DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (TNS) — Ashraf Pahlavi, the twin sister and staunch political ally of the last Shah of Iran, has died. She was 96.
While her official website didn’t give details, the New York Times reported she had died of old age at home somewhere in Europe. Pahlavi had lived in exile in the U.S. and France since the 1979 Islamic revolution overthrew Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and installed a clerical regime.
During her brother’s reign, she played an important role in domestic politics and on the international arena. A secret CIA document revealed more than a decade ago showed Pahlavi had a pivotal role in persuading the Shah to back the U.S.-led coup in 1953 that overthrew the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh.
By her own accounts, she was “inextricably tied” to her brother. The only family comment came from the Shah’s son, Reza Pahlavi.
“I have many memories from her from childhood up until now,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “In particular when it comes to her worries of Iran losing its standing after the Islamic Revolution and the flicker of hope she always had in her heart for Iran to be free and proud.”
Pahlavi was a proponent of women’s rights and founded organizations to support women and children in Iran. She served as chairwoman of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in 1965, and as Iran’s delegate to the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights.
Dubbed “the black panther” by the French media, a moniker she embraced, Pahlavi was described in a 1980 People Magazine article as “a woman of sharp tongue and daunting mien.”
Her autobiography, “Faces in a Mirror: Memoirs from Exile,” was published the same year after which she gradually retreated from the limelight.