Ashraf Pahlavi

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Princess Ashraf
Princess of Iran / Persia
Young Ashraf Pahlavi.jpg
Ashraf Pahlavi
Spouse Ali Ghavam (m.1937-div.1942)
Ahmad Shafiq (m.1944-div.1960)
Mehdi Bushehri (m.1960)
Issue Shahram Pahlavi-Nia
Shahriar Shafiq
Azadeh Shafiq
Full name
English: Ashraf ul-Mulk
Persian: Aŝraf ol Moluk
House Pahlavi
Father Rezā Shāh
Mother Tadj ol-Molouk
Born (1919-10-26) 26 October 1919 (age 95)
Tehran, Persia (Iran)

Princess Ashraf Pahlavi (Persian: Aŝraf Pahlawi) (born 26 October 1919, Tehran, Iran), is the twin sister of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran and a member of the Pahlavi Dynasty. She currently resides in Paris, France. Princess Ashraf is the oldest living member of her family. Since the Iranian Revolution, she has kept an extremely low profile and, with the exception of a memoir published in the mid-1990s, has not made any public appearances[1] or granted interviews since 1981.

Politics[edit]

In 1967, Pahlavi worked with the United Nations as the Iranian delegate to the Commission on Human Rights as well as the Economic and Social Council.[2]

Ashraf was a strong supporter of women's rights in Iran and the world during her brother's reign. In 1975, she was heavily involved with the International Women's Year, addressing the United Nations. Though an instrumental force in legitimizing gender reforms, her philosophy on gender was not particularly introspective: "I confess that even though since childhood I had paid a price for being a woman, in terms of education and personal freedom, I had not given much thought to specific ways in which women in general were more oppressed than men."[citation needed] By her own account, she was a strong supporter of the rights of women to basic life necessities such as “food, education, and health”[3] and was not a radical reformist. She cited “chronic apathy”[4] from many governments as the underlying issue that prevented women’s rights reforms from being implemented around the world. In 1934, Princess Ashraf and her sister, Princess Shams, were two of the first Iranian women to discard the veil typically worn by women in their home country.[5]

Despite her involvement in 1975’s International Women’s Year, Pahlavi’s women’s rights stances were called into question after the publication of her 1976 New York Times Op-Ed piece, “And Thus Passeth International Women’s Year.” In a March 1976 article in The Nation, writer Kay Boyle criticized Ashraf for her touting of International Women’s Year as succeeding in widening the global vision of sisterhood, while approximately 4,000 of the Princess’s own “sisters” were political prisoners in Iran with virtually no hope of a military trial.[6]

In her 1980 memoirs, Pahlavi acknowledges the poor conditions of women in Iran and expresses concern, as she writes, "…the news of what was happening to Iran’s women was extremely painful…[they] were segregated and relegated to second-class status…many were imprisoned or exiled."[7] Additionally, Pahlavi worked as an activist for human rights and equality, not only for women’s rights. She was an advocate for the international spread of literacy, especially in Iran, where her brother Mohammad Reza Shah was a major proponent of the anti-illiteracy movement. She served as a member on the International Consultative Liaison Committee for Literacy.[8]

Ashraf was the target of a mysterious and unsuccessful assassination attempt in the summer of 1976 at her summer home on the French Riviera, during which fourteen bullets were fired into the side of her Rolls Royce. A passenger in her car was killed but Pahlavi left the scene unharmed.[9]

After the 1979 revolution, Ashraf asked David Rockefeller to support Mohammad Reza's attempts to find asylum.[10]

Involvement in 1953 coup against Mossadegh[edit]

In 1953, Ashraf played an important role in Operation Ajax as the one who changed Mohammad Reza Shah's mind in giving consent to the CIA and SIS to start the operation. The Shah had originally opposed the operation and for a while resisted accepting it. In early 1953, she met with CIA agents who asked her to talk to her brother since she was the only one who was able to influence him. As historian Stephen Kinzer's book All the Shah's Men recounts, "Ashraf was enjoying life in French casinos and nightclubs when one of Roosevelt's best Iranian agents, Asadollah Rashidian, paid her a call. He found her reluctant, so the next day a delegation of American and British agents came to pose the invitation in stronger terms. The leader of the delegation, a senior British operative named Norman Darbyshire, had the foresight to bring a mink coat and a packet of cash. When Ashraf saw these emoluments, Darbyshire later recalled, "her eyes lit up and her resistance crumbled."[11]By her own account, Pahlavi was offered a blank check if she agreed to return to Iran from her exile in France, but refused the money and returned of her own accord.[12] Whether or not the allegations are true, some historians argue that the coup would have occurred with or without Ashraf’s persuasion of her brother. In an International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies article, writer Mark Gasironowski states that the Shah “was not consulted about the decision to undertake the coup, about its manner of execution, or about the candidate chosen to replace Mossadegh”[13] and that the coup was instead largely executed by the United States and others looking to undermine Mossadegh’s leadership. A contradiction is provided here in this brief paragraph, if HM Ashraf Pahlavi was enjoying her life as quoted above "Ashraf was enjoying life in French casinos and nightclubs ..." why would she need a mink coat and a packet of cash from SIS agents?

Character and finance[edit]

Iranian Imperial Family
Imperial Coat of Arms of Iran.svg

HIM Empress Farah


HIH Prince Gholam Reza
HIH Princess Manijeh

  • HIH Prince Bahram
    HIH Princess Iman
    • HIH Prince Romil Goger
  • HIH Prince Bahman
    HIH Princess Shohreh
    • HIH Princess Nazbanoo
  • HIH Princess Maryam
  • HIH Princess Azardokht

  • HIH Prince Patrick Ali
    HIH Princess Sounia Maryam
    • HIH Prince Davoud
      • HIH Princess Solvène
    • HIH Prince Houd
    • HIH Prince Muhammad Yunes

HIH Princess Ashraf

  • HH Prince Shahram Pahlavi Ghavam
    HH Princess Naz Pahlavi
    • HH Prince Cyrus Pahlavi
    • HH Prince Amir Pahlavi

Ashraf argued that she was “attacked for financial misconduct” because she was engaged “in the administration of various organizations”.[14] By her own account she was of limited financial means when Mossadegh sent her into exile in Paris.[15] However, in later years she was said to have accumulated a large fortune. She attributed her wealth to increases in the value of lands that she had inherited from her father Reza Shah. Nevertheless, it has been purported that part of the story behind the build up of her fortune may have been that during the Iranian industrial boom, which was driven by a surge in oil prices, Ashraf and her son Shahram took 10 percent or more of a new company's stock gratis in return for insuring the delivery of a license to operate, to import, to export, or to deal with the government. Government licenses were said to be given only to a few well-connected companies in each field. As a result, the need to get and keep a license became a cost that had to be met.[16]

In 1979, The New York Times reported that a document dated 17 September 1978 from Ashraf’s office requested a transfer of $708,000 from her Iranian bank account to her account at the Union Bank of Switzerland in Geneva under the code name ‘Sapia’.[17]

In 1980, Ashraf published an article in The New York Times, in which she came out in defense of herself and her family’s financial situation. In the article, she argued that her wealth was not accumulated through “ill-gotten gains” and attributes her fortune to inherited land, which “drastically increased in value with the development of Iran and the new prosperity that was there for all”.[18] She notes that many other Iranians profited from the sale of their own real estate, but were not accused of financial misconduct because of close ties to the clergy and Khomeini.[19] She also defends her brother, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, stating that, contrary to the claims made by some Khomeini supporters, the Shah did not profit from the Pahlavi Foundation.[20] The Princess wrote that she planned to “fight these slanders with all my means and through whatever judicial means are available.”[21]

Psychologically, Ashraf had low self-esteem when she was younger. She did not like “what she saw in the mirror.” She “wished for someone else’s face,…, fairer skin, and more height.” She always imagined that “there were so few people in this world shorter than I.”[22] Perhaps this motivated her to be bold. In her memoirs she wrote:

Two decades ago French journalists named me “La Panthère Noire’ (The Black Panther), I must admit that I rather like this name, and that in some respects it suits me. Like the panther, my nature is turbulent, rebellious, self-confident. Often, it is only through strenuous effort that I maintain my reserve and my composure in public. But in truth, I sometimes wish I were armed with the panther’s claws so that I might attack the enemies of my country.[23]

Her brother, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (Mohammad Reza Shah) was her closest friend. In her memoirs, she remembers looking upon him with a sense of wonder as a child, writing, “long before we reached adulthood, his voice became the dominant one in my life.”[24]

Some sources mention a connection between her and drug trafficking,[25] and she herself points to this as follows:

My detractors have accused me of being a smuggler, a spy, a Mafia associate (once even a drug dealer)...[26]

Notable positions held[edit]

  • Honorary President of Red Lion and Sun Organization, 1944
  • Chairwoman of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, 1965
  • Iranian delegate to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, 1967
  • Iranian delegate to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, 1967
  • Chairwoman of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights, 1970[27]
  • Member of the Consultative Committee of International Women's Year Conference, 1975
  • President of the Women's Organization Of Iran, 1967–1979
  • Chairwoman of the Imperial Foundation for Social Services
  • Honorary Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford
  • Member of the International Consultative Liaison Committee for Literacy[27]

Marriages and children[edit]

Ashraf Pahlavi's first marriage was to Mirza 'Ali Muhammed Khan Ghavam, Nasir ud-Daula (born 1911). They were married in March 1937 and divorced in 1942. Ghavam was the Assistant Military Attaché in 1941 Washington DC and the eldest son of H.H. Mirza Ibrahim Khan Ghavam, Qavam ul-Mulk. She has one son from her first marriage:

  • H.H. Prince (Vala Gohar) Shahram Pahlavi-Nia (born 18 April 1940, Tehran)
Ashraf and Ahmad Chafik.

Her second marriage was to (Sahib ul-Izza) Ahmed Chafik Bey (born 21 September 1911; who was later married a second time to Deloris Pianezzola. He died of cancer in 1976, in Tehran). They married in 1944 in Cairo and divorced in 1960. He was the director-general of Civil Aviation and fourth son of H.E. (Hazrat Sahib ul-Sa'ada) Ahmad Shafiq Pasha, the minister of the Khedivial Court of Egypt. They had one son and one daughter:

Finally, she married a third time on 5 June 1960 (at the Iranian Embassy in Paris) to Mehdi Bushehri (born 1916), who is the Director of the Maison d'Iran (Iran House), Paris. They do not have any children.

In a 1980 interview with The New York Times journalist Judy Klemesrud, Pahlavi stated, “I have never been a good mother. Because of my way of life, I was not with my children very much”.[30] Additionally, while Pahlavi was living in exile in New York City (Beekman Place),[31] her husband Mehdi Bushehri remained in Paris and the two rarely saw each other.[32]

Books[edit]

Ashraf Pahlavi has written two books in English:

  • Faces in a Mirror: Memoirs from Exile, (1980)
  • Time for Truth, (1995)

Additionally, she has written one book in French:

  • Jamais Résignée, (1981)

Her three books were published following her 1980 The New York Times article “I Will Fight These Slanders”. In accordance with her promise to fight the “slanders” about her and her family, her books are largely concerned with clearing up what she views as misconceptions about the Pahlavi dynasty. She again addresses the questions about her personal financial situation, writing in her most widely read book, her memoir Faces in a Mirror, “I had inherited about $300,000 when my father died (and about 1 million square meters of land near the Caspian Sea, as well as properties in Gorgan and Kermanshah, which would later become extremely valuable)"[33] In the introduction to this book, Pahlavi writes that she wants “…very much to explain to Western readers what they have failed to understand about the nature of Iran’s culture and heritage…about the nature of the so-called Islamic revolution…”[34] Generally, her books are viewed as too autobiographical and steeped in emotion to be used as serious historical references[by whom?]. The Library Journal called Pahlavi’s Faces in a Mirror, “little more than a personalized homily on the Pahlavis’ virtues and the perfidy of nearly everyone else in the world.”[35]

Before the 1979 revolution, Ashraf Pahlavi translated several books from French into Persian, including books on nursing and child care.[27]

Titles, styles and honours[edit]

Styles of
Princess Ashraf of Iran
Imperial Coat of Arms of Iran.svg
Reference style Her Imperial Highness
Spoken style Your Imperial Highness
Alternative style Ma'am

Titles and styles[edit]

  • Her Highness Princess (Vala Gohari) Ashraf Pahlavi (1919–1925)
  • Her Imperial Highness Princess (Shahdokht) Ashraf of Iran (1925–1979)
  • Her Imperial Highness Princess Ashraf of Iran (1979–present)

Honours and awards[edit]

External links[edit]

On her personal website, one can find biographical information about the Princess and her family, as well as information concerning her humanitarian efforts.
The Foundation for Iranian Studies is a non-profit institution dedicated to educating the public about Iran. Princess Ashraf serves on the Board of Trustees.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Latest photo of Princess Ashraf With Ardeshir Zahedi". Iranian. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  2. ^ By Kathleen Teltsch Special to the New York Times. "She May Be a Princess, but Shah's Twin is More Interested in Equal Rights". New York Times (1857-Current file 22 March 1970
  3. ^ By Ashraf Pahlavi. "And Thus Passeth International Women's Year". New York Times (1857-Current File 5 January 1976
  4. ^ Ibid
  5. ^ "Official Site of H.I.H. Princess Ashraf Pahlavi of Iran." 8 November 2009 <http://saipa.us>
  6. ^ Boyle, Kay. "Sisters of the Princess". The Nation 6 March 1976
  7. ^ Pahlavi, Ashraf. Faces in a Mirror-Memoirs from Exile. p. 211. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. 1980.
  8. ^ Ibid
  9. ^ Faces in a Mirror Ibid, p. 78
  10. ^ Boyd, Lyn (2000). "A King's exile". USC. Retrieved 14 February 2013. 
  11. ^ All the Shah's Men, p.7
  12. ^ Faces in a Mirror Ibid, p.136-138
  13. ^ Gasironowski, Mark. "The 1953 Coup D'etat in Iran." International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. August 1987. 261-286
  14. ^ Faces in Mirror: Memoirs from Exile, Ashraf Pahlavi, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J. page 217
  15. ^ ibid, page 125
  16. ^ Nikki, R keddie& Yann Richard, Roots of Revolution: An Interpretive History, New Haven and London/ Yale University Press, 1981, p. 172. See also: Fereydoun Hoveyda, The Fall of the Shah, Wyndham Books, New York, 1979. p. 144
  17. ^ By Jude Klemesrud. "Deposed Shah's Sister, in Heavily Guarded Luxury, Tells of her Life-in-Exile: Security Guards with Dog 'Comfortable' Financial Situation". New York Times (1857-Current file) 22 April 1980
  18. ^ Ibid
  19. ^ Ibid
  20. ^ Ibid
  21. ^ Ibid
  22. ^ Faces in Mirror, ibid, p. 153
  23. ^ ibid. p. xv
  24. ^ Faces in a Mirror, Ibid, p. 14
  25. ^ Hussein Fardust (Author), Ali Akbar Dareini (Translator), The Rise and Fall of the Pahlavi Dynasty: Memoirs of Former General Hussein Fardust , Motilal Banarsidass, December 1998 ,ISBN 8120816420 , p. 121
  26. ^ Faces in Mirror. p. xv
  27. ^ a b c Harrelson, Max (9 March 1970). "Human rights chairman pursues racial equality". The Free Lance Star (New York). AP. Retrieved 5 November 2012. 
  28. ^ "Bakhtiar escapes assassination attempt". Daily News (Paris). AP. 17 July 1980. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  29. ^ "Tribute to Princess Azadeh Shafigh Pahlavi (1951-2011)". Iranian. Retrieved 18 November 2012. 
  30. ^ "Deposed Shah's Sister, in Heavily Guarded Luxury, Tells of Her Life-in-Exile: Security Guards With Dog 'Comfortable' Financial Situation." Ibid
  31. ^ Freitag, Michael (24 August 1986). "If You'Re Thinking of Living In - Beekman Place". New York City: The New York Times. Retrieved 5 January 2013. 
  32. ^ McElwaine, Sandra (29 April 1980). "Shah's sister living in a shadow world". The Miami News. Retrieved 7 November 2012. 
  33. ^ Faces in a MirrorIbid, p.78
  34. ^ Ibid, p. xv
  35. ^ Snider, Dave. "Faces in a Mirror (Book Review)". Library Journal. 15 June 1980. 1380-1381
  36. ^ زنان پهلوی. احمد پیرانی. نشر به آفرین. ۱۳۸۳. پ۱۷۳