Sunday was the 35th birthday of Iran’s Princess Leila Pahlavi who died in June 2001 in London. Her death was by and large due to the pain of an exile that had become unbearable to her. Accordingly, the coincidence of her birthday with the days of Iran’s greatest national celebration, marking the beginning of spring could not have been more felicitous. This beautiful Princess renewed in our hearts a passion for the country she could not live without. She made us search in our souls and see that what was sine qua non to her was also absolutely essential to our own spiritual survival. Her tragic death made us more than ever aware of the urgency of liberating our homeland.
That day at her funeral in Paris with Iranians coming from all over the world and all walks of life carrying white roses (Princess Leila’s favorite), one could witness how the deep bottled up desire of Iranians for freedom was waiting for an opportunity to express itself. That day for me, like many of my compatriots was a watershed and start of entering into a pact with our own consciences to see our country’s white, peaceful revolution through. I personally owe that political awakening and inspiration to Princess Leila Pahlavi. Furthermore I know that I am not alone in such indebtedness. Her grave has turned into a pilgrimage for many patriotic Iranians who have a chance to visit Paris.
Princess Leila’s death could not have had such an impact upon our collective national consciousness if she was not the person she was during her short but intense life. All those who knew her testify to her being passionately in love with her country. She cherished her Iran with a heart receptive to the rich melodies of its magical poetry and a mind sensitive to its great and remarkable heritage.
In a book recently published by Prince Gholamreza about the legacy of the Pahlavi kings, “Mon Pere, mon Frere, Les Shah d'Iran“, several pages are devoted to the memory of his niece Leila. He describes how the late Princess used to “turn into a fireball when the topic of discussion reverted to Iran”. “Her love for Iran was boundless. Any fresh injury that Iran underwent in the hands of its tyrannical rulers cut her to the quick and deeply wounded her soul”. Her uncle writes of the great passion Leila had for Persian literature and history. The favorite gift she frequently made to people was a book of Rumi’s poetry.
And who better than this great Iranian mystic poet could understand what afflicted Princess Leila? Who could interest the intricacies of a fine sensibility better than the great philosopher who was weary of wickedness and in quest of true humanity? Rumi was well aware of maladies of the heart that gnaw and torment the soul worse than any physical affliction. He wrote of ailments that bewilder the wisdom of all the great physicians and frustrate the curing power of the most effective medicines:
The love that afflicts the heart Produces a pain different from all other maladies In love lies the clue To all the divine mysteries
And what we Iranians are offered today in the memory of our fragile Princess, is a lesson in love. In our struggle today to free Iran from the dark forces of tyranny, if we overlook the importance of this love, we shall deprive ourselves from one of the most effective weapons that has empowered all peaceful revolutions throughout the ages. Regardless of how much scientific accuracy we invest in our plan to free our country, without the indispensable ingredient of love we shall struggle in vain. Without the vitality of this love, all the persuasive arguments for political change shall merely emanate from sterile hearts and fall onto deaf ears. Without the moving power of this love, all the polished and elegant phraseologies are like sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. Without the unselfish camaraderie created by this love, Iranians will be more concerned with finishing one another off than putting an end to the monstrous dictatorship of the mullahs – one of the main reasons that the cause of freedom has failed in our country for the past 26 years.
Remembering our Princess, we should keep in mind the urgency of moving forward in our collective efforts for democratic transformation in our country. In such a journey our most powerful vehicle is love and devotion to our country. And this is the great legacy of Iran’s crown jewel, Princess Leila Pahlavi.