reacts to the January 4 suicide of the shah’s younger son, Alireza Pahlavi,
who took his own life in his Boston apartment:
Last night, several hours after hearing the news about the suicide of Alireza Pahlavi, I couldn't free myself from thinking about him and his [death]. Reactions ranged from indifference to condolences to the Pahlavi family. Some were expressing sympathy while at the same time they wanted to politically keep their distance.
The truth is that we haven't yet determined our feelings about the family of the shah and his legacy. If a happy group has decided how to deal with the Pahlavi family, it must be a small group.
But why can't we make up our mind? I think one straight answer is that the regime that succeeded the monarchy has never been able to convince us that it is a better choice than the overthrown regime. In fact the 30 and something years of life of the Islamic regime has not decreased the number of those opposed to the shah's regime; [rather] it has added to its supporters. In the economic and cultural context one can witness the general inclination in praising the shah especially among the middle class that had its golden era under the shah.
I know it’s not easy to judge the shah and his time fairly.
One thing is clear though: Alireza Pahlavi was a 12-year-old boy at the time of the revolution. Even if his father has made big mistakes, he can’t be blamed and one can’t be indifferent to his sorrow over the loss of his country. Many ask how a prince could be so weak. But they remain inattentive to the burden of a disappointed prince. His education was based on patriotism. I am pretty sure that [patriotism] is the basis of the Pahlavis' view. For them losing their homeland is far more difficult than for other émigrés. They lost a country that didn’t become more prosperous and they couldn’t do anything against the ruin of their country. Being wealthy and politically influential also didn’t help them. Studying at Harvard, living in a nice house, and traveling to here and there is not enough when you can’t perform what is expected from you.
I thought maybe Alireza could have thought that from now on I will suppose myself to be dead. But let me use the remaining days of my life to do something. For example, I could write a major book about a field that has not been researched enough. I could create a foundation that would focus on Iran and, for example, the issue of water shortage. I’ll do something that has nothing to do with me because the assumption is that I don’t exist anymore. I could do something for the people for which I am suffering that would take me up to death.
Alireza did not think about these issues. Because what was eating him from inside could end only with death. Maybe many thought that he doesn’t need help. How can a prince who has everything he wants, need help? This mistake made him lonely. He was even deprived of the help of others.
Maybe if we had sent Alireza pictures of women and girls from Bavaneh village he would have known that he could have helped people who are facing the misfortune of a government's plunder.
He should have stayed for their today and future so he could have done his share for them.
But a migrant who is far from home and a patriot, who all his life sees himself unable of doing anything, cannot endure it more than Alireza did. Maybe if we would have been 30 years away from a country we love and feel that all the doors have been closed on us, we would have no choice but to free ourselves from forced exile.
I think the death of Alireza Pahlavi is the answer of an individual who, like all of us, is forced to live in exile. In this revolt against coercion there is no difference between the woman in Ilam who sets herself on fire and the intellectual who hangs himself in a forest. Living in coercion is deadly. It doesn’t matter whether it comes from religion or blasphemy. Coercion equals humiliation, and death is better. Death frees us from humiliation.
Alireza didn’t stay so we could have helped him. We weren’t aware until he left. But to prevent our other sisters and brothers from destroying themselves we have no other way than to put an end to coercion. We have to fight it in order to have a happy and human life. The end of coercion is the beginning of life.