Ashraf Pahlavi

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Ashraf Pahlavi

Princess Ashraf ol-Molouk Pahlavi (شرف پهلوی; Aŝraf Pahlawi; October 26, 1919 – January 7, 2016) was the twin sister of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran (Persia) and a member of the Pahlavi Dynasty. She was considered the "power behind her brother" and was instrumental in the 1953 coup which led to him taking the throne. She served her brother as a palace adviser and was a strong advocate for women's rights. Following the Iranian Revolution in 1979, she lived in exile in France, New York, Paris and Monte Carlo and remained outspoken against the Islamic Republic.


  • As I flew over the Shahyad monument, I saw that one corner was completely dark. A moment later I realized this black mass was a mass of Iranian women, women who had achieved one of the highest levels of emancipation in the Middle East. Here they were in the mournful black chador their grandmother had worn. My god, I thought, is this how it ends?
    • In a memoir, Faces in a Mirror, p. 205 (1981)
  • I found that many Americans did not even know that a country named Iran existed, let alone what it was like. Even among the diplomatic corps and among well-educated people, there was a vagueness about who the Iranians were or what the culture was, a tendency to confuse Iran with Iraq or to mistakenly assume that Iran is an Arab country simply because it is an Islamic nation. This fuzziness about the world outside is unique to America; among the intelligensia of European countries, for example, there is generally a higher level of awareness and information regarding cultures other than their own.
    • Faces in a Mirror, Prentice Hall, p. 100. (1980)
  • Persia’s backward conditions were relics of social traditions ... and the women for that matter weren’t ready to exchange the protection they had traditionally enjoyed for the unknowns of a new social status.
  • It is equally obvious and it became clear ... that no ruler can legislate a social revolution. He can implement the outward form of social change, but he cannot legislate change in the minds of the people. Stable and lasting change has to evolve slowly and gradually over a period of many generations. What signaled the beginning of the end ... was the radical modernization program, which virtually affected every aspect of Iranian life ... [including] the sweeping emancipation of women, which moved as it were 13 centuries in the course of three decades.

In Bitter American Exile, the Shah's Twin Sister, Ashraf, Defends Their Dynasty (1980)


In Bitter American Exile, the Shah's Twin Sister, Ashraf, Defends Their Dynasty, People (May 05, 1980)

  • Carter didn't kill my brother with his own hand, but he overthrew him. If Nixon were President, my brother would still be on the throne.
  • I don't need to pray. I have God in myside.
  • I don't care when I die, when you die, you die. What I don't want is to die in my bed. To be killed in an accident or to be shot is my preferred way to die.

Quotes about Pahlavi

  • You are very attractive, but the coat you're wearing makes me think you are either a very rich woman or a very rich man's mistress.
    • Marlon Brando, as quoted in Pahlavi's memoir Faces in a Mirror (1980), p. 129
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