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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 December, 2004, 12:26 GMT
On Iran
On Sunday, 12 December, 2004, Sir David Frost interviewed Farah Pahlavi, former Empress of Iran

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Farah Pahlavi
Farah Pahlavi, former Empress of Iran

DAVID FROST: It's now 25 years since the Shah of Iran was deposed in one of the most dramatic overthrows of power of the 20th century.

Before he was forced to relinquish the Peacock throne I interviewed him at Persepolis the ancient symbol of Persian kingship and I asked him what was the common bond that united the Iranian people


With months the Islamic revolution headed by Ayatollah Khomema changed everything and the Shah and his family were forced to flee Iran, never to return, never yet to return anyway.

I interviewed the Shah again in exile in Panama in January 1980 and he died six months later in Egypt.

At his side throughout the whole of the last 21 years of his life was his Empress, Farah Pahlavi. Ma'am, welcome. Very good to have you here.

FARAH PAHLAVI: Good morning, thank you for inviting me.

DAVID FROST: And seeing your husband, your late husband there. When you met him, how long was it between ... was it love at first sight?

FARAH PAHLAVI: Well I must say that of course I always loved the King as a citizen, the loyal citizen to her King. But after many meetings of course this love turned from a person to his king to a love of a woman to a man.

DAVID FROST: And I suppose perhaps one of the happiest moments of your whole time together was when you were able to give birth to your first child who was a son, the son and heir that he so hoped for. That must have been a moment of ecstasy?

FARAH PAHLAVI: Yes, it was. It was a wonderful moment, not only for us but also for all our compatriots. And also so many moments of other happiness with my other children. And whatever happened positive for our country.

DAVID FROST: And when we were talking in that clip, I think probably looking back on it now, the Shah probably overestimated the power that the King had over the people and probably underestimated the power that the Mullahs had?

FARAH PAHLAVI: Well not being where we are now today, of course we think back and in spite of what has happened in Iran and the revolution and the 25 years, now we're looking back and with hindsight of course we could have seen the problems better, we maybe could have managed, the problems better

... And also it was a mistake from our part and also in the government and I guess the mistake of the people in the streets and many of the opposition that thought that Khomeni who had promised them paradise, will give them paradise. But unfortunately he opened the door to hell.

DAVID FROST: And at the same time, I mean, I suppose the two things people quoted a lot about that time were of course the activities of SAVAK and of corruption and so on.

But do you think the real problem, because this is something I ask prime ministers about, how do you keep in touch with what people are thinking and so on? And the answer is that they try, but with an absolute monarch, presumably people apart from you, tell a Shah what they think he wants to hear?

FARAH PAHLAVI: It's possible that around every power there are people who want to only give the good news. But we have to consider Iran in the context of that period. We had our big neighbour, the Soviet Union, who always dreamt to reach the warm waters of the Persian Gulf. We had religious fanatics and seeing the result now, we see that we didn't see some of the dissatisfactions.

But, having said that, when you look back in the last 25 years I can not stop myself comparing what was the situation of the Iranians 25 years ago and what was the situation of Iran, and also in the Middle East, and what would have happened if the revolution didn't happen. And I think really that with all the shortcomings we had, like any other country or any other regime, we didn't need such a horrible revolution.

DAVID FROST: Did you feel betrayed in that last year, year and a half, when you had been ousted from Iran and the United States' President Carter and others didn't really give you the support that you thought you'd earned?

FARAH PAHLAVI: Well Sir David, you know it was a very difficult time. And sometimes unbearable. But we had to survive, I had to survive for my husband, for my children, for my own dignity.

And you know, for foreign politics and power you can understand they are after what they think is their national interest. And after all a government had changed. But we at the same time received many letters and many supporting words from simple people, and that kept us going on. And I can consider that life is a struggle for all of us, no matter in what position we are relative to opposition.

DAVID FROST: Talking of struggle and so on, when I was doing the interview with the Shah in exile the Khomeni regime were announcing to the world that you as a family, and the Shah, had left Iran with 176 billion dollars. I presume that was not true?

FARAH PAHLAVI: Of course it's not true. It's all the propaganda of the regime and also all the opposition. The King was a patriot. He loved his country above all, and its people. And I must assure you now people realise that that was all propaganda and I hope today the same people who wrote or said about this supposedly billions, think of the corruption which exists today in Iran.

DAVID FROST: And finally, would you like George Bush, President Bush, would you like him to do in Iran what he's done in Iraq, and go in and have a regime change?

FARAH PAHLAVI: This is the most undesirable thing to happen. Iranians I think which are really desperate for change, desperate for freedom and democracy.

And I am sure with the help of the Iranians inside and outside of Iran, and with the help and the moral help of the freedom-loving people of the world, Iranian people will reach democracy and freedom.

NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.

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