- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 5, 2011

PARIS (AP) — The apparent suicide of the former shah of Iran’s youngest son has shocked and saddened Iranian emigres, many of whom were forced into exile by the Islamic Revolution and hoped their country’s monarchy could be restored one day.

The death of 44-year-old Alireza Pahlavi of a gunshot wound at his home in Boston brought home the personal tragedies of many who fled Iran more than three decades ago, and symbolized another lost link to the era of the Western-backed dynasty’s Peacock Throne.

In Iran, the official Islamic Republic News Agency carried a brief story that was the most-viewed early Wednesday. The website of the state-run Press TV released a factual account of the death under the headline: “Son of ex-dictator of Iran kills himself.”

The official website of older brother Reza Pahlavi, now an exiled opposition figure, announced the death, saying Alireza Pahlavi took his own life Tuesday, succumbing to his sorrows. He was the second of the four children of the late Shah Mohamed Reza Pahlavi and former Empress Farah Pahlavi to die in exile. A sister was found dead of a drug overdose a decade ago.


“This represents the story of millions of Iranians who left their country and live with a sense of solitude everywhere in the world … often treated like foreigners,” Ramin Shams Molkara, a distant family member, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

He said this was particularly true of the first generation of exiles who left Iran as the clerical regime swept to power in 1979 and who still live with a “feeling of abandonment.”

Shams Molkara, who lives in Paris, noted that Alireza Pahlavi was a low-profile member of the Pahlavi family and the only member living in Boston.

For years, Alireza Pahlavi had immersed himself in academia, and there was no apparent political link to the death.

Websites and social media outlets — which have become the lifeline for Iran’s opposition movements — also became the main forums for the reaction to the death.

Postings on Reza Pahlavi’s website constituted a study in the frustrations of Iranian emigres. Messages offered condolences, but many veered into rage that the Islamic theocracy ruling Iran remains strongly in control and how the emigres’ dreams of returning to Iran are still distant.

“Where is God’s justice? Hell is too nice of a place for those who took our country and caused this much suffering,” said one posting.

Many others expressed particular concern for the dethroned empress, Alireza’s mother.

The shah died of cancer in Egypt a year after fleeing Iran shortly before the defeat of his remaining forces in 1979. The new Islamic state quickly became an arch foe of the United States after militants — angered over American aid to the shah — stormed the U.S. Embassy and held 52 hostages for 444 days.

The shah’s family sought haven in exile with many members settling in the United States. Reza Pahlavi, the older brother, divides his time between raising a family outside Washington and trying to reburnish the Pahlavi dynasty image for a dreamed of return to Iran.

The monarch’s youngest son, Alireza, was born in Tehran, then attended schools in New York, Cairo and western Massachusetts before going on to study music as an undergraduate at Princeton University, ancient Iranian studies as a graduate student at Columbia University and postgraduate work at Harvard University.

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