Reza Pahlavi, Crown Prince of Iran

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Reza Pahlavi
Crown Prince of Iran
Reza Pahlavi by Gage Skidmore.jpg
During an event in Tempe, Arizona in 2015
Head of the House of Pahlavi
Proclamation31 October 1980[1]
PredecessorFarah Diba (as regent in pretence)[1]
Heir presumptivePatrick Ali
IssuePrincess Noor
Princess Iman
Princess Farah
Full name
English: Reza Pahlavi
Persian: رضا پهلوی
FatherMohammad Reza Pahlavi
MotherFarah Diba
ReligionShia Islam[2]
Personal details
Born (1960-10-31) 31 October 1960 (age 59)
Tehran, Iran
Political partyNational Council of Iran
ResidenceBethesda, Maryland, U.S.[2]
Alma materWilliams College (dropped-out)
The American University in Cairo (dropped-out)
University of Southern California

Reza Pahlavi (Persian: رضا پهلوی‎; born 31 October 1960) is the last heir apparent[5] to the defunct throne of the Imperial State of Iran and is the current head of the exiled House of Pahlavi. He is the older son of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and his wife Farah Diba.

Pahlavi is the founder and former leader of the self-styled National Council of Iran, an exiled opposition group,[6] and is a prominent critic of Iran's Islamic Republic government.

Early life and education[edit]

Reza Pahlavi in 1973 as Crown Prince of Iran

Reza Pahlavi was born in Tehran as the eldest legitimate son of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran and Farah Pahlavi, the Shahbanu of Iran. Pahlavi's siblings include his sister Princess Farahnaz Pahlavi (born 12 March 1963), brother Prince Ali-Reza Pahlavi (28 April 1966 – 4 January 2011), and sister Princess Leila Pahlavi (27 March 1970 – 10 June 2001), as well as a half-sister, Princess Shahnaz Pahlavi (born 27 October 1940).

Pahlavi studied at the eponymous "Reza Pahlavi School", a private school located in the royal palace and restricted to the imperial family and court associates.[7] He was trained as a pilot; his first solo flight was at the age of 11, and he obtained his license a year later.[8]

As a cadet of the Imperial Iranian Air Force, he was sent to the United States in August 1978 to continue his pilot training, and was one of 43 cadet pilots in the one-year pilot training program at the former U.S.A.F. Reese Base,[9] which included flying the Cessna T-37 Tweet and Northrop T-38 Talon. As a result of the Iranian Revolution, he left the base in March 1979, about four months earlier than planned.[8][10]

Pahlavi began studies at Williams College in September 1979,[3] but dropped out in 1980.[11] He then enrolled at The American University in Cairo as a political science student, but his attendance was irregular.[9] He obtained a BSc degree in political science by correspondence from the University of Southern California in 1985.[3]

Political activism in exile[edit]

Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi sworn in as Head of the House of Pahlavi in 1980 at Koubbeh Palace, Cairo.
Crown Prince Reza with the Persian Community in the Netherlands, May 2012

The Pahlavi dynasty was founded early in the twentieth century. The 1979 revolution replaced the monarchy with an Islamic republic. After the death of his father, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, he symbolically declared himself Shāhanshāh (literally King of Kings in Persian) at the age of 21.[12] He remains crown prince according to the former Constitution of 1906, as he is required to take the oath at the Iranian Parliament first.[13] His press releases refer to him as either "Reza Pahlavi" or "the former Crown Prince of Iran".[citation needed]

On his website, Pahlavi has said that the state of Iran should become democratic and secular, and human rights should be respected. Whether the form of government would be that of a constitutional monarchy or a republic is something that he would like to leave up to the people of Iran.[14][15]

Pahlavi has used his high profile as an Iranian abroad to campaign for human rights, democracy and unity among Iranians in and outside Iran.[16] On his website he calls for a separation of religion and state in Iran and for free and fair elections "for all freedom-loving individuals and political ideologies". He exhorts all groups dedicated to a democratic agenda to work together for a democratic and secular Iranian government.[17]

According to Reza Bayegan, Pahlavi believes in the separation of religion from politics. However, he avoids the "Islam bashing" that Bayegan writes occurs in some circles of the Iranian opposition. Rather, he believes that religion has a humanizing and ethical role in shaping individual character and infusing society with greater purpose.[18]

In February 2011, after violence erupted in Tehran, Pahlavi said that Iran's youth were determined to get rid of an authoritarian government tainted by corruption and misrule in the hope of installing a democracy. "Fundamental and necessary change is long overdue for our region and we have a whole generation of young Egyptians and Iranians not willing to take no for an answer", he told The Daily Telegraph. "Democratisation is now an imperative that cannot be denied. It is only a matter of time before the whole region can transform itself."[19]

Pahlavi's book Winds of Change: The Future of Democracy in Iran, in which he outlines possible scenarios for Iran's future, was published in 2002.[20]

In June 2018, he made this comment: "I believe Iran must be a secular, parliamentary democracy. The final form has to be decided by the people."[21] In a presentation at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in December 2018, Pahlavi called for non-military support of those in Iran who were trying to replace the Islamist regime with a secular democracy. According to a news report, he was "not openly calling for the restoration of the Peacock Throne ... He casts himself more as a symbol than a politician, but has called himself 'ready to serve my country'".[22]


Reza Pahlavi II is first in the line of succession to his late father, while his younger brother Ali-Reza Pahlavi II was second in line until he committed suicide in 2011.[23] Prior to his birth, the presumptive heir was Patrick Ali Pahlavi, the crown prince's uncle.


In February 2019, he launched an initiative called the Phoenix Project of Iran. According to the National Interest, this is “designed to bring the various strains of the opposition closer to a common vision for a post-clerical Iran.”[24]

Within Iran[edit]

A report published by the Brookings Institution in 2009 said that Pahlavi lacked an organized following within Iran since there was no serious monarchist movement in Iran itself. The report described Pahlavi as having "little in common with the intellectuals and students who make up the core of the reform movement".[25]

However, during 2017–18 Iranian protests, some demonstrators chanted slogans in favor of Pahlavi's grandfather and called for his return.[26][27] After the January 2018 protests, and Donald Trump's anti-Iran rhetoric, Pahlavi and pro-monarchy sentiment experienced a resurgence in Iran.[28][29]

Among Iranian expatriates[edit]

Pahlavi enjoys wide popularity with the older generation of Iranian expatriates that left Iran at the time of the 1979 revolution and with some people in Iran.[30][better source needed] In 2006, Connie Bruck of The New Yorker wrote that Los Angeles is home to about 600,000 Iranian expatriates, and said it was a monarchist stronghold.[31]

A 2013 survey of Iranian-Americans conducted by George Mason University's Center for Social Science Research found that 79% of respondents did not support any Iranian opposition groups or figures. Of the 15% that did, only 20% supported him.[32]

Alleged foreign support[edit]

Crown Prince Reza with US President Jimmy Carter in 1978

Bob Woodward wrote in 1986 that the Reagan administration authorized the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to support and fund Iranian exiles, including Pahlavi. The agency transmitted his 11-minute speech during which he vowed "I will return" to Iranian television by pirating its frequency.[33] The Tower Commission report, published in 1987, acknowledged that the CIA was behind this event.[34] In 2006, Connie Bruck of The New Yorker wrote that "Pahlavi had CIA funding for a number of years in the eighties, but it ended after the Iran-Contra scandal".[31] Andrew Freedman of Haverford College states that Pahlavi began cooperation with the CIA after he met director William J. Casey and received a monthly stipend, citing Pahlavi's financial advisor and other observers. Freedman also connects his residence in Great Falls, Virginia to its proximity to George Bush Center for Intelligence, headquarters of the service.[35]

In 2009, Pahlavi denied receiving U.S. government aid or any foreign aid in an interview with The New York Times. Pahlavi said "No, no. I don't rely on any sources other than my own compatriots" and denied allegations of working with the CIA, calling the allegations "absolutely and unequivocally false".[2] However, in 2017 he told Jon Gambrell of the Associated Press: "I will find any means that I can... with anyone who is willing to give us a hand, whether it is the U.S. or the Saudis or the Israelis or whomever it is".[4]

Personal life[edit]

According to a People obituary published in 1978, Pahlavi dated a "blond, blue-eyed Swedish model he met in Rome". He lived with his girlfriend while living in Lubbock, Texas.[36] As of 1980, he had an Egyptian girlfriend who was a student of The American University in Cairo, reportedly "closely guarded" by bodyguards.[9]

Pahlavi began a relationship with Yasmine Etemad-Amini in 1985, and a year later married her, then aged 17, at 25 years of age.[3] The couple have three daughters: Noor (born April 3, 1992), Iman (born September 12, 1993), and Farah (born January 17, 2004).

In 2004, Pahlavi was named as the "unofficial godfather" of Princess Louise of Belgium, the eighth granddaughter of King Albert II of Belgium.[37]

Religious beliefs[edit]

When interviewed about religion, Pahlavi said, "That's a private matter; but if you must know, I am, of course, by education and by conviction, a Shia Muslim. I am very much a man of faith."[2] Iranian writer Reza Bayegan also notes that Crown Prince Reza is allegedly “deeply attached” to his Muslim faith. He has performed the Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca.[18]


Pahlavi was a keen soccer player and spectator. He was fan of the capital's football club Esteghlal, then known as Taj (lit. Crown) and his support was even televised by the National Iranian Radio and Television. The club performed in annual rallies organized on his birthday, which as a result identified the club with the Pahlavi's regime.[38]

Business and legal issues[edit]

Pahlavi has been the owner of Medina Development Company. He and his company were engaged in a civil lawsuit against a family member in the 1990s culminating in a favorable judgment in May 1997.[39]

According to a December 2018 news report however, "he is thought to live mainly on what’s left of his family wealth, his only full-time job being speaking out about Iran".[40]

Television network[edit]

In November 2014, Pahlavi founded his own television and radio network called Ofogh Iran.[41] In July 2017 it was reported that the Ofogh Iran International Media telethon no longer belongs to Reza Pahlavi.[42]


  • Gozashteh va Ayandeh, London: Kayham Publishing, 2000. (Persian)
  • Winds of Change: The Future of Democracy in Iran, Regnery Publishing Inc., 2002, ISBN 0-89526-191-X.
  • Iran: L'Heure du Choix, Denoël, 2009. (French)

Titles, styles and honours[edit]

Styles of
Crown Prince Reza of Iran
Imperial Arms of the Crown Prince of Iran.svg
Reference styleHis Imperial Highness
Spoken styleYour Imperial Highness
Alternative styleSir
Standard of the Crown Prince

Titles and styles[edit]


National honours[edit]

  • Order of Pahlavi (Iran).gif Grand Collar of the Order of Pahlavi (26 September 1967, Iran)
  • Mohammad Reza Pahlavi Investiture Medal 1967.gif Mohammad Rezā Shāh Pahlavi Coronation Medal (26 October 1967, Iran)
  • 25th Anniversary Medal 1971.gif 25th Centennial Anniversary Medal (14 October 1971, Iran)
  • 2500th Anniversary of the Persian Empire Medal 1971.gif Persepolis Medal (15 October 1971, Iran)

Foreign honours[edit]

Other recognitions[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Former Iranian Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi will proclaim himself the new shah of Iran", United Press International, 17 October 1980, retrieved 25 January 2019, His Imperial Highness Reza Pahlavi, Crown Prince of Iran, will reach his constitutional majority on the 9th of Aban, 1359 (October 31, 1980). On this date, and in conformity with the Iranian Constitution, the regency of Her Imperial Majesty Farah Pahlavi, Shahbanou of Iran, will come to an end and His Imperial Highness, who on this occasion will send a message to the people of Iran, will succeed his father, His Imperial Majesty Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, deceased in Cairo on Mordad 5, 1359 (July 27, 1980).
  2. ^ a b c d Soloman, Deborah (26 June 2009). "The Exile". The New York Times Magazine.
  3. ^ a b c d Hall, Carla (21 May 1989), "The Shah Without a Country", The Washington Post, retrieved 25 January 2019
  4. ^ a b Jon Gambrell (9 April 2017). "Iran's long-exiled prince wants a revolution in age of Trump". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 9 April 2017. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  5. ^ "Iran Reacts to Suicide of the Shah's Son". TIME. 5 January 2011. Retrieved 22 May 2019. Pahlavi's older brother Reza, first in line to the throne, carried the family mantle from a base in suburban Washington, D.C.
  6. ^ Maciej Milczanowski (2014), "US Policy towards Iran under President Barack Obama's Administration" (PDF), Hemispheres: Studies on Cultures and Societies, Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures Polish Academy of Sciences, 29 (4): 53–66, ISSN 0239-8818
  7. ^ Axthelm, Pete; Brynner, Victoria (3 April 1989). "The Man Who Would Be Shah". People. 31 (13). Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  8. ^ a b "Pahlavi recalls 'tremendous boost to my morale' during Air Force training in Lubbock", Lubbock Online, Avalanche-Journal Media, 9 January 2018, retrieved 25 January 2019
  9. ^ a b c Guindi, Maurice (30 October 1980), "Fulfilling his father's deathbed wish, Crown Prince Reza will proclaim himself shah of Iran", United Press International, retrieved 25 January 2019
  10. ^ "Caprock Chronicles: Lubbock once home to crown prince of Iran", Lubbock Online, 10 February 2018, retrieved 25 January 2019
  11. ^ "Empress Farah Dibah Pahlavi: My son may one day return to his country and take over his father's throne", United Press International, 23 July 1984, retrieved 25 January 2019
  12. ^ 'It is my duty' Archived 2 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine 24 September 2010
  13. ^ Iran's 1906 Constitution and Its Supplement, Rights of Members of the Assembly
  14. ^ April 2011 Q&A, Question 4 Archived 12 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ December Q&A, Question 7 Archived 12 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Prinz Reza Pahlavi über den Iran: "Dieses Regime ist äußerst anti-religiös" Archived 4 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine. (interview with Reza Pahlavi, in German) (31 March 2010). Retrieved on 9 June 2012.
  17. ^ Reza Pahlavi. The Challenge Of Implementing Democracy And Human Rights In Iran. The International Society Of Human Rights – Bonn, Germany, 27 March 2010.
  18. ^ a b Reza Bayegan. "Reza Pahlavi and the Question of Religion". Payvand.
  19. ^ Iran's Crown Prince calls on West to support anti-government protests. Telegraph. 16 February 2011. Retrieved on 9 June 2012.
  20. ^ "Winds of Change: The Future of Democracy in Iran". Middle East Quarterly. 14 (1). 1 June 2002. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  21. ^ "The Late Shah's Son Wants a Democratic Revolution in Iran". Bloomberg. 19 June 2018. Retrieved 22 May 2019. From exile, Reza Pahlavi supports a movement to retake his homeland. But he says he doesn’t want a throne.
  22. ^ "Son of deposed Iranian Shah calls for U.S.-backed regime change". Politico. 13 December 2018. Retrieved 22 May 2019. In a sign that he welcomes the higher visibility, Pahlavi made a rare public appearance.
  23. ^ "Iran Reacts to Suicide of the Shah's Son". TIME. 5 January 2011. Retrieved 22 May 2019. Pahlavi's older brother Reza, first in line to the throne
  24. ^ Haaretz Missing or empty |title= (help)
  25. ^ Kenneth M. Pollack, Daniel L. Byman, Martin S. Indyk, Suzanne Maloney (June 2009). "Toppling Tehran". Which Path to Persia?: Options for a New American Strategy toward Iran. Saban Center for Middle East Policy. Brookings Institution. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-8157-0379-2.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  26. ^ Yeganeh Torbati, Paresh Dave and David Ingram (4 January 2018), John Walcott and James Dalgleish (eds.), "U.S. should clear way for tech companies to help Iranians: former crown prince", Reuters, retrieved 1 February 2018CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link) CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)
  27. ^ Callum Paton (5 January 2018), "Iran Protests: Who are the Iranian Opposition and who will Rule if the Regime Falls", Newsweek, retrieved 1 February 2018CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ Lone, Mahlia (1 July 2016). "Memorable Romance: The Shah & I". Retrieved 4 June 2017.
  31. ^ a b Connie Bruck (6 March 2006). "Exiles: How Iran's Expatriates are Gaming the Nuclear Threat". The New Yorker. p. 48.
  32. ^ "National Public Opinion Survey of Iranian Americans" (PDF), Center for Social Science Research, George Mason University, Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA), p. 10, 2013, retrieved 11 June 2017
  33. ^ Bob Woodward (19 November 1986). "CIA Support for Exiles, Other Covert Iran Activity Reported". The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 May 2017 – via Los Angeles Times Archive.
  34. ^ John Tower, John Goodwin Tower, Edmund S. Muskie, Brent Scowcroft (1987). "United States President's Special Review Board". The Tower Commission Report: The Full Text of the President's Special Review Board. A New York Times special. Bantam Books. p. 398. ISBN 9780553269680.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  35. ^ Friedman, Andrew (2013). "Iran-Contra As Built Space". Covert Capital: Landscapes of Denial and the Making of U.S. Empire in the Suburbs of Northern Virginia. American Crossroads. 7. University of California Press. p. 274. ISBN 9780520274648. Not only was it not surprising that Reza Pahlavi ended up in the Northern Virginia suburbs, it would be hard to imagine him going anywhere else. Ex-CIA agents in McLean began offering Shah Reza Pahlavi estates and farms as retreats in Northern Virginia as early as 1979, swearing they could spirit him past immigration officials at Dulles Airport. A major reason the younger Pahlavi moved to Great Falls was political. Building his house some ten minutes away from Langley, he was, at the time, according to his advisor and other observers, receiving a monthly CIA stipend. After a meeting with Bill Casey in Rabat, they began what Pahlavi called "mutual cooperation in intelligence... for mutual benefits." Although he denied he took agency money, his financial advisor once claimed that Pahlavi's stipend rose at times to $150,000 a month. A large picture of him hung on the wall in Langley's Iran division at this time, accompanied by the moniker "The Hope of Democracy of Iran". This "Iran" in Iran-Contra at times created complexities for the arms-selling project. In September 1986, a CIA technical strike blocked TV signals on national Iranian TV to broadcast an eleven-minute speech by Reza Cyrus, then resident in Northern Virginia, into Iran.
  36. ^ Demaret, Kent; Williams, Keith (9 October 1978), "A Shah-in-Training Learns About Air Force Tradition and Sweet Texas Accents", People, retrieved 25 January 2019
  37. ^ The Roman Catholic Church, the Church of the child being baptized, does not accept non-Catholics as godparents, given the religious nature of the role, so Pahlavi's role was downgraded to unofficial, not formal. Kadivar, Darius. "ROYAL CURTSY: Crown Prince Reza Godfather to Belgium's Prince Prince Laurent's Daughter". Persian Realm.
  38. ^ Kausik Bandyopadhyay, Sabyasachi Mallick (2013). Fringe Nations in World Soccer. Routledge. p. 87. ISBN 9781317998105.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  39. ^ Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Alexandria. Claude M. Hilton, District Judge. (CA-95-1423-A, BK-93-11245). (1997)
  40. ^ "Son of deposed Iranian Shah calls for U.S.-backed regime change". Politico. 13 December 2018. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  41. ^ "About - افق ایران".
  42. ^ "رسانه ايران - «افق ایران، دیگر متعلق به شاهزاده رضا پهلوی نیست»". Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  43. ^ "PALHAVI S.A.I. Abdolreza, Cavaliere di Gran Croce Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana" (in Italian). Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  44. ^ "Boletín Oficial del Estado" (PDF).
  45. ^ "Reply to a parliamentary question" (pdf) (in German). p. 458. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  46. ^ Guidance for Honours in the De Jure Kingdom of Rwanda
  47. ^ RFE/RL (22 March 2012). "Farda Audience Picks Late Shah's Son As Iran's Person Of The Year". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
  48. ^ Talbot, Victoria (26 January 2017). "Beverly Hills News – Iranian Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi Seeks Support For Peaceful Revolution".
  49. ^ "The Mayor of Beverly Hills Presenting the Key to the City to The Crown Prince of Iran Reza Pahlavi". YouTube. January 2017.

External links[edit]

Reza Pahlavi, Crown Prince of Iran
Born: 31 October 1960
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Farah Pahlavi
as Regent in pretence
Shahanshah of Iran
Light of the Aryans

31 October 1980 – present
Reason for succession failure:
Monarchy abolished in 1979
Patrick Ali Pahlavi
Lines of succession
Title last held by
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
Crown Prince of Iran
26 October 1967 – 11 February 1979
Party political offices
New title
Party established
President of National Council of Iran
April 2013 – 16 September 2017
Succeeded by
Leadership Council