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21 May 2024

Iranians unite in grief at service for shah's son


Opponents of the late shah of Iran on Sunday stood side-by-side with former regime officials at a memorial service here for his son Alireza Pahlavi, who killed himself this month.

United in grief, the men and women openly wept as they watched a photo montage of Pahlavi as a baby, a young boy in Iran, at his graduation from Princeton University and playing with one of his nieces.

"This is not just a tragedy for the family, it's a tragedy for the Iranian people," Alireza Nourizadeh, who was editor of Iran's Etelaat Newspaper when the shah was deposed in the 1979 Islamic Revolution, told AFP.

"I was not very fond of the shah -- that's the least you could say but I cried today. When Alireza Pahlavi committed suicide, it was as if the son of every Iranian had committed suicide," he said.

Nourizadeh cried as he watched the photos flash past on a large screen at Strathmore Music Center in Bethesda, and ushers handed out tissues as the 2,000 people in the auditorium gave in to their grief.

"When I saw those images of the prince as a young boy," Nourizadeh told AFP later, "it made me wonder why we fought all those years ago for change.

"All we did was replace an undemocratic regime with a bunch of cannibals."

Pahlavi, 44, had struggled to come to terms with the political troubles in Iran and never got over the death of his father and sister, his older brother Reza Pahlavi said when he announced his tragic death on January 4.

The deposed shah fled into exile in 1979 and died a year later.

The body of the shah's youngest daughter, princess Leila Pahlavi, was found in 2001 in a London hotel. An inquest heard that she had taken a fatal cocktail of prescription drugs and cocaine.

Iranians came from around the world to attend Sunday's memorial service, many wearing large round badges showing pictures of Alireza and Leila Pahlavi, and others wearing lapel pins of the Iranian imperial flag.

"I love them like my own family," said Homa Monassebian.

"This hurts a lot, especially with what is happening in Iran. I came here 40 years ago but my heart and soul are still in Iran," she said.
Simin Farhoodi, whose husband was jailed after the revolution because he had held a government job under the shah, sat behind Nourizadeh and wept.

"It's very sad. If it teaches us anything, I suppose it is to be close to our children, to make sure that they don't feel alone with all that is happening in Iran," she said.

Farhoodi was pregnant with her second child when her husband was jailed in Iran after the overthrow of the shah. She stayed in the country to help secure his release before they moved to the United States.

"Maybe our generation is better able to handle everything that's happening in Iran than the younger generation, because we are used to things being unfair," she said.

Alireza Pahlavi, the youngest of the shah's five children, moved to the United States as a teenager during the revolution.

He obtained his first degree from Princeton University in 1984 and a Masters Degree from Columbia University in 1992.

He never married and was undertaking a doctorate at Harvard University in philology and ancient Iranian studies when he took his own life.