In Tehran in 1976, two years before the Islamic Revolution, Her Imperial Majesty Empress Farah Diba Pahlavi penned 1001 Days: Memoirs of an Empress. Its seven chapters were instantly captivating–Should the King come…; Do not fault me for my love; What you must give; What makes a Persian?; Whether I am good or bad; Seek not water, seek thirst; and, I am a new wayfarer. This month, the empress’s memoirs are republished with a new foreword, reprinted in its entirety below in an exclusive first extract.
“Rereading this book after so many years brings me straight back to Iran, to my years as a teenager, my time as a young wife, a mother, and, of course, my time as the first crowned empress of Iran. At the time I wrote my memoir, I had no idea what was to come. I believed in family and duty, in goodness and integrity. I was committed to the rights of women and children, and I devoted myself to the betterment of my country. I did not want to lose sight of Iran’s glorious history, so revered by the entire world, but I wanted my compatriots to benefit from modernity, education, health, and industrialization as well. I look back on my energy and optimism, that of a much younger woman, and although so much has happened to me and to Iran since, my values and aspirations have stayed the same. My fate was, and will always be, tied to that of my country.
My love for Iran and my connection to her people has not faded with time, not in my life of exile. It sustains me today as it did then. My writings talk about the sense of duty I felt to my countrymen and women, to my husband in all his endeavors, and to my four children. It has not always been an easy undertaking. Time and world events have taken from me my husband, two of my children, and my country, yet I remain as resolute today as ever in my desire to serve, support, and promote Persian culture.
Iran stands at the crossroads between east and west, a river flowing with many cultures, currents, and contradictions. This river unites the two hemispheres with its unique cultural patrimony throughout history. Culture and art bring people together and create a bridge over this river, and the borders of nations. For me, this connection is almost as necessary as bread. I long for the river that is Iran to run again. Was I ready to become empress? I do not know how one can learn this rarest of callings, but my upbringing had taught me good manners and a sense of responsibility. I feel the same responsibility to this day, given all the privations suffered by Iranians in the past 41 years, especially the women and youth of Iran who continue to struggle under the weight of an intolerant theocracy. I dream now, as I did then, for better days in my beloved homeland. Poetry is omnipresent in Iran, so I include this poem by Hafez:
مرا عهديست با جانان كه تا جان در بدن دارم
هواداران كويش راجو جان خويشن دارم
With apologies to Hafez:
I have a covenant with my (beloved) Iran
As long as my soul is wrapped in my body
I hold as dear as my soul
Those seekers of his love thronging in his lane.
I believe in my heart that the seeds you sow with love and hope never die, and that light will overcome darkness. I will have faith in this forever. When I was 38 years of age, I expressed that one’s duty is to live like a real human being and not allow the vagaries of life to crush and humiliate the soul. I believe that now more than ever. I have tried to live as a proof of that.
Originally published in the November 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia