Cinderella in the Land of One Thousand and One Days...
By Franz-Olivier Giesber
Paris, December 5th, 2003
"Needless to say, so much there is to be told on the reign of the Shah, but I would not be cruel enough to recall some of the absurdities written, at the time, by Michel Foucault and some of our best intellectuals on the Khomeynist Revolution...The "quilters" who, so frenetically, applauded the fall of the Shah, have ever since traded their patchwork embroidery for other forms of needlework. Obviously enough, they have not learnt the lessons from their misjudgement, so far as one could talk of judgement in the case of those devoid of common sense..."
Fairy tales never have a happy ending, not in real life, at least.
Snow White died in a tunnel, under the 'Place de l'Alama'. The "Puss in Boots" was dismissed from Vivendi Universal. And, married to the Emperor of Iran at the age of 21, now living in exile in Paris, is the Shahbanou of Persia.
The "Mémoires" of Farah Pahlavi begins like a fairy tale, before culminating in a debauchery of charm bracelets and precious stones, until the paroxysm of the Imperial Crowning Ceremony, worthy of the "One Thousand and One Nights".
Farah's parents were open minded Shiite Moslems, as was the rest of the country during that period. A country seemingly made for an enlightened monarchy, as revealed by its reverence to the "Book of Kings", cult worship since 995 AD, recalling the edifying epics of the dynasties that made it come alive.
Historically speaking, tolerance is second nature to Iran that gave the world one of the most generous and fascinating conquerors of all, Cyrus the Great, made a legendary hero by Thucydide. A well deserved title for He who conquered countries to liberate their people; He who protected the Jew, the weak and the orphan.
Why was Iran, the "Little Red Riding Hood" of tolerance, devoured one day, by the "Big Bad Wolf" of Islamic fundamentalism? Farah Pahlavi gives an unequivocal account when she recalls how her husband forced his country's way into modernity at martial pace. Notably, in matters of Women's Rights, as proven by the latest Nobel Peace Prize Laureate's background, the first female judge appointed in 1974 by the Shah, too busy to look over his shoulder…
There, was the fault, or, was I going to say, the crime of the last Emperor of Iran. In too much of a hurry to reform, undoubtedly, since death haunted him, he regarded democracy as a waste of time. Politics though, took its revenge. The widow compares what he did for his country, to what Mustafa Kemal Atatürk did for Turkey: an industrial and cultural revolution. Right she is indeed, with the tiny difference that Atatürk's legacy, upon his departing from power, was not demolished, piece by piece…
The "Mémoires" of Farah Pahlavi is the sort of book which should become mandatory for school children to read. It would allow future generations, force-fed on "political correctness", to rediscover some of the clear sightedness which, as the sun set on the Shah's reign, proved so thoroughly absent from the eyes of their elders.
Needless to say, so much there is to be told on the reign of the Shah, but I would not be cruel enough to recall some of the absurdities written, at the time, by Michel Foucault and some of our best intellectuals on the Khomeynist Revolution, remarks which seemed to guarantee, by their twisted convolutions, the Pontius Pilate of the moment whose names, out of pity, will be kept in anonymity.
The "quilters" who, so frenetically, applauded the fall of the Shah, have ever since traded their patchwork embroidery for other forms of needlework. Obviously enough, they have not learnt the lessons from their misjudgement, so far as one could talk of judgement in the case of those devoid of common sense.
One is not compelled to think of the Shah's reign as the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried, in order to be moved or struck by some of the pages of the book. In particular, those where Farah Pahlavi demonstrates, with supporting evidence, that the Carter administration, did it not kill her husband, at the least tried its best so he die as quickly as possible from his cancer. The testimonies of Professor Flandrin, who attended & treated the Shah, are, from this point of view, very disturbing. So true it is that the West was not only incoherent in this Iranian affair, it was also unworthy. The Shahbanou is right to refresh our memory in that regard. May, tomorrow, her lessons come to good use under different skies...
When you are through with these " Mémoires", you should indulge yourself with a collection of Persian tales published in 1712 by the orientalist François Pétis de la Croix, "The Thousand and One Days", the companion piece to "One Thousand and One Nights" translated from Arabic in the same period by yet another orientalist, Antoine Galland. You will be plunged into the same atmosphere and, through the destinies of women like Arouya or Canzade, into the Iranian spirit, a subtle cocktail of wile and ruse, of aloofness and witticism, a masterpiece of irony of its own kind.
And it is thus, as said
Alexandre Vialatte, that Allah is Great.
"Mémoires", de Farah Pahlavi. XO Editions, 428 pages, Paris 2003.
Translation from French text, by Iran va Jahan Network