PARIS — When Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made his momentous visit to Paris last week, an unlikely resident of the French capital was watching his every move.
Farah Pahlavi, the 77-year-old widow of the Shah of Iran, told the Persian-language Kayhan newspaper she noted the irony "sitting hundreds of meters' away from the Elysée palace where Rouhani was being received by French President Francois Holllande, and where she and her husband, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, had been fêted by several of Hollande's predecessors.
Nevertheless, Pahlavi said it was "good for Iran" that sanctions should end and that the country could purchase necessary items like airplane parts, reports Kayhan, the London-based spinoff of the conservative newspaper of the same name in Tehran. The publication is mostly run by exiled journalists and regularly criticizes the Iranian regime.
Iran's exiled former empress, who has property in several cities but spends much of her time in Paris, said she hoped "things will become better" for ordinary Iranians as sanctions unwind. Still, Pahlavi saw further irony in all the talk about modernizing Iran now: "Well, we already had modernity," she said, clearly referring to the Shah's policies in the 1960s and 1970s. "Some people were saying we had become too Westernized, or ... were going too fast." Now, she said, after Iranians had lived in "past centuries' under the Islamic Republic, "they want to modernize."
She said she hoped the delegation would "learn and take" a few things about freedom from Europe, like democracy, human rights and women's rights.
Pahlavi recently attended the funeral of her sister-in-law, Princess Ashraf Pahlavi, who died in the south of France in January. The princess, once reviled by many Iranians as a symbol of Iran's corruption in the 1970s, was now less harshly recalled in most newspapers as a defender of women's rights. Some younger Iranians, no doubt comparing the condition of Iranian women now with the 1970s, paid their respect online to the princess.
The empress in 1961 with French President Charles de Gaulle — Source: Catherine Legrand, Jacques Legrand