Once voted as one of the most eligible bachelors, Prince Ali-Reza Pahlavi was considered the most “intellectual” member of his family. The second son of Mohammad Reza Shah and his wife Empress Farah was a skilled licensed pilot taking his first solo flight at the age of 12. In addition to professional interests in pre-Islamic Iranian history and languages and reading, Prince Ali-Reza’s hobbies included skydiving and scuba diving. He is remembered for his “lively curiosity in historical problems” as well as “indelible memory” which was no doubt inherited from his famous grandfather Reza Shah the Great. His friends recollect that Prince Ali-Reza was gracious and unassuming. To a people his tragic and sudden death remains an enigma.
Prince Ali-Reza was born on April 28, 1966, in Tehran, Iran. His early militaristic discipline given his status and future expectations remained with him despite the 1979 revolution that threw his family’s life and the home he loved into disarray. On January 15, 1979, Prince Ali-Reza and a few companions including his younger sister Princess Leila flew on a military jet to Lubbock, Texas. The Shah and the Empress departed the next day. Prince Ali-Reza never saw his beloved Iran again.
The sudden exile and unnerving events that followed were very traumatic for a young boy. His loss of identity in exile was never recovered. The young prince further experienced the death of his beloved father shortly thereafter. It took a few more years before the family members settled in America and began piecing their lives together.
During his undergraduate studies at Princeton University, the prince shifted his focus from science to history of music which became his passion. Ironically, his favorite classical piece was Mahler Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection.” Prince Ali-Reza obtained a Masters degree from Columbia University in Ancient Iranian Studies, and was accepted as a Ph.D. candidate in Ancient Iranian Studies and Philology at Harvard University.
Unfortunately, the sudden death of his sister Princess Leila in 2001 was the final blow to the prince’s well-being pushing him deeper into depression. He never overcame her loss as they had been close since childhood often relying on each other for comfort and support especially during the painful years in exile. Unable in overcoming depression and deeply-rooted emotional wounds finally took their toll. On January 4, 2011, at his home in Boston, Prince Ali-Reza took his own life leaving his family and a people stunned and devastate.
On July 26, 2011, his fiancée Ms. Raha Didevar gave birth to a baby girl. Princess Iryana Leila looks like her father. The little princess was born on the same day that her great grandfather Reza Shah had passed away. Their stars are forever intertwined.
According to Prince Ali-Reza’s final wishes, his body was cremated and scattered across the Caspian Sea, a region that is the origin of his paternal roots. In 2011, in her son’s memory, Empress Farah set up a Foundation for the Establishment of Prince Ali-Reza Pahlavi Fellowship in Ancient Iranian Studies. The Foundation will offer future generations of young Iranians the opportunity to attend Harvard University, and transform the ancient history of their country into a vibrant and living testament for the modern world.
Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi (born 31 October 1960)
Princess Farahnaz Pahlavi (born 12 March 1963)
Prince Leila Pahlavi (27 March 1970 - 10 June 2001)
Princess Shahnaz Pahlavi, half-sister, (born October 27, 1940)
Father Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi
Mother Farah Diba
Born 28 April 1966
Iran, (Persia) Tehran
Died, January 4, 2011 (aged 45) Boston, Massachusetts
In Rememberance by Professor Ehsan Yarshater
One cannot erase the memory of Prince Alireza Pahlavi from one’s mind even if one tried. I knew him when he was a lively, well-dressed, and socially active young man who had registered at Columbia University and was a student in the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures.
Academically, he was interested particularly in two fields: the history of pre-Islamic Iran and the culture and languages of Iran prior to Islam. For the latter, he took courses with Professor James Russell, an expert in Middle Iranian and Armenian literature, now the Mashtots Professor of Armenian Studies at Harvard. He later pursued this field at Harvard, which was better equipped to give instruction on these subjects. For Persian history, he took a course that I was giving. He showed a healthy and lively curiosity in historical problems.
It is a great pity that an untimely passing cut his plans short. It is hard to believe that such an excellent and most promising young man is no longer with us. His indelible memory and that of his joie de vivre haunts me and keeps posing unanswerable questions about the enigma of fate.
It is most appropriate and a cause for great appreciation by all the lovers of Iran and its culture that Her Imperial Majesty Shahbanou Farah Pahlavi has founded a Fellowship in Ancient Iranian Studies in the name of Prince Alireza Pahlavi at Harvard University.
The significance of her Majesty’s act becomes clearer when we remember how important it is to fortify the foundations of Iranian Studies. Iran has had a long and rich history and has contributed remarkably to the progress of world culture. It was Iran that founded the first empire in the world with a humane policy bringing many countries and many races under one rule. Its poetry is among the best in the world, its art has no rival in the entire Middle East, and its cultural influence in neighboring countries, particularly in the Subcontinent and Anatolia, has been profound. All these and more need to be made known and written about. Any step taken to promote the knowledge of Iranian history and culture is a service to the promotion of humanities. The establishment of a Fellowship in Prince Alireza Pahlavi’s memory helps to advance the study of ancient Iran.
Professor Ehsan Yarshater,
This poem was written for Prince Alireza by his friend
Mehrnaz Ghaffari commemorating his unbearable loss.
Banished Children of Iran
Prince and Brother, Beloved Son and Friend
With you we mourn the loss
of a childhood incomplete,
Of our once proud Nation whose fall we
witnessed in the shadow of the night
Of a beloved homeland seized and denied us
I speak of the banished children of Iran.
With you we mourn innocence lost,
A time when the air we breathed was sweet and full of promise
Like the limitless horizon of our Caspian Sea,
That magical place where our childhood laughter
will ring out loud for eternity
We mourn with you silently that Paradise Lost
May you return to that place on your mystical journey Your Highness!
And through your sacrificial journey fulfill in us all
that burning and undying longing for Home.
M.Ghaffari – Jan 7th 2011