“I carry Iran within me as a woman her child” – Farah Pahlavi
Interview taken by Point de Vue in 2005
Ever Since her exile and the death of her husband the Shah of Iran, the life of Empress Farah could have been a succession of tragedies. « There are moments of great joy », confesses the Empress to our reporters surrounded by her family in the outskirts of Washington.
Point De Vue: Madame, 25 years ago on the 27th of July 1980, your husband, Mohamed Reza Shah Pahlavi was to die in Cairo precisely 18 months after your exile. You have expressed yourself widely on those days in your Memoirs. Do you think that today you are set free from the grief ?
Farah Pahlavi: Set free, never I’m afraid. I have been subject to personal tragedies (The loss of her husband and the tragic demise of her youngest daughter Leila). There is also the terrible fate of my country; the grief caused by the death of so many compatriots, assassinated or killed at war as well as the misery of my fellow Iranians. They are deep wounds and the scars will remain for ever.
PDV: Beyond the difficult situation of your country and the demise of Princess Leila, what were the most difficult moments of these Times ?
FP: There are always very painful moments. In order to survive, I tell myself that Life is an eternal struggle, not only for me but for every human being on earth. One can lose one’s country, friends or family as well as one’s rank. However one must not lose one’s hope and courage. We should not allow « darkness to overcome light ». We must transcend the opportunism of some people and the hectic problems of daily life in order to avoid depression, self destruction and thus lose the struggle for life. The hardest is to lose the trust of people who have counted in your life and who have turn their backs on you. To confront untruthfulness is a painful process. Even if we look at life for what it is, It is always a sad to see the shortcomings of some people. We cannot blame those who demonstrated in the streets. We did have ideological enemies. However the betrayal of those whom we thought were faithful hurt me deeply. One day for the sake of History I shall write what really happened after our exile. What truly happened after the death of the Shah. I have always stood above the conflicts. I refused to slander as others. My goal was elsewhere; some things however belong to history and deserve to be said. Some people wrote lies. I shall one day give my version and rectify their sayings. I need to tell the truth and I hope that with the help of God I will have the strength to do so before I die.
PDV: If life could be rewrote what would you criticize on the past 25 years ?
FP: I often think of that. However I keep in mind Einstein’s formula: « Even with all the energy in the world, it is impossible to return a second backwards. ». I want to forget the problems I encountered during the dreadful past years. I want to go beyond them in order to go forward. Today I am very different from the person I was 26 years ago. Such hypotheses are useless. I would certainly suffer more grief if I would start thinking what I could have done differently. Actually we do not change entirely. We are all different and I believe the experience of the past years have taught me how to organize my life. However, whatever the experience we have a tendency of repeating the same mistakes. My major shortcoming is that I accept too many things … I do not know how to say NO. I have little time and I cannot do everything I would like to do. At Times too much disposability tires me and distracts me from real priorities. However what are these priorities precisely ? Is it not a priority to call an Iranian woman back in Teheran who has difficulties? Isn’t this more important than other priorities ? It is not always easy in regard to my children and the difficulties I encounter in exile are quite similar to those I had in Iran. Wasn’t I supposed to look after them in priority ? Amongst the duties and the responsibilities of the Shahbanou was it not also my role to take care of my children ? I recall my eldest daughter Farahnaz responding to me after I told her « I do not know if what I do is my destiny or my personal choice. » She answered « Mother it is a destiny that does not leave you with a great deal of choices .» She is right.
PDV: During the past 25 years several happy events took place such as the marriage of your son Reza and the birth of three granddaughters. Could you talk about these events ?
FP: Thanks Heavens that these happy events did take place. I am happy and comforted by my son’s marriage to Yasmine a brilliant young Iranian. It was followed by the birth of my granddaughters, each with their personality and the affection they have for me. They are an eternal true source of energy and joy which is rejuvenated each time with the company of Noor, Iman and now Farah who is as sweet as her sisters. Each one will have to find in their lives the means to find strength by taking everything that is positive in order to overcome difficulties. I thank everyday God for having the affection of my grandchildren, children and friends and to be able to enjoy nature, the birds and the sun as well as to enjoy literature and meditation and anything that gives me positive vibrations.
PDV: Madame do you think that the fact that for your Son Reza II does not have a male heir may be a problem for the future ?
FP: I do not think so. In the past we have had several Queens who reigned over Iran. If in the future, ensha-allah (god willing) Iran becomes a free and democratic country, all citizens will have the same rights, our Constitution must be amended in this direction. If the Constitutional Monarchy is restored- which I believe is the best solution for my country- a woman can become Queen or occupy any other situation. It will certainly not be like today where 89 women who were candidates for the presidential elections were refused to present themselves because they were precisely women. The Islamic Republic was not able to banish women from elections or dismiss their right to vote, however many laws that protected their rights have been suspended or modified to their disadvantage. Today an Iranian women cannot ask for a divorce and if a divorce is pronounced the children are under the fathers responsibility or that of his family. My female compatriots are no more normal citizens. Many jobs or responsibilities are refused to them. Thus a Women cannot be a Judge because these gentlemen consider that a Woman can never be fair in her judgments. One of our most famous compatriots Shirin Ebadi the Nobel Peace Laureate of 2003, was a judge before the revolution. She was banished from her position by the Islamic Republic, and worst she was forbidden to exercise her job as a lawyer for more than 5 years. Worst than that the reducing of the status of woman in the country has also reduced the family spirit. The Islamic Republic admits that more than a million children are homeless in Tehran the capital, and nearly as many in the provinces. Many young children boys and girls are forced into prostitution and drug addiction has also expanded in the young population.
PDV: Prince Ali Reza and Princess Farahnaz are still not married. Do you talk to them about this ?
FP: Yes, of course I do sometimes. Any mother wishes that her children be married and have children in their turn and a home of their own, However I do not put pressure on them in this field. They are big enough to know what they want. As long as they are good in their skin and in good health I am happy.
PDV: You were a widow at 40. How have you lived for the past 25 years ?
FP: After my husbands death, I continued living with him, with my country and for my country, and I was so occupied by my responsibilities that not one moment did I think of anything else. There were very difficult moments but with Time I managed to overcome some of the difficulties and become hopeful. I keep in mind only the positive things: Iran has conserved its territorial integrity. It will regain when it wishes to do so its status in the concert of nations. I am convinced that Iranians of all ages, ideologies and all classes do not want the Islamic Republic anymore. They desire a democratic and secular government. This element of hope can only thrive and I am certain that it will come out victorious.
PDV: Are you Zen your Majesty ?
FP: In order to survive I have to be, at least I try. Each day I tell myself that I have to transcend the daily difficulties and keep what is essential. Whenever I go through periods of great sadness I try to take positive conclusions for the present and the future. As long as we are alive we must keep faith. I refuse to complain. I am not saying it is easy but I am at least in peace with myself and inside myself. If I was to let myself hurt by all the pettiness and mediocrity of some people I would be destroyed and I would give credit to those who want to hurt me. I prefer to live with the positive values that were transmitted to me by the society, by religion and by the great poets and philosophers. I try this way to protect myself.
PDV: Where ever you live your environment is always Iranian …
FP: In exile we are suddenly and brutally separated by everything we were used to see, feel, taste, touch or hear. The more we have such objects close to us the less we feel outside our home. In my office I have around 20 pictures of Iran sent to me by compatriots to whom I asked explicitly. Each day I enter this office they remind me of my country and beyond the nostalgia they comfort me.
PDV: Why did you choose to live in Washington ?
FP: At the time when Leila was still amongst us, we wanted to live close to NY. Personally I cannot live in the heart of NY. Therefore Greenwich was the ideal place. After Leila’s demise I had to sell the residence in Greenwich. I am comforted to have done so because after the loss of my youngest daughter I was not capable of living there. My son Reza suggested to have me come to Washington and live with his family. I was hesitant because I was used to the atmosphere in NY. Washington is just another world. However here I am only minutes away from my grandchildren which fills me with joy. I see them on a daily basis. Finally I cannot say that I live in Washington because I live between France, the US and Egypt.
Interview taken by Point de Vue in 2005