Iranian Oral History Project | Harvard University Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Prince and Son of Last Qajar Crown PrinceTranscript 2 of 2
Edited Translation of Persian Transcript
Narrator: Hamid Kadjar
Date: November 26, 1981
Place: London, England
Interviewer: Habib Ladjevardi
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Q. Is your mother or your brother's mother still living?
A. Oh,yes. My mother is alive; she's in Tehran. My elder brother Hossein's mother died two years ago in Tehran.
Q. Were these the two wives that your father had, or were there any...?
A. No, we're five, five children -- three boys and two girls -- and each one from a different mother. And the others are all alive in Tehran.
Q. What do you remember about your mother? What sort of person?
A. Well, she laughs a lot, she's very gay. My mother married again after the divorce from my father. She married Sepahbodi, who's an archaeologist, and they have a daughter, Fakhri, who married Gharani, Colonel Gharani (who is the younger brother of General Gharani who was killed in 1979 by a group called Forghan in Tehran, and he at that time was head of the army, but anti-mullah, and quite capable of doing a coup d'etat against the revolutionary priests -- which I think he had the intention of doing. That is to say, I think that is why he was killed).
Q. What was it like growing up in this country as a member of a deposed royal family? Was it something that people, your friends, schoolmates knew about, asked you about, or is it something that was just never spoken about?
A. Well, they knew about it, they found it very odd in many ways, and my brother and I find it even odder because we never gave it a thought. We had never grown up in the Court in Persia; we had no idea of what those things meant. But it was fun in many ways. No, we really didn't give it any thought; other people gave far more thought to it than we did.
Q. Did people address you as "Your Highness", "Prince" or something?
A. No, no. No, no, no. Only if they wanted to pull our legs. In any event, during the years I was at sea in the Navy, I wasn't even Kadjar, I was David Drummond. For years and years, I responded to the name of David Drummond. I'd been asked to assume an English-sounding name by Sir Anthony Eden because, at that time, the British recognized Reza Shah as the official Shah of Iran, and it would have been a little embarrassing to all concerned if I had been serving in the Royal Navy under my own name.
Q. How did you happen to choose this name?
A. It came out of the telephone book. I think I was ... I'm not sure if there was any other foreigner in the Royal Navy at that time as an officer, serving as an officer.
Q. And you say it was fun having been or being a prince. Can you think of any instances, any joyful memories, any sort of games, childhood games or school games you played?
A. Well, I remember only one instance really, when we were staying in Northumberland. And my guardian at that time -- I won't mention any names here -- was not on very good terms with the Duchess of Northumberland, which was entirely mutual. And we were invited to a hunt ball at <?> Castle. And on entering the hall, a man in a kind of uniform with a rod in his hand would tap the rod on the floor and yell your name out. And as he yelled my name out, and because she was polite, the Duchess of Northumberland had to come and curtsey. Which my guardian enjoyed enormously. But that didn't alter the fact that, as soon as this was done, we were relegated to the main hall, and the duchess and her party retired to their exclusive part of the ballroom, with a large cordon between them and the populace, i.e., us. It's the only thing I can remember.
Q. When was the first time you went back to Iran? And what were your impressions, your memories of your first...?
A. I went back in 1957, January, and I really went back only because Mrs. Ala, the wife of the then prime minister -- I think it was prime minister or minister to the Court, I'm not sure now -- in '57 ... Mrs. Ala had insisted, had met me in Paris over dinner when I was working -- this is after the war now, in 1956, well after the war when I was working in Mobil again, in Paris (Mobil Oil) -- and she insisted that I came back to Persia. I could see no reason for going back to Persia, had really no desire for going back to Persia. But she got her husband in on the deal with her, and they had to have a meeting of the cabinet to find out whether I was ... whether I could go back, whether I would be allowed to go back. They could see no difficulty, apparently, in that; then they had to go to the Shah and ask him. And he thought a lot and he could see no reason, well he could see again no difficulty. I was a Persian, after all.
Q. But your family hadn't abdicated yet.
A. I know, yes, but this is all after the war, in '57. We'd never abdicated the throne, ever. But there was no law against us, I think. As far as I remember, there was only one Qajar, Salar-od-Dowleh, against whom there was a law -- he could not go back -- but that law against him was by his own brother, who was Mohammad-Ali Shah.
So, having cleared my return, then they had to think about a job for me. Now all this time I knew nothing about what was going on; I was sitting in Paris. Then they approached a man called ... who was in ... the head of the international oil consortium, Mr. Saltens <?>, a Dutchman, from Shell. And he said, yes, he'd be delighted to put me in a position in the consortium in Tehran. And when all this was over, I was suddenly told about it. And I thought, "Well, why not?" I decided, so I went back. My impressions were not good at all, to start with anyway.
Q. So you were given a job in the consortium operations in Tehran? What was...?
A. I was Assistant Head of Materials; and then I was sent south, as Head of Materials and Fields in the field areas where the exploration and production of oil was carried out. When that was over, I did a spell in the refinery, again ... a separate company, but a member company of the consortium, in Abadan, returning to Tehran to take over as Head of Materials in Tehran for the whole consortium.
Q. What were the factors or things that you saw that gave you a not very favorable impression of...?
A. Basically corruption. Corruption at all levels.
Q. Of course with the position you had in the company, you would be in a position to see some of that.
A. Oh, yes. Well, I mean, not only I -- in some cases it was so open it was quite amazing. I was a bit naive to start with; I had never been in the Middle East. But I realized slowly but surely that if one wanted to get anywhere, you had to be with a group and you had to have an entry into the very top. By that I mean, right up as far as the Shah if one could get <that far>. One saw this quite clearly. And it was difficult to say anything openly, to speak at all in many ways, and twice I was apprehended by the SAVAK because I had been too open in my condemnation of what I saw. I never minced my words so far as the Shah himself was concerned, I said what I thought -- which possibly was not very intelligent. But I'd been brought up in the Navy and I couldn't operate any other way. But people suddenly ... people eventually realized that I couldn't do it any other way.
Q. Would you like to tell us about either one of those occasions with the SAVAK? Did you actually go to an office or did they come to you, or...?
A. Well, in the first instance, they appeared in my office one day, and they said that I had been accused of climbing up the wall in a hotel and bringing down the picture of the Shah and stomping all over it -- which was a physical impossibility, because the picture was, anyway, about 20 or 25 feet high on the wall behind the reception desk. Well, I had to get to the desk, behind the desk with a ladder, climb, bring the thing down and do it. However, I was taken first of all to the ... what is called in Persian ettela'at -- I think that means the people who give information.
Q. That's in the police or the SAVAK?
A. In the police.
Q. Edareh Ettela'at Shahrbani <intelligence section of the police>.
A. Yes. And these two people who came to my office said would I follow them, and I tried to find out what it was all about -- I couldn't speak a word of Persian then. And they tried to explain to me I was going to the ettela'at and I'd learn more about it there. One of them told me he was my cousin -- one of the men who came along to fetch me -- by the name of Dolatshahi. I believed him. There were so many cousins anyway that I was in no position to say he was or he wasn't my cousin. And when that was over, in the ettela'at -e Shahrbani, they hoped it was all over -- so did I, and I went back to my office.
But a week or ten days later, they appeared again, and they said this time it was rather more serious. They were taking me to what was called the Dadsetan Artesh <prosecutor general of the army> -- that, I believe, is the military tribunal. Well, I went there and I was faced by an Iranian air force officer who could speak French. He asked me the same questions; I replied in the same way. I completely denied the whole thing.
Q. Again the questions were concerning this alleged event of taking the picture?
A. Yes. The questions were entirely to do with the so-called event of the picture of the Shah. I denied the whole thing. And, luckily, they allowed me to leave.
Q. To leave their office?
A. To leave the office.
Q. To leave the office.
A. Because before I went in, I had been told by Dolatshahi that if I had any friends in Tehran I should then telephone them, because once you go in there, you might not come out. They let me out and produced a file on me. The file was a nuisance because every time I wanted to leave Iran, either on business or on holiday, it was a ... it was a nuisance to try and get the permission to do so, because of the existence of this file. Eventually, through a friend, I met a general who was pretty high up in the army. He and I became friends and I told him the story. And, to my surprise, he just picked up the telephone one day, and he telephoned somewhere or other, and the file was destroyed.
Q. Just like that.
A. So I was able to move again more freely. And the second time was when I was asked to go the National Iranian Oil Company offices to see Colonel -- I think his name was Tabataba'i -- who was the representative of SAVAK in NIOC, and who had, according to him, been one of the people around my father. In other words, he was ... he served my father in some capacity or other. And when I saw him in the NIOC offices, I asked him what this was about. He said he couldn't tell me himself, he didn't know, but the SAVAK had asked to see me. He said he'd give me a letter to take to them, and directed me to their offices which were just off Shah Reza -- Avenue Shah Reza -- in Tehran.
When I arrived there, there were three men -- in other words, two youngish ones and one older, the older one was a colonel apparently -- all wearing civilian clothes. And we did the normal thing, which is sitting up and sitting down, sitting up and sitting down -- Persian politeness -- passing the time of day, talking about the weather. And in the end, I was speaking in English; I still couldn't speak Persian at that time. And, anyway, he asked me if I spoke any Persian at all, and I said very little. But he asked me to try and speak it with him.
And after all the politenesses, I did say that my "... the consortium, I think considered my time as being a little important, or they wouldn't be paying me, what was all this about?" He said he'd heard that in my own office I criticized the government of Iran very often. At that time, Eghbal, Dr. Eghbal, was prime minister. I said yes, I did, I was sure I did. And then I put the question to him. I said, "But you say this is a free country, is it not? If it is a free country, if the government does something that I consider, as an individual, not to be right, I obviously criticize it."
Anyway, he made me to understand that, in my case, it would be better if I did not criticize whatever I saw. And again this went on for some time -- it was all very pleasant. And when I was leaving, I did ask him, I said, "Well, where have you got your information from?" And he told me it was from my own office. And then I did a silly thing, I asked him who in the office. And of course, he just laughed and said he couldn't tell me that. And that was that. I left, and probably the next day I criticized the government again, but I think they were getting used to me by then, so they left it.
Q. So you continued working in Iran until what year?
A. 1971, when I came back to London, in Mobil, and a year later transferred from Mobil to Iranian Oil Services in London, which had been ... which was and had always been the buying and service organization in London for the Iranian Oil Consortium, in providing materials, staff -- literally a service organization for Iran.
Q. What was it like going back to Iran, to the place where your father, your parents...? Obviously people must have known who you were. Working as an executive within a company? It must have been very difficult.
A. Well, in many ways it was. In many ways one of the things which was the most difficult was the fact that I had never realized how many Qajars there really were. As I said, it's a tribe. And wherever I went, whatever party I attended, I'd meet people who would turn around and say they were my cousins through so and so, through this person, through that person, who had never meant anything to me. And it wasn't easy, it wasn't easy going back, with the name I carried, because really all the others had in one way or another been brought up between Persia and Europe or America. But they had never lost their touch or contact with Persia, they all spoke Persian.
And in a way one felt completely, in a way, isolated. It was not easy. Particularly, as I say, carrying the name I carried. Okay, all the others supposedly were Qajars in some shape or other, but they were not of the same source as I was. And of course, a lot of them, their bread and butter depended upon the Shah. And the Court. They were nearly all in business, in the kind of business one does in Persia, whereas I was with the international, normal, European oil consortium.
Q. Did you actually go to north Tehran to look at the estates that were owned by your father?
A. Oh yes, I used to pass them every time I went up to Shemiran. I couldn't believe it, their size. I was told at one time that the ghanat -- that's the water well in Aghdasiyeh -- alone was worth well over five million tomans. And here was I working for the consortium for a pittance.
But I think that what my father did to declare himself the rightful Shah of Persia on the death of his brother Ahmad Shah was right. I don't think he could have done anything else. But I also think that he, in doing that, should not have given rise to Reza Khan in confiscating my father's own private, personal estates. They were nothing to do with the Crown, they had nothing to do ... they were his own estates. If they had belonged to the Crown, I could understand it. But in fact, I think I'm right in saying that not one single palace during the time of the Qajars belonged to the Qajars; they all belonged to the Crown. Whereas afterwards, each palace which was built by Reza Khan and his children belonged to them personally.
Q. If the son of the late Shah, who is now living in exile outside of Iran, came to you, as a person who was in similar circumstances 40 years ago, and said, "Give me some advice in 25 words or less as a person, as one man giving it to a young man...." What do you think you would say to him?
A. "Don't believe those around you, particularly if they're Persians, without giving it considerable thought. And be incorruptible -- if you can."
Q. We have heard people say that perhaps he should have continued his studies at a college that he was attending. He was going to a very good college in Massachusetts named Williams, and....
A. The whole story of the flight of the Pahlavi family to America is a little murky, and I don't think one will ever really know the truth. I believe his father tried to give him the kind of education that he honestly thought his son should have. And I think the son was too ... the son in a way was a little young to be corrupted, a little young when he left -- was forced to leave -- Iran to have begun to become corrupted by those around him. Of course I don't know the atmosphere he lived in. But I believe that in any event, I know that his mother was brought up completely normally, in her case, without money in France, and presumably her influence had something on him.
But I think ... I think those days are over -- nothing ever goes back, anyway historically. You either go forward or you stop for a little while. I think the days of Shahs in Iran <are> over. Unless, of course, one puts forward the argument that Iran really needs a Shah because of all the various ethnic groups. But I would think that a strong man, at the head of a strong democracy, would do just as well, where the ethnic groups are concerned, as any Shah. But that's my own feeling; that's my own opinion.
Q. Was Qavam-os-Saltaneh related to the Qajars?
A. No, Qavam-os-Saltaneh was the brother of another great man, Vossough-od-Dowleh, but I believe Qavam was greater than his brother. I didn't know his brother, but this is what I'm told by all concerned. Qavam for Iran was a great person. The last, I would say, I know of anybody being a great person in Persia. He was of the old school but yet modern. He was put in a position to overthrow Dr. Mossadegh, which he did for a very short while, but in a way it came too late because Qavam was too old at that time to carry out an operation of that nature. And of course the crowds in the streets were too much for him. I think it's common knowledge that the crowds in the street, in any event will always appear if there are ten-toman notes being distributed -- they never did it of their own free will, as such. I don't think they had any free will.
And ... well, I think that if Qavam had been able to ... if he had been twenty years younger, he could have done something quite big. He was, after all, responsible really for getting the Russians out of Azarbaijan after the war. Although I know that history books were written to the effect that it was the Persian army that did it. But the truth is not quite that.
Q. Did you ever meet Qavam?
A. I met Qavam in Paris. We came to London together, on a trip, when he was meeting various people in the British government.
Q. This was in the '50s, in the early '50s?
A. Yes. Just before actually the overthrow of Mossadegh for that short period of time. I liked him. He was a very vain man, oddly enough, even at that pretty advanced age.
Q. To all people, or to people who he considered below him?
A. No, by vain I mean that to the extent that although he had little hair, he used to paint hair on his head.
Q. I see.
A. He was vain in his own personal appearances, and dress, and that kind of thing. No, I think that of all the Persians that I met, and quite a number who were supposedly great men, or they think they are great men, I think Qavam stood head and shoulders above them all.
Q. And what was it about him that impressed you -- I never had the fortune of meeting him?
A. He was a big man. Not so big in height, but he was a powerful man. He had tremendous personality. He had much more personality than people like Hoveida, for instance, I mean there's no comparison, that kind of thing. Or Amouzegar or Dr. Eghbal, any of those people.
Q. Was he a man that one would feel warm towards when you met him, or feared, or respected?
A. You respected him. You respected him, and you automatically gave him the respect due to him. Without really thinking too much about it. He had that kind of personality.
Q. There's one paragraph written in Princess Ashraf's book, in which she says that ... in describing Qavam, she said that he would not allow any chairs to be placed in his office so as to ... so that the visitor was not able to sit in his presence, and that you could not address him directly, and you had to address your question or whatever you wanted to say through his secretary. Does that sound plausible?
A. Well, it sounds plausible because that is well within the Persian character, in Persia dealing with ordinary Persians. But don't forget that Qavam served my father. There's a picture of him on the wall, actually. He served my father and his relationship with me was quite different. In any event, there was nothing Persian-Persian about me like you get the Persian-Persian in Persia going to a government office.
Q. Well, did you see him with other Persians -- how he would behave with them?
A. Yes, I saw him ... I never saw him with Persians, unless it was within his own immediate family -- by that I mean his son. I never saw him, but I can well ... I never saw him with Persians serving him, as such. But I can quite imagine, having seen what I saw during the years I was in Persia, that in his particular case -- and, as I say, he was a much more powerful man than any of the others -- the average Persian behavior towards him would be completely servile.
Q. How was he with foreigners? How did he behave in the presence of important foreigners?
A. He wasn't at a disadvantage except in the language problem.
Q. Presumably he spoke no English.
A. He spoke very, very little English. In fact, he spoke no French, as far as I remember.
a. As far as I remember, he spoke no French. Although he came from the school of Persians that ... when French was really the second language in the country. I think he felt, in the presence of a foreigner ... he didn't feel at a disadvantage, but he obviously was not in the same position with a foreigner here as he would have been with a Persian. What I'm trying to say really is that a person normally should be exactly the same with both; there should be no difference between the two. But having been brought up.... The usual Persian fawning around a greater man is inclined to corrupt that man, unless that man is a very, very strong man. Well, of course, there isn't that aspect of it with a foreigner, unless the foreigner is in Persia trying to get a contract from him, probably.
Q. Did he maintain the sort of strong, silent image with foreigners or did he seem sort of over-friendly, which was sort of the opposite side of the coin?
A. No. No, the strong, silent image. He spoke when he was spoken to, or when he wanted to speak.
Q. He maintained his dignity?
A. Oh, yes, he maintained his dignity completely -- no servility about him. But not obviously in the same position that he would be with a Persian. One could feel that.
Q. So what language did you speak with him?
A. In broken Persian. I think even if he'd spoken English a little better, he would still not have spoken English because he wanted his Persian to be translated into English -- that's what he would want.
Q. So he was of the school that would have spoken in his own native language?
A. Yes. And he was ... he was very cunning; he was very clever, he was very cunning. But, to the extent that a Persian politician is straight, I would say he was straight.
Q. Did he seem a man of strong convictions, or was he a man that was pragmatic and therefore willing to sort of bend with the wind? How would you describe him?
A. No, he had strong convictions. But what surprised me was that even at that advanced age he still wanted power. He still wanted to get back into power again.
Q. People have accused him of having a very negative attitude toward the Pahlavi dynasty, and there are reports in the State Department archives that the Shah feared Qavam and thought that perhaps Qavam wanted to replace him as ... president of the republic, rather than as the Shah's prime minister.
A. Well, that wouldn't surprise me. I don't think he thought an awful lot of the Pahlavis. Well, there are many, many of that school who did not think very much of the Pahlavis, but were not in a position to do anything about it. I've forgotten now, but there were three or four of them -- one of them was Mr. Ala -- who refused to sign the piece of paper in the Majles.
Q. There were Ala and Mossadegh....
A. To bring the Pahlavis to power.
Q. Taghizadeh, Modarres.
A. Taghizadeh I knew in London; I met him in London a number of times. He was also of the same school as Qavam -- in many ways like him. He'd been ambassador in London, I think, for some seven years.
A. I'd never met him as a young man in England; I met him really the first time at the time of my father's death. And I was impressed by the man; I liked the man. But, as I say, it was difficult to talk to.... There's always this barrier amongst Persians when they meet for the first time -- they're usually so mistrustful of each other that they don't, they just will not speak to each other at all openly, they're trying to ... they think that each one is going to do something to the other, for some unknown reason, so they're never really open, unless they become very close friends. But first meetings are always difficult with Persians. There's a lot of hypocrisy to this as well. I mean, at many parties in Tehran that I used to go to, each Iranian was suspicious of the other, unless as I say they knew each other very well. And they all enjoyed a drink, but being offered a drink, they'd say, "No, no, no. I never touch it," you know, "I'll have orange juice or tomato juice." Then on returning to his own home, he'd open the bottle and drink like a fish -- but not in front of the other Persians, which always surprised me, because to me this is sheer hypocrisy.
Q. Especially since you hadn't been brought up in Iran; you had been brought up in this country.
A. Yes, yes, I never understood it. Because every other Persian knew that this is exactly what the fellow was going to do anyway when he got home. But it was the accepted thing. You pretend, you pretend all the time.
Q. What sort of impression do you think that the foreigners, particularly the British, had about Qavam? Did they have respect for him?
A. I think they'd respect him, I don't know if they'd trust him. I think they'd respect him. In other words, I think that they would find it difficult, or they would have found it difficult, to get Qavam to be their lackey. So, from that point of view I think they would not be open with him.
Q. Therefore, the sort of statements by people that, you know, "Qavam was the man of the British," or he was the "man of" this or that, you don't find....
A. No, I don't find that credible, really. I mean, you say a "man of the British," but the question is to what degree, to what extent. If it served Qavam at any point to work with the British, he would do it. But from there to become a real lackey of the British, I doubt that -- To me it would be out of context, out of character.
Q. Of course, in 1946 it was said that Qavam was a man of the Russians.
A. Yes, but it was in 1946 or thereabouts when, because of the oil business in the Caspian, he managed to get the Russians to come out of Iran. No, I don't think he was a man... I think he was an honest patriotic Persian. And very much for Qavam himself as well.
Q. But did you feel he had feelings and thoughts about Iran, you know, what Iran should become, what should be done for Iran?
A. I don't think he went that far because he was too much of the old school. His education had not taken him, as a young man, to that extent. I think Qavam was for Persia, independent Persia, and for Qavam himself. I don't think he thought in terms of factories and railways and hospitals and -- I don't know -- the welfare state sort of thing.
Q. How about in terms of the constitution, independence, freedom, those kinds of things?
A. I think he thought in terms of the constitution, I don't think he thought too much in terms of freedom of the individual because I think he always thought that the Persian was really ungovernable, unless there was a whip, unless there was strength behind the government. No, I don't think he'd have been the kind of man to give too much freedom to the man in the street. Because I think that he would have thought if you do that, the Persian becomes an anarchist, practically.
Q. Again, in 1946, he was accused of being a tool of Mozzafar Firouz, by the Americans. Does that...?
A. I think the Americans were mistaken, I think it was the other way around. I think Mozzafar Firouz may well have thought that Qavam was his tool, where in reality Mozzafar turned out historically to have been Qavam's tool. Qavam used him to create the Ministry of Labor. Qavam saw his danger, I think, at the time of the Seyyed Zia-ed-Din fiasco, when Mozzafar Firouz brought Seyyed Zia-ed-Din back from Palestine, couldn't work with him, and imprisoned him. I think Qavam saw the danger in Firouz; and I think that Firouz's open hatred towards the Shah at that time did not serve Qavam's purpose for Qavam, so he sent Firouz to Russia as ambassador, knowing full well that it was only for a year or thereabouts, at which time Firouz would be out. And Firouz since then -- I'm talking about 1947 -- has never been back in Persia. I think Firouz, if he'd ever gone back to Persia during those years, would have immediately been taken and imprisoned by the Shah.
Q. So knowing something about the personality of Qavam and Firouz, you can't imagine-- in 1946 -- Qavam being a puppet of Firouz, as he was accused of being?
A. No. No.
Q. And it appeared that way -- that he was pretending for his own purposes?
A. I think Firouz may well have thought that, wished that, or hoped that, but I think that quietly it was the other way around. Qavam was a much ... is a much deeper man than Firouz -- in many ways much more the statesman than the politician. Qavam had been on the Persian stage, worldwide, for some considerable time. His brother Vossough-od-Dowleh, also had been, but Vossough-od-Dowleh was not as great a man, in my opinion, as his brother. Although I know little about Vossough-od-Dowleh, I'm only talking from hearsay.
Q. Well it was, as I said, the American ambassador, George Allen, who reported to his government ... in one of the criticisms of Qavam, he states that Qavam is too much under the control of Mozzafar Firouz.
A. I think that Allen was misled. I think Allen was too naive in thinking that. I think you would find that the British would not have thought that -- again, that's my own opinion.
Q. Mozzafar Firouz is someone you've known for....
A. Oh, yes, I've known him for years; I've known him since 1947. I like the man enormously. He's very sharp, very quick. But he obviously did not play his cards right, or he'd have foreseen that Qavam was going to send him. He'd have foreseen that Qavam was a deep man. What I'm trying to say really is that if Mozzafar had been a different kind of a man, he would not have put himself in the position of Qavam, getting rid of him to Russia and then completely out of the Persian foreign service.
Q. Have you ever met with any of the Pahlavis? A social encounter...?
A. I had lunch -- or was it dinner, I've forgotten which -- with Abdorreza in Paris.
Q. What was it like for a member of one dynasty to meet another?
A. He was quite a pleasant young man. He was on his way back to Iran after being educated in America.
Q. I see, this was 1947 or 1948.
A. Yes. He was a very pleasant young man. To my mind, there was no personality, nothing to show ... nothing to leave any kind of impression on me that the man was a brother of a king, or something like that. To me, he looked just like any other Persian, except possibly better-looking than the average Persian at that time. No, there was no impression at all made on me by him, none whatsoever.
Q. Well, I meant more a sort of a feeling that "he is now in a position or situation that my family was in six years ago," this kind of a....
A. No. No, not at all. Oddly enough, well, you know that the Pahlavis are my cousins as well, on their mother's side, Dolatshahis.
Q. I see, yes.
A. The Shah was not, Ashraf is not....
Q. Shams is not.
A. Shams is not. She's a <??>
Q. Gholam Reza?
A. Gholam Reza is. Abdorreza is. Hamid Reza is. Their mothers were all Qajars.
Q. I wonder what it was like for them being members of two really different, two different dynasties.
A. Well, in '47 things were very different. This Abdorreza was a young fellow, just brought up, and finished schooling in the states, and I thought probably he thought the same about me as I thought about him. I made it very plain that I didn't ... I wasn't enormously enamored by his brother, who was then the Shah.
Q. You told him that?
A. Oh, I told him. He laughed. I don't think he gave a damn. I don't think within their own family they get on with each other, anyway. I think the only strong one they had in that family was the brother who was killed in the airplane crash.
Q. Ali Reza.
A. Ali Reza.
Q. Did you ever meet him?
A. I used to see him in Paris with his Polish wife. We used to frequent the same bar in the Porte Dauphine <?>. Again, if you saw ... to me there was never anything really to distinguish the Pahlavis as being something rather different to the average, they were so ordinary-looking people. Ali Reza certainly was not a good-looking person in the same way as his brother, Abdorreza. But he gave the impression of more character; he gave the impression of possibly being sharper, more character, more guts.
Q. This is Ali Reza?
A. Ali Reza. That's the impression I got. But, a very ordinary-looking young man, I mean not even good-looking, Ali Reza, to my mind he wasn't.
I met Ashraf, of course, in Paris, many times, at the time she was kicked out by Dr. Mossadegh. I have a great-aunt who lives in Paris, who is very fond of gambling, and she used to take us to the casinos and that kind of thing. And of course, at that time, Ashraf had no money. And she used to come along and borrow money from my aunt all the time, in the casino, to go and play, lose, come back and borrow some more. She had no money at that time. I thought her very attractive, good-looking ... well, more attractive -- no, she was both attractive and good-looking, small ... appeal, a lot of appeal. Again, from what I am told, she is the stronger, much stronger than her brother who was the Shah. Which often happens in the case of twins. I think she's got a lot to answer for.
Q. After meeting you, did she make any sort of comments about who you were?
A. No. We spoke, we ... just as if I was speaking to any other woman, and she was speaking to any young man. There was no....
Q. Did she talk politics with you?
A. No, I don't think she'd really started into it at that time; perhaps she had just started. We're talking now about 1952.
Q. And the fact that she had been forced to leave Iran and be in France, not by choice?
A. No, she didn't mention that. She had a bevy of young people who were around her all the time. As I say, I only met her once or twice, and that was in the casino when she was borrowing money to play.
Q. Well, thank you for giving me and all the people in the next decades who will be listening to this tape....
A. It's pretty disjointed.
Q. Well, I think you haven't heard some others.
Copyright © 2003 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College (Harvard University)
Dr. Habib Ladjevardi
Iranian Oral History Project
Center for Middle Eastern Studies
1430 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138