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Farah Diba Pahlavi, 5 years old,
Farah Pahlavi was married to Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and she was the first Empress in the history of Iran.
From 1959 to 1979, Farah Pahlavi supported and accompanied Iran's transformation from an agricultural to an industrial society, a process initiated by the Shah, involving numerous progressive programs in the arts and sciences, culture, medicine, architecture and the environment. In her work, Farah Pahlavi placed special emphasis on the rights of women, children and people with disabilities. Under her patronage, the first modern concept to care for leprosy patients was established after years of their stigmatization and exclusion within the Iranian society.
Another example of Farah Pahlavi's work was her founding of the non-profit organisation Kanun-e Parvaresh in Tehran which did pioneering work in the fields of culture and education. Outstanding personalities such as the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami started their careers through this program.
Farah Pahlavi has been living in exile since 1979, yet she still feels closely connected to the people of Iran and has not lost hope that her homeland Iran will liberate itself from the theocratic dictatorship. »Light will overcome darkness and Iran, like the Phoenix, will rise from her ashes and join the family of free nations.«, Farah Pahlavi.
The 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman Jina Mahsa Amini died on the 16.09.2022 following her arrest by the so-called morality police. Her death triggered a nationwide wave of protest lead and initiated by the children and grandchildren - especially young women - of the generation that withdrew trust from the Shah 44 years ago. This wave of protest is rapidly uniting different social and ethnic groups in Iran and its goal is nothing less than the end of the theocratic dictatorship of the Islamic Republic of Iran. After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, people are now talking about a revolution in Iran again. Are we witnessing the end of the current Islamist government? What are your reactions to these events?
Farah Pahlavi: I am proud of the Iranian women who have defied oppression, torture and imprisonment to start such a powerful movement in their demand for freedom. They set a role model for the young men to follow suit, and not only that, many men women, and children on a global scale rose and of various nationalities organized demonstrations in support of this movement in Iran.
This is the first time in history that there is so much attention given to women.
In your book »1001 days. Memories of an Empress«¹ you write:...»The West would like to see all countries of the world adopting their systems unquestioningly. But does the fact that they have chosen a certain way mean that it is necessarily the best?. I wonder. The present failures of the industrialised countries, the social injustices and the corrupting vices of capitalist society do not seem to me to represent in any degree a success so unquestionable that one should have the right to hold it up as a model. We have no wish to imitate anyone.«...
You already voiced these thoughts in 1976. Which political and social system do you think makes sense for Iran today?
F.P.: I believe in democracy.
You are also active on social media channels. Can social media become a political tool to change something in Iran or does social media rather represent false hopes and promises as it could be seen, for example, during and after the »Arab Spring«? How should communication take place on social media and which messages are important for Iran?
F.P.: I have sent electronic audio messages of love and support to my compatriots, telling them that I constantly think of them; I have also sent audio messages to the military personnel requesting them to refrain from attacking the civilians. The citizens of Iran who partake in the demonstrations look to the outside world for support, and they know that we have not forgotten them, neither has the world as manifested by the global outpour of encouragement and sympathy from many renowned leaders, politicians, artists of numerous countries. Social media is a powerful tool that unites people in spreading the word of the freedom fighters and makes their voice heard in even remote parts of the world.
Unfortunately, »Arab Spring« ended up being just a slogan with no follow up to make the spring happen.
The message to Iran is that we admire you, we support you.
What is the most valuable thing that you receive from Iran to date?
F.P.: I cherish the very kind email messages and telephone calls I receive from the young ones born after the revolution who oppose the anti-Shah propaganda and negative indoctrination they received in school.
What are the most important achievements from Iranian culture for you that are not lost?
F.P.: The spirit of being an Iranian who believes in the territorial integrity of Iran, and the importance of many thousands of years of Iranian culture and civilization.
Iranian art and cultural achievements will continue to thrive and prevail in spite of all the pressure and restrictions. Handicraft is an important industry in Iran. Different regions have their own unique designs for embroidery on fabric. I encouraged this industry by curating special shops, and by commissioning many items of hand-made clothing that were worn by His Majesty The Late Shah, myself and my family.
What does wealth mean to you?
F.P.: During my life in Iran, I never thought about personal wealth. My main focus was on making sure that the different medical, social and cultural organizations are provided with a sufficient budget in order to serve the people.
Looking back, are there any decisions in your life as the last empress of Iran that you regret?
F.P.: There is nothing I regret to have done at the time on all levels including environmental and cultural.
Your name Farah means joy/happiness. When was the happiest moment in your life? What gave you the greatest pleasure in your life?
F.P.: The happiest moment in my life was when I met His Majesty Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, and our marriage. What gave me the greatest pleasure was the birth of my children.
And what are the crucial foundations for you to feel happiness?
F.P.: Happiness for me is the freedom of Iran and the end of the Islamic Republic.
Last but not least, the peace of mind and contentment of my children and grand-children.
What memory will Iranians associate with you in future?
F.P.: As legacy, I am in the process of creating a Foundation for Iranian history and culture.
I enjoy being referred to as Mother of Iran by many of my compatriots, both in Iran and the diaspora.
02 / 2023
¹ Farah Pahlavi, 1001 Days, memoirs of an Empress, 2021