Iranian Oral History Project | Harvard University Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Wife of Gen. Hassan Pakravan (Chief of the State Intelligence and Cabinet Minister)Transcript 3 of 4
Narrator: Fatemeh Pakravan
Date: March 7, 1983
Place: Paris, France
Interviewer: Habib Ladjevardi
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Q. Mrs. Pakravan, now that we have more time for this session, I wanted to ask you to give a little bit of background about yourself and your own family, and then about your own education -- how it came that you began working at the Najmiyeh Hospital.
A. Well, my father and my mother met in Tiflis in the middle of the revolution, and my father married my mother and brought her back to Iran. Unfortunately, after awhile they didn't agree together, and in 1928 my father convinced my mother to let us go, my sister and myself, to Paris with him where he had settled, because he wanted to give ... he believed very much in the French education and he loved France very, very much.
Q. They were both Iranian?
A. No. My mother was half Polish and half Russian.
So we reached Paris after a very long journey because we stopped everywhere. We reached Paris in January of 1929 and we were put in a convent to be educated here at <unclear>. After I finished, my father wanted me ... it was, you know, that in 1937 Reza Shah abolished the chador, the veil, for women. He wanted them to really participate in life, and he also more or less obliged them to wear a hat -- starting with his own family, the Queen Mother -- I mean the Queen -- and his daughters, and the wives of all the ministers, members of government, and high officials of his administration. So my father, who was very much against all that -- although he wasn't a fanatical Moslem, but somehow there were things that he was attached to -- so he said, "You will study to be a midwife, because I'm sure that despite of all the regulation, Iranian women will not agree to go to a male doctor to have their babies."
So I went to this school, which I didn't like at all, and when I went back to Iran, I didn't know Persian very well. That's why many people think I'm French, because my natural language is French -- naturally, because I was quite a small child when I came here, and finished my studies, when I left France. And my father didn't want me to go to Iran. He said, "You know, you're completely brought up like a French girl. You will not be happy there. You don't know Iranians very well." I said, "No, I want to go." He said, "Okay, you go. But you know, I know that you will not be able to live there. But I tell you from now, you must bear it for two years. After two years, if it's really unbearable, then you come back to France."
But in the meantime, there was the war and I met my husband in 1941 --in the summer of '40 -- we married in February of 1941.
Q. You met in Tehran?
A. Yes, we met in Tehran. And very naturally, like every woman, I think that it was in very romantic circumstances. I think all marriages, more or less, are in romantic circumstances.
And when I went back to Iran, I wanted very much to work, and my idea was to work in the public hospital. Of course, I was full of ideals and I thought we have to serve -- you know, things you have when you are very, very young. But there was no Ministry of Health at the time in Iran; there was a general directorate of hygiene. And I was offered a very, very minor job with a really ridiculous salary.
In the meantime, a friend of my father, Dr. Javad Ashtiani, fetched me and took me to Dr. Gholam-Hossein Mossadegh at Najmiyeh Hospital. They had a Swiss matron, and she had left suddenly, so Dr. Ashtiani introduced me to Mossadegh who immediately gave me the job. Because the former matron was always addressed as "Madamoiselle", I became "Madamoiselle" in my turn, and everybody spoke French to me because I didn't know enough Persian. And that's how the idea that I am either French or even Armenian came about. Even people who know me very well, sometimes they're surprised to find that I am actually Iranian.
Anyway, I worked there until my marriage. Then ... surprisingly enough, my husband, who was entirely educated abroad -- His mother was half French and half Iranian; who had in his ancestors two French great-grandmothers; who had a great-great grandfather, Austrian, who was a friend with ... he's now in all the books about Mexico, because he was the one very great friend of Maximilian and he went when Maximilian was supposed to become emperor of Mexico. So this ancestor of my husband, whose name was Stephan von Herzfeld, and who became the Marquis of Cuernevaca, where the Shah was, you know, in Mexico. And that's not important....
Anyway, my husband suddenly decided to become very, very eastern and decided that his wife mustn't work, that he must provide for her. But he couldn't provide for me because he was a young captain and the army officers were very, very underpaid. So we had to live with my mother-in-law, who was a professor at the University of Tehran, and also she was a writer in French. In France they have a prize which is given to foreign authors who write directly in French, it's called Prix <unclear>. It's a very famous prize and she got that for a very, very good book. By the way, I tried to have her books published in America, but apparently they were not interested.
Anyway, and so I stopped working. I had my first child. But we couldn't manage because Tehran entered the war. Don't forget that the country was occupied by the Russians, the British with their colonial armies -- that means the Gurkhas, the Indians, the Sikhs, and what they call Anzac, that's New Zealand and Australia -- and later by America. So life became very, very difficult in Tehran. There was a shortage of practically everything. The Allies had arrested and put into camps all those they suspected of sympathy with the Germans. And so life, naturally ... the price of living shot up. Nobody could afford to live unless you were very, very rich.
It's difficult to visualize the Tehran of that time. I mean, there <were> only two lines of buses and practically no cars. You knew exactly who had a car -- the Court, a few ministers and a few rich people.
So I went back to work, but this time at the hospital of the National Bank with Dr. Raji. It had just been inaugurated and I worked there for a while until in 1944, I think, or '43, there was some trouble with my replacement at Najmiyeh Hospital. And Dr. Mossadegh, that is the father of the famous oil nationalization, insisted that I should come back. So I went back there, but I told him that I will not stay forever and ever, because my father was in Paris, I had no news from him during all the time of the war, except through the Vatican and the Red Cross. The moment peace was around the corner, I wanted to go back to France. They said, "Okay. Peace is not around the corner."
Anyway, in 1945 my father came to Tehran, and he didn't like it at all; and he went back and he was waiting for us. And after awhile, when the war was finished, my father-in-law was appointed as ambassador to Italy.
Q. Your father-in-law being?
A. The father of my husband.
A. My father-in-law was a very close, how shall I say, cooperator <associate> of Reza Shah. Reza Shah had trusted him, liked him very much. He was ... during the time of Reza Shah, he had been governor-general of Khorasan, and he was practically the only person who resisted the Russians, the only official who resisted the Russians. It's a famous story that when the Russians invaded Iran -- and naturally they had their commandanture in Mashhad -- there was absolutely a shortage of everything -- suddenly. My father-in-law was a very proud and very ... how shall I say ... strong-willed man. He sat himself beside the drivers of trucks and he went and took out the flour wherever it was and obliged the bakers to bake bread. He went himself <unclear>.
And when the commanding officer of the Russian forces asked him to come, he refused. He sent a message to say that, "You say that you've come to Iran as our allies. If you're our allies, you must respect those who represent the central government of my country. So it's up to you to come and call on me." And the man did.
Anyway, he was arrested. Because we went through a period of terrible trouble after the Shah abdicated, you know, and this was a time of revenge and accusation and anybody close to Reza Shah was arrested. Of course, they couldn't find anything, so they liberated him. And after a while they wanted to make him governor of Azarbaijan, which he refused because it was occupied by the Russians. They wanted to make him back again governor of Khorasan. He refused. He said that he did so much, he had done so much for Khorasan and the Khorasanis were so ungrateful. Which, by the way, later on, they came to beg him to come, but he refused. They wanted to make him prime minister; he refused also. I asked him why. He said, "You know, because they want ... they don't want me to really become <of> service to the country, they just want to finish me. Because it's not the time to be prime minister, there is somebody else and other forces arranged for here." Anyway, they asked him what he wanted to be, and he said, well, he wanted to finish his life, his career in Rome, so he went, he went there.
So, in 1947, I took my three children -- two, two, two children -- my two daughters and we went by road and ship first to Italy -- no, by plane, I'm sorry -- by plane to Rome where I stayed with my father-in-law for a while, and then by train to Paris. I stayed eight months in France and then I went back to Iran. Oh yes, at that time I decided that I was completely fed up with working in a hospital. I couldn't stand to see people ill and dying -- I couldn't. So I decided to change completely my ... aim in life. And I worked ... I was hired by the Iranian Airways, which belonged ... which was a private company belonging to the Afshars and Gholam-Hossein Ebtehaj and all these people. I became secretary, what they call in French "secretaire de direction". And little by little, you know, because of my English and French, I became a man-of-all-jobs.
I stayed there until we went to Pakistan. The first time in the summer of 1949, back again in May 1950, as I told you. Then they took me back to my job. And they did that several times, and every time they increased my salary. So I said, "It's a good point -- I'll go away for a few months, that's the only time that you ... when I come back that you increase my salary." Anyway, the last time was in 1954 when we left for India, and when I came back, I didn't go to that job. I just worked in welfare, you know.
Yes, I taught at the faculty -- it's not the same meaning in English, faculty means a higher college, part of the university -- the one of literature of Tehran had an institute for foreign languages, and I was teaching French there. At the same time, I became the director of RSPA, Society for the Protection of Animals. And I was also practically all my life a member of the Persian Red Cross, which was called the Red Lion and Sun.
I saw between, you know, this kind of jobs, welfare and this and that ... I remember that we started at the time to establish a little society, which we wanted to be completely free from the royal family. Because anybody who did any welfare society always tried to have a member of the royal family. And this spoiled everything, in my opinion, not because of the royal family, but because it gave another meaning to the whole point, you see.
So I asked a few friends of mine, teachers at the university, Ehsan Naraghi, General -- what's his name? -- he was commander of the ... he had been chief-of-staff of the air service. Then several people like that, and we had decided that we must absolutely and very urgently do something about the people ... what is called now "lumpen-proletariat" -- that means this fringe of people who lived in the south of big cities, especially in Tehran, as I told you, in all the caverns where they had dug up for bricks ... to make bricks. And these people lived in the most incredible way.
It was exactly as if they didn't belong to the country. They had their own laws, had their own regulations, and naturally their own traffics, where child prostitution, where organized beggary (I mean organized because they made people, you know, look blind or wounded, or having all kinds of disease, which was all makeup), traffic in drugs, and of course a wonderful hiding place for all kinds of petty criminals. And also a very good reservoir of people who had nothing to lose. And that's the kind of people that Khomeini uses; and Mossadegh would often use in a way also. This is the people among whom ... the kind of mafia we used to have in Iran, you know, the head of Black T <?> and Sha'ban Bimokh (Brainless Sha'ban), all these people who were big dealers in the wholesale markets of Tehran. Actually, they were ... they were real gangsters; they gave protection, you see. They had also the control of the <red-light district> of Tehran.
And these people, we thought at the time (it was in the '50s, late '50s), we numbered them -- there were about 14,000 and we knew that in a matter of ten years there will be ten times as more and so on and so on. And it would represent an immense danger for the country. And also my friends and I thought that it was really absolutely against every sense of justice and even welfare -- not the welfare of these people, but the rest of the capital, the rest of the country, to allow this kind of cancerous society to grow, you see.
So we started with a little ... they were called CZagheh NeshinD <people living in caves>, that was the area of, how shall I say, the "nest" people; because really they were not living in houses, they had <hovels> that they somehow managed to organize for themselves. And those that were honest, they had the most fantastic jobs -- incredible. I remember visiting a family, they were only women -- the mother with five girls living in a small room -- and they had an immense heap of thread completely knotted. I said, "What are you doing?" They said they were paid five rials (I don't know how much is five rials now) unraveling these very, very, very thin threads for hosiery factories to make stockings. Can you imagine the job? Because unraveling wool is already difficult, but this very thin thread -- this was the kind of job they had.
So we started -- because I didn't believe in big things, you know, I always believed in the things that you start small, and then when there are strong roots, then you spread. So with my friends we agreed that we will take over a small area, which funnily enough, was in the middle of the city -- at Behjat-Abad. Now, Behjat-Abad had been a camp at the time of the war, when the Allies were in Iran. At the time of the war, the Russians made all kinds of promises to the Armenians, to say: "Go back to Armenia. Why do you stay here where you're not in your country? You're Armenians -- go back there."
So they rushed from all over the country (mostly from Esfahan and the countryside of Esfahan, because there they were agriculturalists) to Tehran, from where they were supposed to be taken by the Russians to Armenia and they were stuck there. So they were established ... the government with the help of the Armenian community that was, after all, quite rich and prosperous, established these camps. They didn't know what to do with these people. They couldn't go back, because they had sold everything. And on top of that, they had lost face before those Armenians who refused to go. They didn't have anywhere to go and they were completely stuck there. Anyway, somehow they were resettled; some of them actually went to Russia, the others were distributed in the various Armenian communities.
But the camp remained. And all these poor people who, because life was so difficult in small cities of Iran, or in the countryside, they started to come to Tehran with the hope of finding a job. They settled there in little hovels they built for themselves. So we had a very, very good plan for that, to resettle these people. The principle was that they should do it themselves, with our help, but they should do everything themselves because we didn't want to make mendicants and beggars. We wanted them ... to give them their sense of dignity, that they had by their own efforts brought themselves up.
And we had the help of students from the university -- we were very, very grateful. We wanted to use them, because we realized very soon that the university people, especially the students, were not taken seriously, you know. I'm not the one to make demagogy for the youths, because I think that this is the time of effort and we mustn't flatter the young. We must show them the way, show them in a sincere way, you know.
So these people had nothing. There was no kind of amusement in Tehran. No kind of incentive, you know. I remember, every time I talked to a young person, I asked him ... my first question, "Do you read?" And they said, "No, what is reading?" They just looked through papers. They never ... nobody explained to them that it's not enough to go to university. That beside university, you have to work by yourself. You must use what you learn at the university as the guideline to improve your mind, and you improve your mind by reading, by reflecting, by talking to people who can ... who have something to give you. That was something entirely new, and sometimes they didn't trust people who said that, who told them these things. So we thought we'd ask them to come and participate in this kind of job, instead of always criticizing, and let them put their hand into the mud and try to clean it.
That was very well, except that naturally we fell into bureaucracy. The Shah somehow learned about this and he said, "Very good. Give me some reports." We made a small report. We said we didn't want anybody's help. Because, you know, these Behjat-Abad ... the land there being in the middle of the city, in the north, which was the elegant part of the city, it was very expensive. And the poor, I mean the poor, the landowners of this land, the owners of this land, had been so many times promised that something will be done -- they will be given money and all that. So we told them: "We don't want any money. We ask you, each of you, to give us proportionately to the piece of land that has been occupied by this <hovel>, the building material, and to have your lawyers control that this will be actually not built here." But Ahmad Naficy was the....
Q. Mayor of Tehran.
A. Vice mayor. No, he wasn't the mayor at the time.
Q. Vice mayor.
A. He showed us very good land that was already prepared with electricity, water, and we were going to settle there. So we were very happy. We also said that all the ... well, it's a long story. It didn't come to anything because they wanted us to become part of this enormous thing, COrdoohay'e KarD <work camp>, it was the resettlement, the so-called resettlement of beggars and all that -- that was a big plan. Anyway, this went to the dogs and we went to ... I was busy with other things. I worked very hard at it, but it didn't, I mean we didn't ... somehow I suppose people didn't like ... those who were responsible for ... in responsible jobs, perhaps didn't want that.
After a while, when I came back from India ... I had been very impressed in India by the handiworks of the various states of Delhi and everywhere. And I'd been impressed by the fact that the Indians were intelligent enough to understand that handiwork was beautiful but it was always repetitive. So they brought artists from abroad, mostly from France, to use the means of this craft, but to make it to the taste of the people, and especially the Europeans, the Westerners who were the best customers for that kind of things.
So I came back to Iran and I wanted very much to have this ... to start this handicraft in Iran. At the time Assadollah Alam was the head of the Pahlavi Foundation. Here I must say that he was very, very well disposed towards my husband's family, because they were also from Birjand, south of Khorasan, and they had established somehow the best of relationships with my father-in-law. So Assadollah Alam received me, and he said, "How wonderful. I'm going." Because we had to be attached. I couldn't start that; I never had any money, I didn't have the personal ... we had to start somewhere. He said, "Well, we start it from the Pahlavi Foundation."
And I started to gather friends and all that, when suddenly he said that the government had decided to revive the tourist organization, which had been founded by Reza Shah, with the Iran Tour Company ... was in charge of tourism in Iran, which was completely half-asleep, attached to the Ministry of Transport. And Amir-Assadollah Alam told me that they wanted to establish a new organization for tourism, and that organization would work through a high council of -- we like very much high council of this and that in Iran -- tourism and also through committees. And so I shall become the secretary-general of the high council and also in charge of the committee for ... all the committees, including the one for handicrafts.
So we started that very modestly, with Mehri Shaibani as head of this thing. And at the time there was no parliament in Iran. Very little after that Assadollah Alam became prime minister and the government governed by decrees. And so we were established with a decree. That was a very fascinating job, I liked it very much until the government changed again.
Hassan-Ali Mansour became prime minister and he kicked out everybody except me. And he had a new head of this organization who reorganized everything, and I was put with my colleagues a little bit aside, because the new head of the new organization -- who was Ghasem Reza'i -- was convinced that my little part of this organization was a kind of branch of the security organization. And I am very, very direct. I told him one day, I said, "You know, my husband doesn't need me. I'm sure that he has agents in your organization. I don't know them. And I'm working because I like this job and that's all." So we established a very good relationship after that.
After several trials and errors, eventually he ... somehow he ... how shall I say, more or less not completely cancelled, but didn't use the high council, but he made me head of the planning and development of tourism, CModir Tarh-ha va Bar-resihaD. And he made the mistake of falling on the other side, you know; I became his Cma'loumatD, his thinking brains, his right-hand man, from one....
Q. So you started working together?
A. So we started, it was a very fascinating job. I liked it very much. I even went to the first United Nations conference on tourism, which took place in Rome in September of '64 -- I think, I don't know, yes -- in '63. When I came back it was still ... Shaibani was the head and he said, "Go and see the Shah." I must say that the thing I was the proudest <of> was the reorganization of Golestan Palace. Of course I didn't achieve it, but that was our plan, with Mohsen Foroughi and other people.
And so I went to see the Shah. And the interesting thing is that <it was> my only public audience, because I knew the Shah, of course I met him very often and all that. What was interesting in that was, first of all, I saw how the Shah could be courteous and attentive to what people said. He listened very carefully, and after I finished, he asked questions. He asked me, he said, "What is your greatest difficulty in this job?" I said, "Regulations." He said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Regulations in this country are not made to advance the affairs of the country but to paralyze." So we discussed this point at length, and then he said, "What would you do if you were in charge? What would you do with the regulations?" I said, "I would take them in the middle of Maydan-e Sepah and burn them." He said, "Well, that's rather extreme, isn't it?"
Then he said, "What was the most important conclusion at this conference of the United Nations on tourism?" I said, "Well, the conclusion ... as you know United Nations cannot impose anything, they can just suggest and advise. They say that we -- all of us -- must obtain from our respective governments the principle that never the Ministry of Information, wherever it existed, would be mixed with Tourism. They are two different activities."
And the Shah said, "Why?" I said, "May I speak very clearly?" He said, "Yes, do." I said, "Your Majesty, you know that the Ministry of Propaganda, from its own name -- now it can be information, whatever -- is made ... is a political instrument to enhance a country's facilities inside the country and abroad. So, because it is political, it can always exaggerate, and say: "The sky of Iran is the bluest, the water of Iran is the best, the fruits of Iran are unique," and all that. But in tourism they cannot say that, because if a man comes by car, and he breaks his springs every other kilometer, or he doesn't find good roads, or he doesn't find hotels, rooms in hotels or anything, or a place, even, to go and wash his hands, then this is adverse propaganda we make. We must be truthful. We must give them good, precise information about the climate, what to wear, when to come, what kind of roads, how to travel, how to behave, etc., etc." So he quite agreed, but eventually, as you know, in the end they did that -- they mixed the two together.
Well, that was finished because we went to Pakistan; my husband was named ambassador there. And Mr. Pahlbod wanted me to be in charge of cultural affairs at the embassy. I tried to convince him that it was impossible; you couldn't have a diplomatic list with "General Pakravan, ambassador; Mrs. Pakravan, head of ... counselor for cultural affairs". Why not "Miss Pakravan and Mr. Pakravan" -- go down the way, all the ... make a family association? He said, "All right, then I name somebody, but you will be actually in charge." So when I went to Pakistan, I worked as head of the cultural affairs and that was very, very interesting also. We gathered a lot of information of the progress or regress of the Persian language, where it was taught, etc., etc. And that was that. Now you ask me questions.
Q. I'm going to ask you about a series of sort of important historical personalities, some of whom you may know well, some of whom you may not. I'll begin first with Dr. Mossadegh. Did you ever meet him?
A. Of course!
Q. What sort of impression did you have of him from the point of view of a woman?
A. You know, I don't want to give you my impression now, because it's different from what I felt when I was a young girl. When I was put in charge of the hospital the first time, after a while his son said, "My father will come and inspect the hospital, and talk to you." I said, "All right." So one day this very distinguished Iranian gentleman, very elegant -- because he didn't wear that kind of Mao Tse-tung clothes, he was wearing western clothes. He reminded me of a French writer in his physical aspects. He was really "grand seigneur" -- very courteous, very, very nice. Spoke French beautifully and addressed me in French. He had sent flowers beforehand. He asked me many questions, and encouraged me in my job, and was very, very nice.
Then somehow I became great friends with his son, Gholam-Hossein, and his family, his wife, Zia-os-Saltaneh, and they were extremely nice. But mostly, as I was very, very busy in the hospital, it was mostly my sister who went ... at one time she lived with them because they had a younger daughter who was in a rest house in Switzerland, and she was there for ... since she was twenty.
Then after I left, I came back again. When I came back again, I had acquired some assurance, you know, I was more sure of myself. I could stand up to people. I could speak the language better. And I wasn't impressed so much as I was when I was a young girl of twenty, because my father had brought me up to respect my elders and betters. But there I started to think by myself.
So, when he asked me to come back, I went to see him. We saw each other, and I said, "You know, Dr. Mossadegh, the first time I worked here, I was quite a raw young girl, I didn't know anything. I came straight from school to run a hospital." Which was the most important hospital, private hospital in Tehran, because at the time we never even mentioned the public hospitals, they were so awful. I said, "But since then, I have my ideas about how to run a hospital. I want you, please, to accept that within the confines of the hospital, the limits of this, I am the absolute master. And the doctors, the surgeons, nurses, absolutely visitors, everybody must accept the rules I'm going to establish for this hospital." He said, "All right, do that."
So the first thing I did was to establish visiting hours, because we could never do anything for the patients. People used to come in the hospital with their carpets, their charcoal stove or kerosene stove, wife (if it was a man), I mean all the family -- children, grandchildren -- everybody would spread their carpets and really picnic there all the time. Smoke cigarettes, speak aloud, come and go any time of day or night.
Then another thing which I wanted to do was to give a day off to the nurses and to all the personnel -- staff, the hospital staff -- and also to give them some more holidays --so I had them in uniform -- and little by little get rid of the so-called practical nurses and have trained nurses. And we didn't have great sources, we had only the American <?> school. Later on two very, very good schools were established for nurses, training nurses.
And Mossadegh, I must say, kept to his word, because one time a general came at 11:00 at night, and he wanted to visit his wife who had just had a baby, and I said no. The doorkeeper came and said, "He's making a scandal at the door." And I said, "Let him." So I went to him and I talked to him. I said, "You cannot make such a noise in a hospital. Your wife is not the only patient here." He said, "You are a dog attached to this place. You are not a matron. I'm going to have you kicked out of this place." I said, "Okay, do that."
So he went next day to Mossadegh-os-Saltaneh and complained to him, "Why is that girl, that woman...?" And he <Mossadegh> said, "You know, I cannot say anything, because even if I went to the hospital, I have to submit to the rules she has." And so the man came the next day with flowers and stockings -- nylon, which was very rare -- and he said, "I'm sorry." I said, "Look here, I'm going to speak very plainly to you. You know a patient, whether he is a surgery patient or a gynecology patient, has some natural needs in daytime. How can they satisfy that if the room is always full of visitors?"
So anyway. And Mossadegh was very, very good. As I'm...
Q. Why was he involved in this? What was the involvement of Dr. Mossadegh in the hospital?
A. Because he was the head. You know, the Mossadegh Najmiyeh Hospital was a foundation by his mother, Najm-os-Saltaneh, <who> was a princess, a very high princess. And he was the head of the endowment of Moghoufeh. And people knew him because he was, after all, one of the great, important people of Iran. So he thought if he went directly to him, he will immediately kick me out of the hospital.
Q. So what was the role of his son?
A. He was a surgeon. He was the ... how shall I say? ... he was the director of the hospital, he was the medical ... head of the medical part of the hospital. And we had many other doctors. We had Dr. Mo'aven. And I tell you something, you asked me ... we had Prof. Adl, we had Dr. Vosoughi. All the best doctors used to come there.
One day Dr. Mo'aven -- a brilliant surgeon, who had been put in prison by Reza Shah because he was friends with foreigners, which was forbidden -- he became <a> member of parliament for Saleh, somewhere near Kermanshah. And I was still very naive at the time; I thought that political life in Iran was like Europe: that you had political parties, there were elections, and parties ... and members of such-and-such parties went to parliament and decided on the policy and things. So I asked him, I said, "What is your party?" He laughed, he said, "My pocket." Then he said, "The other pocket." And he said, "And Dr. Mossadegh." And he brought out a little syringe for shots. He said, "You know, Dr. Mossadegh (that's the big Mossadegh) is member of parliament and whenever somebody stands up to him or something doesn't please him, he faints." And of course he didn't believe in this fainting. "So I give him some injections to revive him."
Anyway, I wasn't very, very political-minded at the time. There was a big fight between ... Qavam-os-Saltaneh, who became prime minister and he had founded a party called The Democrat. And he had an enormous fight with the Communists. First of all, he had brought in two or three Communist ministers, including Dr. Keshavarz.
And I remember one day they had a terrible fight in the streets. And Mozzafar Firouz, who was deputy prime minister and also a cousin of Mossadegh, he came and very, very imperiously said, "Open the door." I said, "Why?" "My children (that means the people of my party) have been wounded and they have to be hospitalized." I said, "I'm sorry. We cannot have that. This is the result of fighting, street fighting. This is a hospital for surgery, for midwifery and we cannot have you." So he insisted. I said, "Okay, you wait."
And he came and we had to put mattresses .. we had plenty of mattresses ... in the cellars -- we brought in the mattresses, put them there, put these people -- and I called Prof. Adl to come. And these men started, you know, showing off. We had ... across <from> our hospital was the famous Park Hotel, you know, which was a very elegant gathering place. "Send to the Park Hotel for dinner for the children. Give them dinner!" I said, "Well, you know, in a hospital the kitchen closes at the most at seven o'clock. I have nothing." They said, "Well, you must feed them."
I said, "You like them so much, go and buy them some food at the Park Hotel. They deserve it." And he started giving.... I said, "Look here, you shut up! I don't care who you are. And this fighting wasn't so wonderful, because all of your so-called children are wounded at the back, which shows that they were running away and not facing the fight." He stopped. He wanted also to complain to Mossadegh, to his cousin; it didn't come to anything.
That was the atmosphere. And I wasn't very much interested in politics. I didn't understand much of it.
I was expecting my third child and I had a little.... What strikes me, what impressed me at the time -- we had two chaps from the foundation....
Q. Which foundation?
A. Najmiyeh Foundation, the foundation of which Dr. Mossadegh was the head, founded by his mother. They had <a> hospital, this hospital, in which they were always supposed to have ten free patient<s> and they had also houses and all that, the revenue of which went to this foundation. The foundation was originally made for ten people -- ten poor people -- to be looked after medically. Also, it was ... they had built many other rooms, and it was rented as a hospital to any doctor who wanted to take it, provided that he treated also the poor patients for nothing. But the foundation paid him ten tomans a day for every patient -- that was three thousand tomans a month. Okay.
When I came back to the hospital, I asked Mossadegh-os-Saltaneh .... It was only for men we had the room, ten beds, with men only. It was over the kitchen, and it was the only place where we could have hot water, because there was a big range in the kitchen, where they had hot water. So I asked him to let me build on the terrace a few showers, because these people, these peasants, came full of lice and we had epidemics of typhus in Iran. Because the Polish ... the Poles who had been kept in camps in Russia were going through Iran to be settled all over the world, and they stayed there and they brought all kinds of diseases with them. We had many, many cases of typhus and it was spread, you know, through lice and we didn't want to have that. To say nothing of the fact of having a young mother find lice on her bed. And he refused.
Then I asked him to allow me to increase the number of beds for poor people, because Tehran was in a terrible situation economically. There were so many people from the provinces, the country, and everybody was so poor -- life was very expensive. And we had <a> little fight over that. I said, "When your mother founded this hospital, Tehran was a small city. People used to walk, there <were> no cars. I'm sure if she lived now, she would understand that you have to increase." "No, no, no, nothing doing." Okay.
Then these two chaps that came from the foundation: one came every day to count, because we had to write the name of all the free patients; and the other one was what you call a kind of bailiff -- every big landowner (Mossadegh was a big landowner) had someone who looked after the land. This fellow, always when he came he would look, you know, all around, he will ask questions. He was a kind of spy and I didn't like that at all. In the end Mossadegh found him out that he wasn't so good and they separated.
But then there were two nurses also, two sisters, who I didn't like very much, and one day I told Mossadegh, I said, "Dr. Mossadegh, you wanted me back in your hospital; it's because I suppose you trust me." He said, "Of course I trust you." I said, "Why do you spy on me?" He said, "I don't." I said, "Yes, you do." I said, "Anything you want, ask me." I said, "You know...." He said, "No, no, I'm sorry." I said, "No, please, ask me." I said, "You know, the trouble with a spy is that when he doesn't find anything to spy on, he invents. And this is where the trouble starts." He said okay and these two nurses were ... I told them too, I said, "You know, you work here, you don't spy please. Why there is to spy here? It's a hospital; I'm running it, and it's open, there is no underground activity." That was that.
So I realized that Mossadegh, like many important people -- the Shah in his way and others that I don't want to name -- they are, especially if they are a little bit, how shall I say, dictatorial (a little bit ... they have great authority), they are always in the hands of the entourage, the so-called entourage. You know the famous saying of one of the Roman emperors -- they were called Caesars -- he said, "Rome (that means his whole empire) trembles before ... at the name of Caesar, Caesar trembles before his wife, and both his wife and he tremble before the child." You see? And this is very, very ... I think it demonstrates the fact that all big men have this weakness, which we don't realize, to give part of their will and authority to people who don't deserve it.
Q. How about...?
A. You see. And these people are the ones who cause all the trouble.
Q. How about Qavam-os-Saltaneh? Did you ever meet him?
A. Yes, I met him. I met him. No, I met him at.... Yes, he became prime minister. I must say here that I was great friends with Dr. Iran Alam and her sister, Touran Alam, and also their mother, Khanom Amir-Alam, and Dr. Amir-Alam were like mother and father to me when I came back to Iran. And Amir-Alam was the eldest daughter of Vosough-od-Dowleh, who was the brother of Qavam-os-Saltaneh. And whereas Vosough-od-Dowleh was such a courteous, nice and wonderful person and a poet, his brother was very, very stern and very strict. And the first thing he did when he became prime minister, he said, "No Iranian official is allowed to accept invitations from foreign embassies." Okay.
The only time I met him was when his nephew, Ali Vosough, married.... Qavam-os-Saltaneh was prime minister and there was a big, big wedding reception at the officer's club to which I was invited with other wives. I was a young, a very young woman at the time....
Q. How about Razmara?
A. Razmara. Well, I also met him from far. Razmara was head of general staff when we were the first time in Pakistan. And he was the one who sent the cable to my husband, "Come back immediately because you've been appointed Chief of G-2." To which my husband replied, "Please explain to His Majesty that I'm much too young in rank and in experience, and I'll make so many enemies in this job that I will be paralyzed." And he accepted. He liked my husband very much.
I met him from far as prime minister. I remember him as a small man, always very clean-looking -- he always seemed to be coming out of his bath. Very energetic-looking. But I don't know him; I think I never spoke even to him. No.
Q. And General Zahedi?
A. No. I never met -- or perhaps I met him once, I don't remember. I don't remember at all, unless I met him at some reception, but not to speak to.
Q. How about the former Queen Soraya?
A. Well, Queen Soraya -- you know, as we were more ... my mother-in-law was lady-in-waiting to Princess Shams, and we used to go to the ... very often, to the Court, and when my husband was Chief G-2 during the time of Mossadegh, the Shah used to invite us to private parties, which lasted usually twelve hours.
Q. Which lasted what?
A. Lasted twelve hours, you know. For instance, if we went for dinner at eight o'clock, then we finished by having breakfast at Shahvand in Sadabad at eight o'clock to see the sun rise.
A. It was <a> very, very childish party. We used to dance, play musical chairs, have dinner, play guessing games. It was really not at all the orgies of oriental court. It was very nice.
And I didn't like Soraya because I found her very, very cold, very distant. I never spoke to her until they came on a state visit to India, where we were. They stayed three weeks, and so we traveled with them all over the place. She didn't impress people very well because when we came back, their last ... they left India through Bombay.... And we were coming back by train to Delhi (my husband and I) and there was a lady -- her husband had been the former Divan of the Nawab Rampour, that was a Moslem, and he was a deputy, a member of parliament, of the Indian parliament, and his wife had been appointed as lady-in-waiting to Soraya during this stay -- and she was absolutely kicking mad. She said, "She has no manners." She said this. She did ... she upset all the time the protocol; for instance, when you had to wear long and formal dress, she would say, "No, I don't have the patience."
The mayor of Bombay was a woman and she gave a fantastic reception, lunch time, while the Shah was visiting some navy unit -- that was a lunch for ladies. I think even the governor was a woman, I don't remember very well. Anyway, Iranians ... we Iranians were very few. Besides the Queen, there were her two ladies-in-waiting, and there was me. Perhaps the wife of the ambassador, our ambassador, I'm not sure. Anyway, the result was that I was seated quite close to the Queen and this Indian lady. And the Indian women have a very, very strong feeling of their importance when they acquire public office. She made a speech, a very long, nice speech. I think there were at least a thousand women there, because it was under a tent. Many, many women, perhaps five hundred, I don't know, I have no way to judge. And then everybody waited for the Queen, the Empress, to get up and reply to this speech. She sat like that.
I talked to Mrs. Yazdanpanah, I said, "Khanom, tell Her Majesty to reply." So, "Your Majesty, will you reply?" "No." I said, "Why?" So, and like that I said, "Please, I beg you, Your Majesty, do get up and reply." She said, "What shall I say?" I said, "Say thank you. Say a few words, you've been impressed by..." No. She got up and she went. Ah....
And so, during all that trip from Bombay to Delhi until night, that woman, the lady-in-waiting, she said, "Yes, she has no manners. <unclear> Why did she refuse to wear formal clothes? If she'd been invited to Buckingham Palace, do you think she would do as she wished?" I said, "Well, you know, the climate, and...." And the woman said, "No, no, no." I said, "Well...." I had to defend my Queen. Anyway.
But I pitied her very much because I think she was the woman that the king loved the most and she couldn't give him a child.
Q. Is that true, that he really loved her?
A. Oh yes! He was ... he was very much.... My mother-in-law told me a little anecdote. She said that they were having lunch ... small, a few people.... (And I saw myself at one of these evenings, you know, where she smoked.) Soraya smoked and the king was like a young lover, you know, he would look through all his pockets, immediately give her the lighter, you know, and she was very.... He adored her. And my mother-in-law said, "I was mad." I said, "What happened?" She said, "You know, we started to speak about ... for a man ... the Shah said ... to ask him what was his ideal woman, beauty in woman. And he said, 'Well, I'm very lucky because the Queen is exactly the kind of woman that I like.' And she said, 'Well, I cannot say the same for Your Majesty.'" Now whether she was joking or she was serious, my mother-in-law was very, very mad.
And then she went and wrote this stupid book -- so silly, you know. Practically saying that they were so poor that she had to vacuum.... No, she didn't say that, but I mean it was very, very low.
Q. But yet you know there are people who compare her very favorably to Queen Farah and say that the Shah really began to go astray after he married Farah.
A. They have to prove that. I don't know. The thing is that when Soraya was the queen she was very popular, because Iranians are very sensitive to beauty, you know. She was beautiful. She's not my kind of beauty, I don't like cold people. She was very shy, actually. I remember when I went ... in Bombay, we went to another lunch for ladies at Poonam, she was extremely shy. I don't think she was proud and arrogant, she was shy.
And I know another thing is that she hated to be a queen.
Q. She hated to be queen?
A. She several times tried -- that's what they said, my mother-in-law said -- tried to persuade the king to abdicate and go live abroad.
A. Yes. She didn't like it at all. I must say that the life of the Court and all the intrigues between ... the Shah had too many brothers and too many sisters, you know, that's not good for a king. That's not good at all.
So I think she is to be pitied because she didn't succeed in giving a child, she didn't succeed.... Another thing, which I know that for a fact: she wasn't very kind to the Shah's daughter, Shahnaz. And that, for those who knew it, wasn't very pleasant. Because the Shah, he liked his daughter so much, I was witness to that. And then he stopped, he completely cut her off because Soraya didn't like her. This wasn't very nice.
Q. What was it like in the Court? I mean, there are all kinds of rumors and stories, but nobody really....
A. No, I'll tell you something. I was recently at a lunch with people who were very close to the Court, and they started saying things which surprised me very much. And they said, "Where were you? Why don't you know these things?" I told them, "First of all, I was working practically all my life. I worked. Then I had my children." My children went before my work, but still, I mean, I devoted my time to my work, to my job, to my close friends. I wasn't the type ... I liked social life, I liked to put <on> beautiful dresses and to go to a ball, and to go to an embassy or to a big important reception, but it wasn't my life, you know. And my husband never discussed his job with me except on things that were common knowledge, public knowledge. That was for my safety. And also because we had many other subjects of conversation.
So I told these women, I said, "Look here, I was always working. I never was in the confidence of people who gossiped, because I never liked gossip, you know." Well, small, as an English friend of mine used to say, juicy bits of gossip, well, that was, you know, not.... But real gossip, you know, I mean, judging people and accusing them without any, any, any proof.... I remember one day when I was still very naive, a friend of mine, an acquaintance, said, "Well, how do you know, you don't live in this town -- so-and-so sleeps with so-and-so?" I said, "Were you there when they did it?" I said, "You know, you can find yourself in circumstances, depending on what, who watches that, they can say that you were very bad or you're very, very innocent."
And beside I hated this spreading of rumors and all that. I remember a few days before ... a few months before this revolution started, I begged them, I said, "You know you're serving Khomeini because you are like a -- how do you say? -- like tabl, a drum. He beats on you and you produce a sound." So I wouldn't know, at all, all the rumors. I knew what my mother-in-law told me; she used to go very often. I used to go to Princess Shams' every two weeks -- she had a reception with a lecture or music, and things like that. The only time we were, I shouldn't say intimate, we were going to the Shah's Court, that was during that short period <when> my husband was Chief G-2 during Mossadegh's time. Otherwise....
Q. When he was head of the SAVAK?
A. Well, we used to go, but you know, after that, from 1958, our Court became very, very formal.
Q. What became?
A. The Court became very, very formal. I'll give you a small example. The first visit abroad of Queen Farah with her husband was to inaugurate an art exhibition in Paris -- Persian art, 7,000 years of art. My eldest daughter was a student at the time in Paris. And Parviz Adl was responsible, the counselor for press affairs. He asked, he said (because he liked my husband very much) he asked my daughter to be one of the hostesses at this museum where the exhibition was. And the Queen came and she saw Sa'ideh -- she's a bit older, I mean they always followed each other in the same school with two years of difference. She came back and said, "Sa'ideh, is that you?" She was extremely nice, she said to Jahanbani, "I want Sa'ideh Pakravan to be invited to all the receptions that she can attend, except the Elysee and things like that."
And when she came back, all the officials -- it was the custom, the protocol -- used to go to the airport to meet ... to greet their majesties. She was shaking hands with somebody, after she shook hands with me, and she turned, she said, "You know, I saw Sa'ideh very often in Paris." I said, "Yes, I know. Your Majesty has been extremely kind."
And, as a young girl, as a student, whenever my husband came to Paris, he used to take her out for dinner with Madame <?>, who was a friend of hers and the head of the Franco-Iranian Association. So whenever she saw my husband, she used to wink at him, you know, to say, "Remember, I was a student and now...." I remember he saw her, long before she became a queen, he said, "Oh by the way, you know, I had dinner with Madame <?> and Farah." I said, "Oh, how is she?" He said, "She didn't speak very much, I suppose she was very ... she is a young girl, she was very impressed by a general with white hair. But I think she has a very, very, very strong personality." That was before she became a queen.
So ... but after that, she wasn't allowed to speak to anybody. She would ... they were very impressed when the Queen of England came to Iran on an official visit, <and> after the dinner she and Prince Philip just mingled with people. Then I heard from the British ambassador, he said, "The royal family, every member, makes a point of seeing as many people and talking to as many people as possible to give that feeling of, 'Ah, I spoke to Princess Margaret or to the Queen or to Prince Philip.'" And the Shah was very, very much impressed by that so after that he used to do that, he used to.... But always he kept a distance between himself and the Iranians.
Q. This was after '58?
A. Oh, this was in the '60s. She came ... the Queen....
Q. No, you said the Court had become more formal.
A. Yes, '58, '59. It becomes very, very formal. Later on I heard that Hossein Loghman-Adham had been sent to England -- to the Court of England -- to learn real royal protocol. And they really had too much of it. The Court became very stiff, very formal, and it wasn't.... I don't like protocol. I like protocol a little bit, because it's easier when you know exactly where you stand in official circumstances, but not so that it's stifling. No. What's the point? After all, we're all human beings, and I think we can respect a person without being completely paralyzed by all kinds of rules. Well, that was that. What else?
Q. Is there anything you'd like to say about Princess Ashraf?
A. You know, Princess Ashraf, she had better relations.... She had -- how shall I say? -- my sister knew her better. I, when Princess Shams was the vice president of the Iranian Red Cross (the president was the Shah himself), she married against ... her second marriage was against the will of her brother, with Mr. Boushehri. So she was deprived officially of all her titles and of course all the privileges she had; and the vice presidency of <the> Red Cross was given to Princess Ashraf. And I was a member of that, I used to go there ... until the Shah forgave his sister, and she came back to Iran, and he wanted to give her back her job as vice president of <the> Red Cross.
And at one time I was ... so in the end I left. I don't remember if I told Princess Ashraf or if I had somebody tell her that "I cannot be in this false position. My mother-in-law is lady-in-waiting. I am with you. Anything that happens between the two, you will feel that it's either I or my mother-in-law who has been making some trouble."
She was extremely nice, and I must say that mostly I found out how nice she was when I became responsible in part of tourism in Iran. She wanted me very much to cooperate with her husband, Dr. Boushehri, who also had a kind of private tourist organization and an agency. She was extremely nice. Then when we came to Paris she was very, very nice. She tried to smooth our way, she tried ... she knew that we were not familiar with all the intrigues of the Court, so several times she told me to do this and that, to be careful. She was extremely nice. Now, here she is.
I pity her terribly because I think the book she wrote, CFaces in the MirrorD, is a beautiful book. It's not always truthful, unfortunately, because I suppose that nobody is ever truthful. But, I think what happened to her, you know ... she was ... as a twin very attached to her brother. She lost her son, who was a wonderful person, Shahriar, a wonderful person. She lost her brother and she lost her mother. They say her mother was like mummified -- never mind, it was her mother. And she helps, I hear -- I haven't seen her since the revolution -- but I hear that she helps Iranians very, very much.
I think one thing that cannot be denied her is her courage. They accuse her of having taken money, but a friend of mine told me something very interesting. She said in ... when Mossadegh was prime minister, he asked the Shah to send his sister away, and she was practically kicked out of the country with nothing. Her ... the son that was killed, assassinated, was in treatment -- he was a baby, he was a small baby -- he was in treatment in Switzerland because they suspected that he had TB -- tuberculosis. And Mossadegh cut -- that's the story -- cut the money to send to him until he went and had the proof that it was true.
And anyway, that friend of mine, who was very close to Princess Ashraf, said that one day she went to see her in a very small hotel where she stayed in Paris. And she had put a few knick-knacks, jewelry, very cheap jewelry, on the bed. And she told my friend, she said, "You know, I was kicked like a servant from the house. I wasn't even allowed to take any of my things. This is all I was able to bring with me. And my friend in Paris helped me to live, because I have no money at all. But I swear in front of you, that if ever the situation turns back, I shall become a very, very, very rich person."
You know, one thing that people always forget is that no one of the royal family has received a proper, formal higher education. When you remember that, that Ashraf is a self-made woman -- she tells this in her book, her father didn't want her to go to university. She's really intelligent. She learned French beautifully, she learned English beautifully. She learned many, many things. She was too eager, because she wanted to serve her brother. Anyway, it's very sad. I have no judgment there because I think a person who has suffered as much as she has suffered, I shouldn't judge her.
Q. How about the former queen, Queen Farah?
A. Queen Farah -- I knew her as a young child. I knew her father very well, her mother. I think it's funny that she was an only child, her father used to call her "crown of my head." And her mother's real name is Taj-ol-Molouk, it means the "crown of the kings." I don't know, I really cannot say because my impression was that she was very popular in Iran. I never saw her informally since she became queen, except once -- no, I'm forgetting that when she came to Pakistan ... they came several times.
The first time she came, after those who came to greet her ... she settled in the house that was put at their disposal. She called me in and we walked a little bit. She was very fond of trees and she asked me about trees in Pakistan which are beautiful. She asked me about several things. But I was never close to her, so I really cannot say.
I saw her last June. I see her mother when she's in Paris. I saw Queen Farah last June. It was the first time we saw each other after the revolution and we cried. She kissed me, I kissed her, we cried. Then she said that she wants to live a very, very retired life with her children. She doesn't want to mix in anything, in any public things. She expressed a wish to live in Paris, in France, because the French are always very kind to her. You know, I told her, I said, "You are a bit their queen. They always call you 'Farah Diba'." "Yes," she laughed. She likes France.
But people say that she organized all these big festivals, all these big events that, in the end, drove people mad -- the coronation, the Persepolis. I remember when Persepolis ... when there was a talk to celebrate the 25 centuries of continuous monarchy in Iran, I was a member of the small committee called the reception committee and CTashrifatD <protocol> and all that. And we used to have meetings every week and we never achieved anything. We always changed our plans. In the end, I think we all agreed that what we would ... the way we would celebrate this big, important event in our history would be by having an enormous congress of orientalists in Iran -- which <would> have been much better than to have what we had. Then I went to Pakistan, so they changed it.
But I remember that Mr. Boushehri ... that means ... Amir-Homayoun, his name was, an old man, who presided over our meetings. One day we told him, "Tell His Majesty that we think that this and that." He said, "Me tell His Majesty that the committee said ... has this kind or this opinion?" We said, "Yes, of course. Why not?" He said, "Never." I said, "Look here, Mr. Boushehri. If His Majesty wanted to settle everything himself, why should he have committees? If he wants committees, it's because we were supposed to give advice." "No, no, no. Nothing doing."
I really wouldn't know what kind of a person she <Queen Farah> is. I am sure that she ... she was impatient. I remember one day we saw her before we left for Pakistan, and she said, "I'm so eager to help His Majesty; I'm so eager to make Iran known all over the world for our history, our civilization, our arts. But I have often the impression that people don't follow me. I don't know why." So she felt that.
You know there was a lack of understanding of what really people want ... personally, for instance. Although I'm not left-minded or anything, but practical. I think that she should never have allowed them to set a school for her children -- apart. The Crown Prince should have gone to a public school; he should have been kicked and he should have kicked. And I remember one day, I criticized that in front of somebody who was close to her, and they said, "Oh well, but you know in this school they have the son of the gardener and the son of the cook and the son of the...." I said, "Look here, they still are the gardener of the Court and the cook of the Court. He must meet real people. He should go to a public school. He should have friends who are not from the Court," and all that. I think that was a mistake.
I really don't know what part of ... what to say about her, because she was very popular. What strikes me now, when they say, "Well, Khomeini started to make trouble in the middle of the '70s" and all that, is that all the propaganda against the royal family started much, much, much earlier than that. When the Queen had her baby at this hospital in the south of the city, I was worried, I said, "My God, they will say that it's not her child." Luckily the child looked so much like his father that they stopped saying that.
But I remember the love of the royal family. I remember I was shopping, and I saw a young agriculturalist worker, you know, one of these peasants, walking ... coming across the other way and just crying, crying: "Khanom, Khanom!" I thought it was a beggar, something happened. I said, "What's the matter with you?" And I saw all the cars having <flashing?> their light<s> and hooting and honking. I was in my ... you know, concentrating on what I was doing. I said, "What's the matter?" He said, "Khanom, it's a son, it's a son!" I said, "Oh, good for you," I thought he had a son. He said, "No, Khanom, our Shah has an heir." The people were so happy when they heard "an heir".
Then, very, very insidiously, they started having small rumors here and there. There was, you know, there was somewhere some people who were spreading these rumors. I remember they said that the young prince was deaf-mute. And then my husband used ... at the time when he was directing security, he used to have an audience with the Shah two times a week. And in summer it was in Sa'dabad, and he said ... where it was more relaxed ... "And this time the little boy was on his father's knee, and he spoke French, and he said this and that." I said, "I knew he wasn't mute." But I asked my husband, I said, "So he's not a mute?"
He said, "What is that?" I said, "Don't you know, you, head of security, that they have spread the rumor that the Shah cannot speak, and then they said that his hands were like those of a duck. And they said that the Queen's ears were so large that they had to cut them." They said absolutely anything, anything -- the most fantastic rumors. And they would spread them, let it remain in the people, and of course it <spread> from the higher rank of the society down to the smallest village; and it was embellished and enlarged and all that. There were many, many rumors, you know. It was fantastic. And we are always ready to believe everything, because I always say, "Don't forget that we are the country of a one thousand and one nights' tales." We like tales. Especially when they concern kings and queens and princesses.
Q. Did you ever meet Mr. Ala, Hossein Ala?
A. Yes, many times. You know, Hossein Ala was a kind of ... he was always in reserve whenever the government was upset, and until they found a new prime minister he would fill the interim. He was very nice. He was, you know, he was known for his puns, and he was, I think he was quite nice. In the last years of her life, I knew his wife very well -- and his mother. He was also a man of ... what we always called, you know, very courteous, very learned, and very nice.
Q. Do you know the circumstances under which he was sort of discharged from the Ministry of Court?
A. No. No, I don't remember. When was that?
Q. He said after the 15th of Khordad riots, he and some others had met together and had discussed...?
A. I don't, I don't know really. I wouldn't know. I really don't remember.
One thing I can tell you, because I know -- I knew, I mean, Ala, if not personally, I mean to speak to him or to discuss with him, he would never ... he was the type who wouldn't discuss with a woman of my age. He was of the old school. But I can tell you that I don't believe he was the type to intrigue against the Shah. I don't know. It was in '62, '63?
Q. This is what is said, yes.
A. I don't know, I really don't know.
Q. And Dr. Eghbal? Did you know him?
A. Ah! I knew him very, very well. He used to call me "Khanom, Khanom-ha" <lady of the ladies>. I met Dr. Eghbal first -- you know he was a physician, specialist in the parasitic diseases and he was ... he used to come to bring his patients to Najmiyeh Hospital. And at the time he became ... I used to pull his leg because he became minister of post and telegraph, and then he became minister of things that had nothing to with his specialty. And as a prime minister ... I wouldn't ... I know he remained a long time prime minister.
If he achieved anything special, I cannot say. At least he kept the country safe and sound. Whenever he was prime minister -- I think he became prime minister twice, I'm not sure -- people felt safe; and I mean every class of people, not only the top class. Things were running smoothly without any big declarations, big movements. I knew him very well. I'm glad he died before all the troubles started, because he was so devoted to his country and to public service. He was ambitious, that's sure.
I remember he had a terrible fight with Mansour, they nearly came to <a> fist fight at the reception at the officer's club. And a few days later there was a dinner party at the French Embassy, and I was seated beside him, and he described to me all that big trouble. And he said, "You know, it's fantastic! I trained Mansour. I made him what he was. How dare he to speak to me like that in public?"
Then after dinner he took me aside, on a small sofa, and the whole evening he talked to me. I was so embarrassed because I said, "My goodness, they will think that I'm ... he's speaking about my husband's job or something like that." And everybody was careful not to come near. And he said, "I will send you...." He said, "You know, I cannot stand to be humiliated like that. After all, I have held every high office in this country."
And the next day he sent me, by messenger, a booklet in three languages (French, English, and Persian) listing all his decorations, all his career and all that. And when we ... you know what we do, what we call "post-mortem" after the reception, my husband and I in the car, I told him, "You know what Dr Eghbal told me?" He said, "No, no, no. He didn't hold 'all the highest, higher offices in this country.' He never became chief-of-staff.!"
The key was, I think he ... when he had this fight with Mansour it was over the sudden increase of the price of kerosene and gas in the middle of winter. My husband was mad, because he went to the Shah and said, "How can you allow that, when people, three-quarters of this country, are heated, cook their food and everything with kerosene, with petrol and oil, allow them to increase it -- double it suddenly?" And there was an ECAFE <UN Economic Commission Asia Far East> conference in Tehran, and there was a reception for them. "And Eghbal told me that.... Mansour was prime minister of course. Eghbal went to Mansour and said, "You know, I think you've been a bit harsh. Don't you think that you should at least telephone to me as head of the National Oil Company to see if the time is good for such an increase?"
Q. You mean this was done without the knowledge of the head of the oil company, <the> head of the SAVAK?
A. No, no, no. No, no, no. Because my husband, he said.... I remember the Shah saw Hassan, and he said, "What have you done to the prime minister? He came almost crying here." And Hassan said, "Well, I had a big fight with him." Because Mansour used to tell me, "Khanom, I love your husband. If I had been a woman I would have snatched him from you." Well -- compliments.
My husband went to him and he made a big scene. He said, "I'm in charge of the security of this country. Do you know how much security depends on the well-being of people? And here you go, in the middle of the winter of Iran -- which is a very harsh and bad one -- increasing, doubling the price of oil, domestic oil and also of gas. Do you want a revolution?" And you know, people were so mad. There was a saying that taxi-drivers used to say: "I would like to drink Mansour's blood with a small spoon to last my pleasure." And he was assassinated by these Fada'iyan-e Eslam, which ... who are ... and nobody seems to attach any importance to that part of the Moslem brotherhood.
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