Unsigned Copy of Farah Pahlavi's Memoirs

June 16, 2004

Reza Bayegan

I went through the wrought iron gates of the Passy cemetery in Paris on Saturday 12 June, just before 3 o'clock in the afternoon to attend the service held to commemorate the third anniversary of Princess Leila's death.
Rows of solemn Iranians dressed in black lined the path leading up to the grave of their beloved Princess. Many proudly holding high a full size Imperial flag. There was no empty spot and spying few friends, I asked them
to let me pass and stand behind them not very far from Princess Leila's grave. Two large Iranian flags made from flowers, together with Leila Pahlavi's portrait were displayed nearby. Pots of pink and white hydrangeas and freshly cut white roses were laid on the tombstone.

We were all holding our breath waiting for the arrival of Shahbanou who was going to come directly from Washington where she had been attending President Reagan's funeral. My friend turned around and said:
"It must be exhausting going from Paris to Washington just for one day and flying back and then directly coming to the ceremony here without a moment's rest." In the anxious eyes of all standing there one could discern the words of prayer for their beloved Shabanou.
A little girl was holding to her mother's arm with one slender hand and with the other was trying hard to keep steady on the ground the pole of a large Iranian flag. Many of these Iranians had come from miles away from all over Europe and further.
All of a sudden there was an excitement amongst the crowd and someone said: "She is coming, she is coming". The cameras were clicking incessantly and reporters holding up their filming equipment were walking backwards in front of Shahbanou. Her tall graceful figure could be seen moving up the path. She was nodding and smiling kindly at everyone. One could see that she wanted to stand by every Iranian holding and greeting them individually.
Words of sorrow, sympathy, love and patriotism were spoken at the ceremony by Iranians. Shahbanou, in spite of a losing battle against tears, expressed her thanks and appreciation to everyone. The mother who was there at the grave of her own flesh and blood was also a queen united with her people in a collective grief.
And no, the Empress did not go directly home afterwards to rest. Following the ceremony everyone was invited for refreshments to a hotel not far from the cemetery. Shahbanou sat at a table in the garden and a long queue formed of those wishing to pay their respects. I saw the Deputy Mayor of Paris passing by.
A few hours later, as I was walking in the garden of the hotel I felt tired and leaned against a low stone wall next to a man with a small Iranian flag pinned to the lapel of his jacket and a book of Farah Pahlavi's memoirs in his hand. I said hello and asked him whether he lived in Paris. "No, I have come from Germany to attend the memorial service." "Did you get your book signed?" I asked. "You know I wanted so much to see her and waited in the line-up for a long time, so I could talk to her and have her autograph my book. When there were only two people ahead of me, I thought to myself that Shahbanou must be really tired and after such a long demanding day she needs her rest. So I decided to move out of the queue."
Looking at him there sitting on the low stone wall in the garden holding on to an unsigned copy of Empress's memoirs, I knew I was looking at a man who bore the signature of a fine character. He represented what I missed most about my homeland. A loving kindness that no amount of hate-indoctrination of the fanatical mullahs will ever be able to efface. This man had not come all the way to receive, but was able to find pleasure in offering his own considerateness and generosity. What a tender, respectful and civilized contrast this man made to the foaming and clamouring mob showing their supposed devotion to the supreme leader and Ayatollahs of the Islamic Republic.
"The Empress is tired and after such a long demanding day she needs her rest."
I sat there thinking of the fine sentiment these words conveyed. It took me back in my mind to the frenetic revolutionary days of 1979. How tragically then the deep sensibility and compassion present in our national character was overpowered by the venom of the lynch-mongering fanatics. How could we fail to think of our king's long years of hard work and his need for a little respite after a tumultuous reign?
To remember Princess Leila is to think of the love she lived for and eventually died of. Manifestations of that indestructible love were present everywhere on the third anniversary of her death: they were there in the efforts of that little girl trying hard to hold up her national flag, in the tender and tearful words of Shahbanou and in the intelligent eyes of the man carrying an unsigned copy of Farah Pahlavi's memoirs.