POINT DE VUE PARIS
EMPRESS FARAH PAHLAVI IN CAIRO - PUBLISHED AUGUST 8, 2010
Above: Empress Farah Pahlavi and Ms. Jehan Sadat at Shah's resting place in Cairo - July 27, 2010
Scanned and sent courtesy Darius Kadivar - Paris
BELOW: POINT DE VUE INTERVIEW INTERVIEW THE EMPRESS - JULY 25, 2010
BELOW: ENGLISH TRANSLATION courtesy DK
In Memoriam - Rest in Peace
My King - Point De Vue Interview with Vincent Meylan
"Shahbanou Farah expresses wish to see her husband buried in Iran"
On the 27th of July, the Shahbanou of Iran was at the El Rifai mosque in Cairo for the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the demise
of her husband Mohamed Reza Pahlavi the last Shah of Iran ...
The Empress accepted to recall this annual ritual trip to Cairo with Point de Vue journalist Vincent Meylan ( author of a book : La Veritable Farah) and share her
souvenirs of her late husband who reigned over Iran's destiny for more than four decades ( 38 years to be exact).
In a few days you will be in Cairo for the ceremonies commemorating the death of your husband. This 30th Anniversary is specifically symbolic this year I suppose?
Farah Pahlavi (FP):
For me each 27th of July is an important day. I never miss it. I think of my husband often, but on that particular day I must be present at his tomb and honor his memory.
It is also an opportunity for me to meet my fellow compatriots who also wish to honor his memory. They come from all over the world and sometimes even all the way directly from Iran just for this unique occasion. It is always a sad and emotional day for me but I often tell myself that God was good to him and did not want him to witness the destruction of his kingdom and see all the ills done to his countrymen and countrywomen since his death. The state in which Iran is today as well as the problems faced by our compatriots on a daily basis would have been heartbreaking for him ...
Also the death of our youngest daughter Leila in 2001 at the age of 31 would have grieved him terribly.
What takes place on that particular day ?
Well, usually my children and grandchildren accompany me. This year however they were alas not able to make it. Usually we gather at the residential building which the Egyptian government has put at our disposal
for the past 30 years. The day begins with a visit to the tomb of President Anwar El Sadat. He was the only head of state to offer his hospitality during the darkest hours of our exile. It is thanks to him that the King was able to die fairly in peace in Cairo. Alas Sadat was himself assassinated shortly after by Islamic Fundamentalists. Miss Sadat is always at my side on that day. We then visit the El Rifai Mosque where the King is buried.
The Religious ceremony is brief. After the prayers, some people make speeches or share their memories. Then I receive everyone. This allows me to meet my fellow Iranians from all walks of life particularly those who have come all the way from Iran.
You reigned 20 years at his side but you also shared 18 months of a harsh and humiliating exile after your departure from Iran in January 1979 up to his death in July 1980. Was this the period during which your relationship was the strongest and closest than during the years of glory and power ?
Definitively ... We were chased from one country to another. We lived through this experience together and each day brought us closer to one another. The way some countries behaved towards us at this period was astonishing. However I knew him and I knew myself and I knew that despite all that was said and done against us we did not deserve this treatment. He seemed to cope with this situation much better than I did at the time. Probably because he knew how to stand above all the petty attitudes and treacherous behaviors towards him. Today I realize that what happened to us was not unique and that this type of experience is something that everyone endures at some point in their lives. But for us it seemed to take a much more magnifying and important proportion because of the political and historical context.
On the pictures of the funeral, you seem distant, nearly stiff, and carried away in your inner thoughts ...
I recall this vaguely. I do remember that the heat in Cairo on that day was tremendous. In principle in the middle east, women are not allowed to follow the funeral processions at least not in a muslim country like Egypt. But I had asked President Sadat to allow me to do so which he kindly did. My two daughters and Mrs. Sadat followed the funeral procession behind the coffin with me. The crowd left the Abdine Palace all the way to the El Rifai mosque and we walked behind the coffin for at least two hours. It was a long and slow paced walk, but I was relieved at the thought that he was given a dignified funeral worthy of his stature as a former head of state. Thousands of people followed the procession. After months of anxiety and pressure I had just one thought on my mind: Remain dignified and not crack up or break into tears ...
On that evening, you slept with your children all in the same room is that true ? ...
Yes except for my youngest son Ali Reza who wanted to sleep alone ... But Reza, Farahnaz and Leila all brought their mattresses, pillows and blankets and we decided to sleep in each others arms on an improvised bed. It was a terrible moment of solitude for all of us and being together helped sooth the anguish. My first thoughts were for my children at that moment. A few days after our arrival in Egypt I sent them to Alexandria so that they could relax and breath a little ... When their father's health deteriorated the doctors advised me to ask the children to come back and be present at their father's side. It was important for them to psychologically accept the death of their father. The King died at 10 A.M. precisely. The very last night prior to his death he was surrounded by me, Princess Ashraf ( the Shah's twin sister), my eldest son Crown Prince Reza, as well as a few relatives and friends. My daughter Farahnaz was with us too. She held her father's hand all night long while he was unconscious. I was relieved when Ali Reza asked to follow his elder brother in the crypt where his father was to be buried. The children seemed to finally accept the reality of their father's demise.
30 years after his death, what do you miss the most ?
His opinion and his acknowledgment. Often I wonder if he would approve some of my decisions. It's nearly an instinctive reaction in me. During his first operation in New York in December 1979, he advised me as such:"Take care of the children and don't let anyone fool you or step on you". Those words of advice had a great influence on me. For the past 30 years I continue to seek his approval in every decision I make. This started on the eve of his funeral. I remember that after returning from the ceremony to the Koubeh Palace I rushed back in a reflex to the mosque hoping to go to his tomb for one last time and ask him if I was worthy of the trust he put in me. Naturally being late in the afternoon it was not possible to visit the tomb once again by then ...
What keeps you so staunchly attached to his memory after all these years ?
Most Probably the desire to overcome the injustice done to him and his country. One simply needs to compare Iran in the 1970's to that of today to understand how much some tried to dirty his reputation. A Huge part of the population lives under the poverty line despite our vast oil revenues. I am not even mentioning the most obvious oppression done to our women. Recently an Iranian woman was condemned to stoning. On a personal note I also regret that my children were deprived of his presence when they most needed him as they were reaching adulthood. I also cherish the memory of the man I loved. Everything mixes together in my mind: the memory of the loving husband he was, the good father to his children and of course the King he always was and will be in the memory of our compatriots.
Do you feel that history was unjust with him ?
I don't know what history will remember of him, but I regret at times that he is not alive to read the numerous letters and positive testimonies I get from compatriots back home in recent months. A friend sent me T Shirts, mugs and dishes with our effigies and portraits made today in Iran and sold clandestinely in Tehran. This was amazing. After years of brainwashing and character assassinations of all sorts it seems that Iranians at large seem to have revised their judgment on my husband's reign. One of my last duties which I hope to accomplish in my lifetime is to see my husband's remains brought back to his own land. Many of my compatriots back home tell me "May God bless his soul" or "May the light shine on his tomb". I hope that one day his body will be buried in Iran.