Interview by: Oriana Fallaci – December 1973
Oriana Fallaci: You said in another interview: “If I could have my life over again, I’d be a violinist, a surgeon, an archaeologist or a polo player, anything except a king.”
Mohammed Reza Pahlevi: I don’t remember saying that, but if I did, I was referring to the fact that a king’s job is a big headache. But that doesn’t mean I’d be ready to give it up. I believe in what I am and in what I’m doing too much for that. Where there’s no monarchy, there’s anarchy, or an oligarchy or a dictatorship. Besides, a monarchy is the only possible means to govern Iran. If I have been able to do something, a lot, in fact, for Iran, it is owing to the detail, slight as it may seem, that I’m its king. To get things done, one needs power, and to hold onto power one mustn’t ask anyone’s permission or advice. One mustn’t discuss decisions with anyone. Of course, I may have made mistakes too. I too am human. However, I believe I have a task to carry out, a mission, and I intend to perform it to the end without renouncing my throne. One can’t foretell the future, obviously, but I’m persuaded the monarchy in Iran will last longer than your regimes. Or maybe I ought to say that your regimes won’t last and mine will.
Oriana Fallaci: Your Majesty, how many times have they attempted to kill you?
Mohammed Reza Pahlevi: Twice officially. Otherwise, God knows how many times. I’ll stay alive till such time as I’ll have finished what I set out to accomplish. And that day has been marked by God, not by those who wish to assassinate me.
Oriana Fallaci: Then why do you look so sad, Your Majesty?
Mohammed Reza Pahlevi: You may be right. At heart, maybe I’m a sad man. But it’s a mystic sadness, so I believe. A sadness that stems from my mystical side. I wouldn’t know how else to explain the circumstance, since I haven’t the slightest reason to be sad. I have now attained all I ever wished for, both as man and as king. I really have everything, and my life proceeds like a splendid dream. Nobody in the world should be happier than me and yet…
Oriana Fallaci: It must be terribly lonely to be a king instead of a man.
Mohammed Reza Pahlevi: A king who doesn’t need to account to anyone for what he says and does is unavoidably doomed to loneliness. However, I’m not entirely alone, because a force others can’t perceive accompanies me. My mystical force. Moreover, I receive messages. I have lived with God beside me since I was five years old. Since, that is, God sent me those visions.
Oriana Fallaci: Visions?
Mohammed Reza Pahlevi: Visions, yes. Apparitions.
Oriana Fallaci: Of what? Of whom?
Mohammed Reza Pahlevi: Of prophets. I’m really surprised you should ignore this. It is common knowledge that I’ve had visions. I’ve even put it down in my biography. As a child, I had two visions: one when I was five and one when I was six. The first time, I saw our Prophet Ali, he who, according to our religion, disappeared to return the day he would save the world. I had an accident: I fell against a rock. And he saved me: He placed himself between me and the rock. I know because I saw him. And not in a dream: in reality. Material reality, if you see what I mean. I alone saw him. The person who was with me didn’t see him at all. But nobody else was supposed to see him except me because… Oh, I fear you don’t understand me.
Oriana Fallaci: No, Your Majesty. I don’t understand you at all.
Mohammed Reza Pahlevi: That’s because you’re not a believer. You don’t believe in God and you don’t believe me. Lots of people don’t. Even my father didn’t believe me. He never did and always laughed about it. Besides, lots of people, albeit respectfully, ask me whether I have never thought it might be just a trick of the imagination. Childish imagination. My answer is: no. No, because I believe in God, and that I have been chosen by God to perform a task. My visions were miracles that saved the country. My reign has saved the country, and it has done so because God was on my side.
Oriana Fallaci: Did you have these visions only when you were a child, or when you were an adult too?
Mohammed Reza Pahlevi: Never as an adult: only dreams.
Oriana Fallaci: What dreams, Your Majesty?
Mohammed Reza Pahlevi: Religious dreams. Dreams in which I saw what would happen within two or three months… Some believe in reincarnation, I believe in premonitions. The day they shot me from a distance of six feet, it was my instinct that saved me. Because, instinctively, while the assassin was emptying his revolver at me, I performed what, in boxing, is known as shadow dancing. And, a fraction of an instant before he aimed at my heart, I moved aside, so that the bullet embedded itself in my shoulder. A miracle. I believe in miracles too. If you consider how I was hit by five bullets, one in the face, one in the shoulder, one in the head and two in the body, and that the last stuck in the barrel because the trigger jammed… You have to believe in miracles. I see you’re incredulous.
Oriana Fallaci: Your Majesty, is if true you’ve taken another wife?
Mohammed Reza Pahlevi: A stupid, vile, disgusting libel.
Oriana Fallaci: But, Your Majesty, you’re a Moslem. Your religion allows you to take another wife without repudiating Empress Farah Diba.
Oriana Fallaci: Yes, certainly. According to my religion, I could, so long as my wife grants her consent. And, to be honest, one must admit there are cases where… When a wife is ill, for instance, or when she refuses to perform her wifely duties, thereby causing her husband unhappiness… Let’s face it! One has to be a hypocrite or an innocent to believe a husband will tolerate that kind of thing. In your society, when something like that occurs, doesn’t a man take a mistress, or even more than one? Well, in our society, instead, a man can take another wife. So long as his first wife agrees and the court approves. Without those two conditions on which I have based my law, however, the new marriage cannot take place. So can you believe that I, my very self, would break the law by marrying in secret?