to bring the country forward, to try and create within Iran a nation that could be modern, progressive, and innovative. The Shah called it “the White Revolution”. Through various projects such as land ownership reforms, broadening of women’s rights, improvements to education and healthcare, and the nationalization of forests and water, the Shah and his wife “wanted to create progress”. The former Empress then highlighted how this already played on Iran’s pre-Islamic history, citing, for example, Cyrus the Great’s cylinder proclaiming equal rights for all his subjects as a precursor to the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights.

“Iran was not a conservative country”, she stressed.

Despite her defense of her husband and his leadership over Iran, she also admitted that mistakes were made and the Revolution was not handled as well as it could have been. The Shah refused to crack down violently on dissenters early during the uprising because he did not want his throne supported through bloodshed, and it seemed that tortures and executions often occurred without the Shah’s knowledge or approval. Likewise, the democratic and cultural reforms that the Shah undertook were slow and angered more conservative elements within Iranian society, especially among the clergy.

Though her exile from Iran was hard on her and her family — two of her children, Princess Leila and Prince Ali-Reza, later committed suicide — Empress Farah Pahlavi remains optimistic for Iran and its future.

“In our long history, Iran has been invaded by so many other countries, and despite it all, the Iranian identity has survived. People are very courageous, especially the women, who are braver than the men.”

Article by: Royal Central

When there is pressure, artists become creative

``They cannot stop culture``

When there is pressure, artists become more creative``

Farah Pahlavi

Her Imperial Majesty Empress Farah Pahlavi of Iran—as she was officially known until 1979, when her husband, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was overthrown and replaced by the Islamic Republic of Ayatollah Khomeini—was recently in New York to attend the opening of “Iran Modern,” a major exhibition of Iranian art from the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, at the Asia Society on Park Avenue. Tall and still beautiful at 75, she was the picture of elegance and dignity that evening, in a white silk dinner suit embroidered with black flowers, her champagne-colored hair pulled back and tied with a black satin bow for a nice schoolgirl touch. As always, she carried herself with the perfect posture and composed manner of royalty, yet made everyone she met feel as if she was delighted to see them—especially the artists whose work was in the show, though some of them had been fierce critics of her husband’s regime. Back then, the international press often referred to her as the Jacqueline Kennedy of the Middle East, not only for her glamorous style but also for her commitment to historical preservation and her patronage of the arts.

Farah Diba was born on October 14, 1938, in Tehran, Iran, to well-to-do aristocratic parents, she was educated at private Italian and French schools in Tehran, before studying architecture in Paris. She was introduced to the shah at a reception at the Iranian Embassy in Paris in the spring of 1959, and he began courting her when she returned to Iran that summer. They were married in December, in a Shiite Muslim ceremony at the Marble Palace, in central Tehran. In keeping with traditional customs, the bride, wearing a gown designed by Yves Saint Laurent and a two-kilo Harry Winston tiara, set 150 caged nightingales free and was sprinkled with sugar by the queen’s mother. She was 21; the shah was 40. He had been married twice previously, first to Princess Fawzia, the sister of King Farouk of Egypt, with whom he had a daughter; and then to Soraya Esfandiari. As these unions had failed to produce a male heir, both had ended in divorce. Ten months after her marriage, Empress Farah gave birth to Crown Prince Reza, followed by Princess Farahnaz in 1963, Prince Alireza in 1966, and Princess Leila in 1970.

The shah was a complicated and controversial figure who, on one hand, believed in the divine right of kings, and on the other, strove to make his country the most modern in the region, abolishing feudalism and emancipating women as part of his White Revolution of 1963. The empress herself was a symbol of how far women had come under her husband’s reign. She was the first Iranian queen to be named as regent in the event her husband died before the crown prince turned 20. She presided over a staff of 40 and was a patron of 24 educational, health, and cultural organizations, traveling to the most backward parts of the country to inaugurate schools and hospitals. Under her direction, the government bought back hundreds of historic Persian artifacts from foreign institutions and private collections and built museums to house the recovered bronzes, carpets, ceramics, and other objects and antiquities.

In the early ’70s, the empress founded the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art and began assembling a collection of nearly 150 works, from the Impressionists (Monet, Pissarro, Renoir) right through to the minimalists (Sol LeWitt, Agnes Martin, Brice Marden), spending, she has said, less than $100 million. Today the collection also includes works by Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, van Dongen, Picasso, Braque, Miró, Magritte, Dalí, Pollock, Johns, Bacon, Hockney, and Lichtenstein, is estimated to be worth as much as $5 billion. The museum opened in 1977, but with the coming of Ayatollah Khomeini two years later, these treasures were locked away in its basement vault, deemed unfit for Islamic eyes.

In 1976, Empress Farah commissioned Andy Warhol to do her portrait. They had met at a White House dinner given for the shah by President Ford—Andy told me afterward, “The shah was cool to me, but the empress was really, really kind and beautiful.” Although I was editor of Interview at the time, my Factory duties also entailed selling Andy’s art, so I worked out the details with Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Fereydoun Hoveyda, a former film critic who often invited us to his caviar-laden dinners, where one might find everyone from François Truffaut or Louis Malle, to Elia Kazan, Lena Horne, and Sidney Lumet. On July 5, 1976, Andy, his manager, Fred Hughes, and I flew to Tehran, accompanied by Nima Farmanfarmaian, a New York Post fashion columnist and the daughter of two well-known Iranian artists, Monir Farmanfarmaian and Manoucher Yektai. A dozen schoolgirls in gold brocade caftans greeted us at the airport and pinned pink roses to our lapels before we were whisked off in a limousine to the Tehran Inter-Continental Hotel, where Andy immediately began ordering caviar from room service for only $10 a portion. The following night we found ourselves at a state dinner for Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan hosted by Iran’s Prime Minister Amir Abbas Hoveyda, the older brother of the ambassador. (Less than three years later, both host and guest of honor would be executed, Hoveyda during the revolution, Bhutto after a military coup.)

The Tehran we saw that summer was a growing, prosperous, modern city—just as the Iranian society we encountered was dynamic, affluent, and cosmopolitan. The very rich, a group that included a high proportion of Christians and Jews, lived in the hills on the northern side of town, near the imperial family’s Niavaran Palace compound. Their villas would not have seemed out of place in Bel Air—except for the Persian carpets beside the pools—and the women wore bikinis by day and haute couture by night. Closer to downtown, vast middle-class housing developments were under construction, including one by that pioneer of affordable American suburbia, William Levitt. Only in the old bazaar in poorer south Tehran did we see women in head-to-toe black chadors, and it was there that the sound of our American accents elicited the occasional ominous hiss from within the jostling crowds.

During the week we spent in Tehran waiting for Empress Farah to find time in her busy schedule to pose for Andy’s Polaroid Big Shot camera, I never once heard the word “Shiite.” Yet, by the following July, when she came to New York to receive a women’s rights award at a luncheon given by the Ecumenical Appeal to Conscience Foundation, hundreds of masked demonstrators were shouting, “Kill the shah!” outside the Pierre Hotel, and police on horseback struggled to push them back across Fifth Avenue. “This is too scary,” moaned Andy, as we rushed inside. In November, Andy and Fred Hughes went to President Jimmy Carter’s state dinner for the shah, where some 8,000 demonstrators surrounded the White House. By then, protests had begun in Iran, and the shah’s regime was coming under increasing criticism in the American press. So was Andy. A few days before the White House dinner, The Village Voice ran a photograph of Andy and Empress Farah on its cover, under the headline “The Beautiful Butchers.” Not long after, Andy’s old friend, Henry Geldzahler, the Metropolitan Museum curator who had just been named New York City Commissioner of Cultural Affairs by Mayor Koch, personally berated him for dealing with “the murderous shah.” That did not stop Andy from agreeing to do the shah’s portrait when Ambassador Hoveyda asked him to in early 1978. As His Imperial Majesty would not be sitting for Polaroids, Andy made his silkscreen from an official photograph of the shah wearing a formal white military tunic with a gold-embroidered collar and epaulets. We were all set to go to the Shiraz Arts Festival in September 1978, where the portrait would be unveiled, when a telegram arrived from the Ministry of Culture. “Due to illegal manifestations by extreme xenophobic groups, we regret to cancel this year’s festival.”

The shah and the empress left Iran on January 16, 1979, and two weeks later, the ayatollah arrived in triumph, going on to become the Supreme Leader of “God’s government.”

For the next several months, the deposed royals moved from country to country—Egypt, Morocco, the Bahamas, and Mexico—seeking refuge while under the threat of extradition and death from the new Iranian regime. In October, President Carter reluctantly admitted the shah to the U.S. for medical treatment; in response, Iranian militants seized control of the American embassy in Tehran, taking its diplomats hostage for what would become 444 days. The Pahlavis were then packed off to Panama and finally to Egypt again, where the shah died in July 1980, of cancer (lymphoma).

President Reagan allowed his widow and children to enter the United States in 1981, but life in exile has not been easy on the family. Princess Leila died of a drug overdose in London in 2001; Prince Alireza committed suicide in Boston in 2011. “The children were thrown from their gilded cages into the jungle at a very young age,” says a family friend, “and could not survive.”

These days, the former empress divides her time between Paris and Potomac, Maryland, where her son, Prince Reza, the once would—be shah, lives. We talked over tea at the apartment of her cousin Layla Diba, the former curator of Islamic Art at the Brooklyn Museum and co-curator of “Iran Modern,” which is on view through January 5.

FARAH PAHLAVI: I’m happy that there are exhibitions about Iran in this country at this time. It’s good for Iranians who are in America to see that their country has been honored, and also for Americans to know a little more about Iran. The exhibition [earlier in 2013] of Cyrus the Great’s Cylinder at the Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery in Washington was a great success. The director told me, “We didn’t even have a show with so many viewers and press.” And the exhibition now at the Asia Society about Iranian modern art is interesting because, after what the American people have seen in the news about what has happened in Iran, it’s good for them to see another image of our country and our people.

BOB COLACELLO: The period the Asia Society exhibition covers—the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s—was the time you were empress, right?

PAHLAVI: Yes. I got married in 1959. And I was lucky, in a way, because I came in a period when Iran was going ahead in many fields—industrial, cultural, and educational. I always say I am grateful to my husband because he supported me and guided me, and helped me to be able to do things in the fields I was interested in, as a person and also in my position. I remember the first time he asked me to marry him. He said, “As queen, you will have a lot of responsibility.” And I said yes, because in my youth, I was a girl scout, and in school, they were teaching us to serve others, to help others. But I couldn’t imagine the scale of the work! It took me a few years to know about the problems and to find ways to help. I’m also grateful to all my compatriots who came to see me, ladies and gentlemen, explaining to me that “We need this” or “We need that”—in social welfare, for example, for children who were sick, or mentally ill, or underprivileged, or who couldn’t see, all sorts of this kind of thing, but also in education, which was the most important thing for our country, and in culture. I was interested in culture. I loved the culture. I wanted to help in any way that I could for the preservation of our ancient and traditional culture. Not just in terms of architecture, but art and literature and poetry and handicrafts. I was also interested in contemporary art and I wanted to support Iranian artists. I believe my interest started in the early ’60s when I first went to the Tehran Biennial that the Ministry of Culture had organized for Iranian painters. And then, slowly, there were one or two galleries—private galleries—which would show Iranian artists. I really admired their work, and I myself was buying. And also I was trying to encourage those who could afford to come with me and to buy because Iranians who were wealthy at the time were more interested to collect ancient Iranian art, and not so much contemporary. I encouraged the Ministry, which had a budget for the decoration, to be involved, too—I said instead of just spending it on ugly furniture, you could order a painting or a sculpture from an artist. I did the same with mayors of cities. And slowly, it took off, and there were many exhibitions and many collectors, and it was a period when we really had great artists. So I’m very happy that Asia Society is showing that period.

Article by:
Bob Colacello
Sebastian Kim

Interview magazine

Exclusive interview with Point De Vue

Her Majesty Queen Farah Pahlavi exclusive interview with Point De Vue on her 75th Birthday

75 Years of a life like no other and a contrasted destiny of highs and lows. One of a young Iranian student known as Farah Diba who became Empress, but has known exile, the death of her husband and that of her two youngest children. Shahbanou Farah Pahlavi received “Point de Vue” in her home in Washington. Responding candidly to questions by our correspondent Vincent Meylan in presence of her three grandchildren. A touching meeting with a Lady who has remained both simple and profoundly humane.

If for once history would choose to leave Empress Farah alone. If for once life could be void of tragedies, revolutions and loss. If for once only the future could be the focus of her attention in the presence of her four grandchildren whom the Shahbanou cherishes above all. It’s in Washington that the Empress has chosen to celebrate her 75th birthday on October 14th in presence of her family. A few days ago she had received “Point de Vue” with Noor, Iman and Farah. She expressed her joys of being a grandmother – Iryana, her fourth granddaughter wasn’t present, but the latter had spent a few long weeks in Paris with her royal grandmother. She also spoke about the difficulties to overcome some of the traumas of her life notably the tragic death of her second son Prince Ali Reza.

Point de Vue (PdV): Madam, you are greeting us in presence of your three grandchildren, Noor, Iman and Farah. Could you please tell us more about them?

H.I.M Farah Pahlavi: They are truly along with their cousin Iryana the joy of my life. I have a special relationship with each and every one of them which is a combination of tenderness and mutual trust. The two eldest who is now young grown-up women share with me little things which they don’t necessarily want to tell their own parents. We exchange a great deal of SMS with one another. As for Iryana, she lives with her mother who takes great care of her. She wasn’t able to be here for my birthday but she spent ten days with me in Paris. I was so happy to be able to see and live these privileged moments with her. At times I feel my relationship with my grandchildren seems far less difficult than the ones I had with my own children.

One doesn’t have the same responsibilities. Obviously one asks oneself questions and one worries for their future, but not with the same intensity as with one’s own children. Besides as grandparents we rarely have the last word. We can only love and spoil them. It’s simple and fun.

PdV: You said that your grandchildren idealize you a little?

H.I.M Farah Pahlavi:
Yes, they often send me SMS so as to tell me that I am just too kind with everyone, that I am this or that on a very positive note. At times I feel they see me with far more qualities than I can actually vouch for. But the good thing (she smiles) is that it forces me to live up to it and try not to disappoint them in regard to their image of me. 

PdV: Noor, aged 21, Iman aged 20, Farah aged 9 and Iryana aged 2. Could you tell us more about each one of them?

H.I.M Farah Pahlavi:
A grandma is probably not the most objective to speak about the qualities of her grandchildren. I probably am idealizing them also. All four are intelligent and beautiful. If I were to describe them individually, I would say Noor is a young and very sensitive girl with a golden heart. She works very well at the University of Washington, but having chosen to live close with her parents, she clearly has not made a clear professional choice yet. Iman is most certainly more decided. She has found her vocation quite quickly. She has chosen to study economy at the University of Michigan where she has excellent results. She also has a heart of gold. Regarding little Farah, it is too early to define her character yet, all I can say is that for the time being she is a lovable girl. As for Iryana, one thing stroke me while she was spending time with me in Paris last July. She is a very sociable child who eagerly speaks to people even in the streets. In the evening she never went to sleep before I went to see her in her room. She is very cute and more importantly I noticed she is very sensitive to music just like her father at the same age. Music was an essential element in Ali Reza’s life as it is in mine as a matter of fact. I was extremely touched that my son’s daughter born months after his death shares the same taste for music as her father.

PdV: You expressed several times your frank relationship with your grandchildren? Do you think they realize who was their grandmother?

H.I.M Farah Pahlavi:
Absolutely, yes the two elders are fully aware but maybe I should try to let them know more about what this era represented for Iran. They have never lived in this country and have not known their grandfather.

PdV: Do you understand this generation? It’s tastes, their desires?

H.I.M Farah Pahlavi:
There are things that haven’t entirely changed since my time some 60 years ago. They are sportive, and very stylish. I myself was more sportive and probably more of a tomboy at their age. I became stylish later. I have always encouraged them a great deal to do sports, they practice ski, swimming, tennis and scuba diving with their father. They speak English, Persian of course and a little bit of French, because Iman and Noor started off their schooling in a French school in the United States. They obviously speak to me about their studies, they share with me their secrets. When they were younger I tried to expose them to the type of music I love but probably that wasn’t enough. I have very eclectic tastes. I love all sorts of music from Persian folklore to classic music as well as African rhythms and even some Iranian rap singers whom I listen to on Iranian radio stations. Clearly my grandchildren appreciate more contemporary music corresponding to their age and generation. But I have had the opportunity to go with them to concerts. I don’t know if I always understand their tastes but it’s not important since what matters is that they trust me and they know that I love them dearly. I tell them always: “what matters is that you find what you like in life and that you find accomplishments in your professional and private and sentimental lives. The rest is of less importance.”

PdV: Could the eldest Princess Noor become the heir to the Pahlavi Dynasty?

H.I.M Farah Pahlavi:
All this is very hypothetical, but we never know. She is the eldest of my eldest son’s children and he is currently the heir to the throne. If one day a Constitutional Monarchy is restored, this would be a strong symbol particularly for Iranian women who have endured so much all these years, to see a woman be named heir to her father as well as heir to the throne. It is currently the case in Sweden, the Netherlands, or in Belgium today so why not in Iran tomorrow? All the more that this wouldn’t be the first time a woman ascended the throne in our country. We even have had ruling queens in the past. However at this juncture what matters is to see her good in her skin just like her siblings and cousin, and to see that she studies well and is happy.

PdV: You mentioned Princess Iryana who was born several months after the tragic death of her father, prince Ali Reza who committed suicide on 4th of January 2011. Have you ever spoke about it again since?

H.I.M Farah Pahlavi:  
It is very difficult for me as for any other mother who has experienced this to speak about the death of one of her children particularly after the death of my daughter Leila in 2001. I am not sure to be able to find the words to explain prince Ali Reza’s gesture. He had  many personal problems in his life. Some people took advantage of him and hurt him. Like princess Leila he had a very painful teenage at one of the worst periods of the Iranian revolution and during our exile.  The two eldest of my children Reza and Farahnaz already had a stable personality when all this turmoil hit our lives. The two youngest were far more sensitive and fragile at the time. They never quite overcame the shock despite the passage of time.

Ali Reza had problems linked to depression when suddenly this … (the Empress hesitates) moment, I don’t know how to qualify it, happened. An “accident”, a moment of depression which was more violent than other moments … I don’t know. It is something very hard, actually impossible for a mother to admit, I am not even sure the term is correct to describe the death of one’s child.

Ali Reza had problems linked to depression when suddenly this … (the Empress hesitates) moment, I don’t know how to qualify it, happened. An “accident”, a moment of depression which was more violent than other moments … I don’t know. It is something very hard, actually impossible for a mother to admit, I am not even sure the term is correct to describe the death of one’s child.I always blame myself for not having done this or that but I know it doesn’t help. I often think of their childhood in Iran, during our years in exile. There are certainly things that I did not notice at the time, moments where I was less present, yet I had a warm, constant and loving relationship with my children even during the Imperial years when we were in power and when I was very busy. I don’t know …  when I am discouraged, or I feel that sadness is taking over me, I try to find courage by telling myself that I have to remain strong and available to those who are still with me today: Reza, Farahnaz, and my grandchildren. 

PdV: Precisely. We never speak about her, nor do we see her in the press, but what can you tell us about your eldest daughter Princess Farahnaz ?

H.I.M Farah Pahlavi:  
She is doing all right, thank God, thank you. I’m so lucky to have her. We speak to each other often. She has an important role in my life and our family life in general. She is really very close to her elder brother Reza, her nieces and particularly the little Iryana. Farahnaz is a woman of extraordinary character. She doesn’t have the slightest aggressive trait in her character. Her brothers had dubbed her “Mother Teresa”. She is very smart. She did some serious studies. She has friends, a quiet life which she protects and wants to keep very private. We call each other often.

PdV: And your son, Prince Reza?

H.I.M Farah Pahlavi:
He is the one who has the most difficult role. Especially with everything that is taking place today back home in Iran. He works hard and is doing all in his power to help free his country and fellow compatriots. Fortunately he has a very positive character, which allows him to overcome many challenges.

PdV: When you see this new generation of your grandchildren what would you like to transmit to them?

H.I.M Farah Pahlavi:
The most important I think is not to hold any bitterness inside oneself. It is important to try and see what is positive in life. Heaven knows how hard it has been for me to apply this motto to myself. It’s true that life has become very complicated today. When I think of my childhood, I tell myself that I have remained the girl scout I used to be when I was 15. I have kept the same ideals. I try to be as caring despite the hardships of life. At times it’s been hard but I don’t think I was wrong. It’s these ideals which I try to pass on to my granddaughters. They often admonish me by telling me: “You are too nice with everybody all the time.” But I don’t think I am too kind. I try to be most of the time but I don’t always manage. It’s important for me and it helps. To be kind doesn’t mean just anything, it means doing good and trying to give as much love as we can to others. If some think it sounds a little simplistic a philosophy in the world we live in … so be it. At my age it’s too late to try and change anyhow. I know that by giving I am also rewarded in return.

After 34 years in exile I am always extremely touched to receive letters or mail from young compatriots both inside and outside Iran. Many were born after the fall of the Monarchy and yet they recognize me and write to me with such kindness and warmth and ask me to call them back. It’s also to them as well as to my grandchildren that I try to transmit my optimistic outlook on life. There are so many things in life that can give us positive energy. I don’t live in the past and I don’t isolate myself.

PdV: Is this because of your character or education?

H.I.M Farah Pahlavi:  
Probably both. Whether it’s the education one receives from one’s parents or the one we get at school. When I think of my youth or the education I got some 60 years ago I thank my parents and especially my mother who gave me this opportunity. The freedom of being able to go abroad and study in France was a blessing. I think it’s this education which she transmitted me which allowed me to remain normal and free throughout my extraordinary life.

PdV: Don’t you think you also have a remarkable ability to adapt yourself?

H.I.M Farah Pahlavi:  
Probably both. Whether it’s the education one receives from one’s parents or the one we get at school. When I think of my youth or the education I got some 60 years ago I thank my parents and especially my mother who gave me this opportunity. The freedom of being able to go abroad and study in France was a blessing. I think it’s this education which she transmitted me which allowed me to remain normal and free throughout my extraordinary life.

PdV: Don’t you think you also have a remarkable ability to adapt yourself?

H.I.M Farah Pahlavi:  
(The empress laughs). It’s true that my life has been anything but ordinary. My childhood in Tehran in the 50’s, my student years in Paris, my life as Queen, the revolution and then exile … you are correct, I must have had an ability to adapt myself to each situation. It is fortunate that I had this ability.  I also think what has helped me in the past as it does today is a sense of humor. For instance when I take the plane or train and have to be controlled by security just like everybody else. When I take off my shoes, I think of how I was treated with respect in the past when upon arrival in China or at the British Court, a Red Carpet would greet me down the lift to the national anthem and guards of honor. I like to compare the two lives I have had : the one as Queen and the one I have today. The fact that I had 20 years of a deemed “normal life” before becoming Queen probably has helped me greatly to accept these changes.

PdV: When you look back at your life after 75 years, which event comes to mind as the most important to you?

H.I.M Farah Pahlavi:
The most important moment in my life? Without a shadow of doubt my wedding. It’s probably the major event which radically transformed my life forever. I had an extraordinary rich and eventful life and I owe it entirely to the King. When I think of my first encounter at the Iranian embassy in Paris, I never thought it would change my life. Our wedding took place on the 21st of December 1959. Strangely enough I remember it much better today than I did several years ago, probably because I wrote my memoirs. I vividly remember waking up in my uncle’s house where we used to live in the north of Tehran. I also remember the long preparation of my hairdo and dress, of the moment I set free the doves as we left my uncle’s house. Of the trip in the car to the Marble Palace and of the people applauding as we drove along the road. Today I tell myself that this was indeed the major event of a life which was indeed particularly extraordinary.

By Vincent Meylan (All photos © David Atlan & © Point de Vue)
Translation: courtesy Darius Kadivar – Paris

Shahbanou with her 4th granddaughter

Shahbanou Farah with her 4th granddaughter Iryana, daughter of the late Prince Alireza Pahlavi

Princess Iryana, The daughter of the late Prince Ali Reza and Miss Raha Didevar, was born on July 26th. A few days ago, Shahbanou Farah was able to see her fourth granddaughter. She shared with us her emotional encounter. By Vincent Meylan (Translated from French) Fortunately, life offers moments of great joy and emotion as has been the case for Iran’s Shahbanou. The day Farah held in her arms for the very first time her fourth granddaughter was indeed one of those memorable days. Iryana was born on July 26th, 2011 in the United States. Unfortunately, the child’s birth took place 7 months after the death of her father tragic death. On the fatal day of January 4th, 2011 a 45 years old man was found dead in his Boston house. The local police confirmed the news on January 5th:« Prince Ali Reza committed suicide ».

A new tragedy was added to the long list of personal and collective challenges faced by the Imperial family ranging from the revolution, and exile, to the shah’s death in Cairo in 1980 and the youngest daughter of the Royal Couple Princess Leila in 2001.

It seems that some fates simply rebound against all odds. This truly applies to Shahbanou Farah.

After months of shared grief and pain, it seems that hope has knocked at the door of destiny once again.

Who could have imagined such a turn of events? Raha Didevar the Young Iranian woman who shared the prince’s life was expecting a child. A few days ago the Empress was to meet the child and accepted to share the photos with PDV and share her feelings of that memorable day with us.

Q: You didn’t expect this birth. What did you feel when you took Iryana in your arms for the first time?

FP: A great deal of emotion of course and joy. I was naturally overwhelmed. I was not in the US at the time of the child’s birth and I only got to see the child last week obviously, I thought about her father who is no more with us to recognize the child. The baby is Very VERY Cute. I especially hope that she will be happy despite her father’s absence.

Q: I suppose like all grandmas you tried to find similarities with your son?

FP: It is funny that you ask me this question cause the day Iryana was born the first to rush to see the child on the 26th of July was my eldest son Reza. His reaction was « EXACTLY » in Persian « EYNAN ». Which meant that he immediately recognized the child and her similarities with his young brother. I have to admit I have the same impression.

Q: Who else in the Family has seen the Mother?

FP: My eldest daughter Farahnaz saw the child first. She insisted to be present at the time of the birth given the absence of her brother. It was important that someone from the father’s family be present for Iryana’s birth. Reza and his wife Yasmine joined them a few days later and it was naturally Reza who officially announced the news.

Q: Your Son Ali Reza and Raha Didevar were not married. What are the name and the title of the Young Child?

FP: She has the same name and title as her cousins Noor, Iman, and Farah the daughters of my eldest son Reza. Her name is Iryana Pahlavi and she is a Princess.

Q: The year 2011 started dramatically with your son’s death but ends with the joyful and unexpected birth

FP: I cannot speak about my son’s death for it is still too painful. But I simply think that this birth is a happy event. Something has survived of my son after all …
She is so cute and already noisy and turbulent just like her father at the same age. I just want to share with your readers that I have created a foundation in my son’s memory in association with Harvard University (where Prince Ali Reza Studied) aimed at helping students pursue studies in the field of ancient Persian culture. We have created the foundation’s status and are gathering the funds to subsidize it.

Q : You will be funding it?

FP: Partly yes but we need to reach a million $ and we still need to complete the funding. That is why I have painted 5 paintings representing the Sunset which will be auctioned soon on eBay in a few weeks.

Translation courtesy Darius Kadivar – Paris

Iran’s Empress Opens Her Heart

Half a century ago, then-Miss Farah Diba married the shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who crowned her Shahbanou, or Empress, eight years later.

This past June, 30 years since the Islamic revolution overthrew the Shah, the Empress watched as her homeland erupted in protest against a disputed presidential election. In a rare intimate interview with New York gallery owner and longtime family friend Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller, the Shahbanou shares her sadness, her memories, and her hopes for her compatriots. First, by way of introduction, Vanity Fair writer Regan biographer Bob Colacello, who visited Iran three years before the revolution in 1979 and spent time with the royal family, offers his firsthand insights, as well as a primer on the rich history of this troubled nation.