Shahabanou Farah Pahlavi Marks 70th Birthday with
Family in Paris and Shares Her Hopes For Iran and Iranians (*)
photocomposition ©DK & ©PDV ARAM & pictory Iranian.com
The Month of October is a joyful one for the Pahlavi Family for it corresponds to several timely birthday celebrations and happy symbolic memories linked to their dynasty that of respectively the Coronation of 1967 and Persepolis Celebrations of 1971. The reason is that October corresponds to the birthday month of the late Shah of Iran ( October 26th, 1919), the Shahbanou (October 14th, 1938) and their eldest son the Crown Prince Reza (October 31st, 1960). So during their reign the month of October became known as the "Royal Month "ripe for national holidays to the delight of schoolchildren (like me then) who could skip school. ;0)
Farah Pahlavi (***) was born on October 14, 1938 in
the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz. Born as Farah Diba, she was the only
child of Sohrab Diba and his wife, Farideh Ghotbi. In her memoir, the former
Empress writes that her father's family were natives of Iranian Azarbaijan while
her mother's family were from Gilan Province on the Iranian coast of the Caspian
Through her father, Farah Diba came from a relatively affluent background. In the late 19th century her grandfather had been an accomplished diplomat, serving as the Iranian ambassador to the Romanov Court in Moscow. Her own father was an officer in the Imperial Iranian Armed Forces and a graduate of the prestigious French military Academy at St. Cyr.
Farah Diba began her education at Tehran's Italian School, then moved to the French Jeanne d'Arc School and later to the Lycee Razi. She was an accomplished athlete in her youth and became captain of her school's basketball team. Upon finishing her studies at the Lycee Razi, she pursued an interest in architecture at the École Spéciale d'Architecture in Paris, where she was a student of Albert Besson.
Many Iranian students who were
studying abroad at this time were dependant on State sponsorship in order to do
so. Therefore when the Shah, as head of state, made official visits to foreign
countries, he would frequently meet with a selection of local Iranian students.
It was during such a meeting in 1959 at the Iranian Embassy in Paris that Farah
Diba was first presented to Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.
After returning to Tehran in the summer of 1959, the Shah and Farah Diba began a courtship, and soon the couple announced their engagement on December 1, 1959.
The couple had 4 children together respectively The Crown Prince Reza , Princess Farahnaz (March 12th, 1963), Prince Ali Reza ( April 28th 1966) and the late Princess Leila (March 27th, 1970 - June 10, 2001).
Happy Grandma: (Left to Right) Daughter in Law Yasmine Pahlavi, Shahbanou Farah with granddaughters namesake Princess Farah, Princess Noor, Princess Iman ©PDV ARAM
Now at Age 70, the Former Queen of Iran is a Happy grandmother of three beautiful princess' born the the Crown Prince Reza and his wife Princess Yasmine:
Princess Noor, born 3 April 1992,
Princess Iman, born 12 September 1993
Princess Farah, born 17 January 2004
An Occasion for PDV Magazine journalist Jean-Jacques Bruges to interview the Former Queen who celebrated her birthday in their company and shared her hopes for Iran and her compatriots both inside and outside Iran.
Below the complete interview translated from French:
"My Grandaughters are My Greatest Joy" -Farah Pahlavi
For Her 70th Birthday, Empress Farah greeted us at her Parisian apartment in presence of her close family members: The Crown Prince Reza, his wife Princess Yasmine and her three beautiful grandchildren: Noor, Iman and Farah, the Empress expressed her eternal love for her country for which she continues to struggle.
It is in a simple but cozy residential area of the French capital, which she acquired only a few years ago and simply decorated with a Persian taste, that the Empress chose to celebrate with her siblings and loved ones. Beautiful Qajar Era paintings hang on the walls and bronze statues of Lorestan and family souveniers decorate the room amongst gifts from Iranian exiled compatriots of the Diaspora. The living room contains numerous dedicated photos of past and present reigning monarchs, presidents and loyal dignitaries worldwide. One can notice that of President Anwar Sadat of Egypt, King Baudouin of Belgium, the current King Muhamed VI of Morocco, the King of Spain Juan Carlos, his son Crown Prince Felipe next to his wife Princess Letizia, King Abdullah of Jordan and other personalities in the Public eye whose friendship to the Iranian Royal Family remained loyal equally in years of Power as in those of grief and exile.
Shahbanou Farah's has always kept close ties with Iranians in the Diaspora over the years which explains her enduring popularity. Insert Pop Singer Googoosh in NY and Tennis Champ Mansour Bahrami in Roland Garros, Paris photocomposition ©DK & © pictory Iranian.com
In a sigh, The Former Empress admits that "seeing some of the photos continue to hurt me for they are like scars that remain open for ever: The death of my husband Mohamed Reza Shah and that later of my youngest daughter Leila".
Point De Vue Images du Monde (PDV): Your Majesty, On the 14th of October, you celebrated your 70th birthday. How did you commemorate this event ?
Farah Pahlavi (FP): My age is not that important to me even if this one is symbolic ( she smiles). Apart from a simple dinner with my family, my major concern like nearly every day is the situation of my compatriots back home: Iranian women who are humiliated on a daily basis, insulted, suppressed or stoned. The fate of the young who in desperation drug themselves or choose prostitution in order to make a living. I could say the same for the arbitrary executions or the suppression of intellectuals. All this added to the irresponsible behavior of the Islamic government which puts my country and the entire Middle East at risk.
If 70 % of Iran's Population are composed of Women,
It Seems that the Royal Family does not make
an exception to this rule. ©PDV ARAM
PDV: Yet if Iranian women are mistreated in Iran, they seem to achieve great success internationally ?
FP: Absolutely, many Iranian women have succeeded worldwide and it is a source of pride to us all. Marjane Satrapi for instance who is truly a symbol of independence and great talent. I admire her. She has been tough on everyone of us, including herself and has been equally critical of the monarchy as well as the mullah's regime today. Anousheh Ansari has been the first Iranian women (not to say first Iranian) to go to space and fulfill her dreams. Shirine Ebadi, the Nobel Peace Laureate was the first female Judge during my husbands reign. She defended the weak and the oppressed by risking her freedom not to say her life after the Islamic Revolution. She decided to fight back against her adversaries by using legal means and proving that the Koran and Human Rights are not incompatible.
Marjane Satrapi is the Comic Book author and director of the Box office and critically acclaimed Film Persepolis. Below, Catherine Deneuve ( also in Satrapi's film) and the Shahbanou greeted at the Biennale of the Arts in Paris ©imdb & ©Farahpahlavi.org
Mrs. Ebadi was forced to resign from her position as judge and allowed to work as a lawyer only after five years. The reason given by the authorities was "that a women cannot be fair enough to cast a judgment on a legal case". Today however she has been able to offer her competence to her fellow compatriots and the Nobel Peace Prize justly acknowledged her efforts and stamina after all these years.
I can also mention Maryam Sanati who has become the editor in chief of the most important Canadian female magazine Châtelaine. How can one not therefore be shocked when someone like Zahra Shojai ( former President Khatami's advisor on women's affairs ) claims that "stoning is a necessity for conserving the sanctity of family values" ? Or when a young 17 year old girl waits in prison the hour of her hanging, for the alleged crime of resisting to the sexual advances of cleric ? ...
FLY ME TO THE MOON: Anousheh Ansari's life long passion for Space was triggered as a child by watching the Popular TV Show Star Trek on Iranian TV. (**) photocomposition ©DK & ©imdb.com
PDV: Your Birthday also coincides with a few weeks exception, with the 30th year of exile for you and your family. You were 40 years old then. A few weeks later, your husband the Shah died in Cairo following a long struggle against cancer. In 2001 your youngest daughter Princess Leila died tragically. How did you find the strength to survive such personal tragedies ?
FP: Well, One can lose dear friends, one's family members or one's country ( Pause, Emotional Voice) but One should never lose one's courage or faith! Luckily I had both. One should never complain about one's fate but on the contrary try and find the means of resurfacing. I personally found this energy in the love and warmth given to me by my children and today by my grandchildren and friends but also very much from the support brought to me from fellow compatriots living both inside and outside Iran. I receive lots of emails and letters of encouragement and some which are extremely heartwarming from Iranians who are hardly 30 years old and never lived during my reign. When they give me their contact numbers or emails, I try as much as possible to respond back personally. Obviously I do this discreetly for their own security but also privacy. This creates obvious ties over the years and I am grateful to them all.
PDV: A few years ago you acquired
a house in Washington in order to be closer to your eldest son. Today however
you gathered here in Paris ... You also visit Cairo. Which is your favorite
FP: I actually very much appreciate to spend some time on all three continents. It keeps me in touch with what is going on in the world from different perspectives, but I have to admit that my heart and life are truly focused on my country Iran, even if I cannot go back today. I truly cannot plant my roots anywhere else than Iran be it in my heart. In the United States, I enjoy some anonymity which gives me some freedom and I appreciate it but in Paris I have many friends whom I like to see and the cultural life is much more intense. But I also have some sad memories linked to the French capital since my mother and daughter are buried in Paris' Passy cemetery. ( Read my Article : A Labour of Love) ...
"Religious and Racial Tolerance is an Iranian Tradition that Nobel Peace Awardee Shirine Ebadi boldly reminds us of its importance through
her daily legitimate struggle for Women and children Rights." Say's Farah Pahlavi. photocomposition ©DK & © pictory Iranian.com
FP: (continued) Paris reminds me that if age brings its share of wisdom, it also brings along the passing away of dear friends and loved ones: Maurice Béjart or more recently Yves Saint Laurent. I attended the funeral of the latter and was truly grieved by his demise. I had the opportunity to share it with Pierre Bergé his life long partner and companion. I knew Yves Saint Laurent for such a long time. He had created the robes that I was to wear for two of the most important events in my personal life: that which I wore when I became the Shah's fiancé and then my wedding dress. He was such a great artist and I had an immense respect, friendship and gratitude for him.
LE BONHEUR CA SE CONSTRUIT: Royal Gathering in Paris
for A Royal Birthday. Even if they have never lived or visited Iran,
The three grandchildren have received a perfect Iranian education
and speak Persian fluently in addition to French and English.
They are fully aware of their country's history and culture
and cherish their Persian Heritage. ©PDV ARAM
PDV: Your two eldest
granddaughters, Princess' Noor and Iman, are now teenagers. Do they project
themselves on their future ?
FP: Noor is 16 and Iman 14. Both are Iranian Princess' and Princess' of my heart. They represent all my Joy. When they are with me all my worries, sadness and troubles fly away. We often speak about the future, but they are still too young to know exactly what they want to do. I can just say that as young girls they receive a perfect education, and are aware of what is going on in the world like anyone their age. They perfectly speak Persian, French and English and new technologies from Internet to I Pod's have no secret for them. But above all they continue to receive an Iranian education for we are greatly attached to our history, traditions and culture. We also celebrate all the traditions and popular celebrations linked to our roots.
A FULL TIME JOB:. From State Visits to soothing the victims of earthquakes or Leprosy afflicted compatriots in remote Iranian villages, the Former Empress' enduring commitment remain a positive example that should inspire many
including her own granddaughters.
PDV: Today, their father, who is your eldest son, and currently heir to the Peacock Throne of Iran, has three children and all girls. Yet the Iranian Royal Constitution as defined during your reign does not consider female succession to the throne. Are you worried that the absence of a male heir could jeopardize an eventual restoration of the monarchy in your country ?
FP: Our First priority today is free our country from the current regime that is oppressing our people regardless of the nature of the system of government that could replace it as long as it is a True Democracy that respects Human and individual rights to all Iranians. If Iranians decide that the best system of government is a Constitutional Monarchy then the laws prevailing would be submitted to parliament for debate and one could very well consider that a Woman could equally to a Man be a sovereign who reigns but does not rule like it is the case in other Constitutional Monarchies today.
"In Good and Bad Times A Queen's Duty is with her compatriots." Say's Farah Pahlavi
FP: (continues) I should add that this is nothing new in our own country's history. We have had Queen's in the past who have ruled Iran. I myself was named regent at the time of my coronation in October 26th 1967. This was a symbolic gesture that my husband the Shah undertook as a sign of emancipation of Iranian women seen as equal to their male counterparts.
© photocomposition ©DK & ©PDV ARAM & pictory Iranian.com
FP: (continued) Amongst the many reforms and modernizations that my husband's father and Founder of the Dynasty, Reza Shah the Great, also undertook was to establish schooling and education for all including girls from kindergarten to university. My husband continued with the same policy and strived to bring them the same freedoms as those existing for women in Western Societies. As such I have no doubt that a Woman can perfectly fit in my steps, but she needs to remember that it is a full time Job ... (laughs).
photocomposition ©DK & ©PDV ARAM & pictory Iranian.com
(*) Official Website of Point De Vue Images Du Monde
(**) In 1969, the Shah sent one of 73 Apollo 11 Goodwill Messages to NASA for the historic first lunar landing. The message still rests on the lunar surface today. He stated in part, "...we pray the Almighty God to guide mankind towards ever increasing success in the establishment of culture, knowledge and human civilization." The Apollo 11 crew visited the Shah during a world tour. Watch Shah Visit to NASA, 1962 (youtube) And Also Read my article I Dream of ( A Persian) Jeannie
(***) Official Website of Shahbanou Farah Pahlavi
(****) Official Website of Anousheh Ansari
An Interesting Website created by a Portuguese Fan on the Coronation and Persepolis Celebrations
British TV Report on Birth of Crown Prince Reza October 31st 1960 (youtube)
French TV Cinq Colonnes à la Une interviews Royal Couple in 1963 the Gardens of Saad Abad (youtube)
Swiss TV Interviews the Royal Couple at Airport on their way back from the United States 1962 (youtube)
German TV interviews (in French) the Shahbanou amongst School Kids in an Orphanage (youtube)
French TV coverage of the Coronation October 1967 (youtube)
Golestan Palace Museum presented on Jadid Online
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