Son of ex-Iranian shah says brother had depression

Alireza Pahlavi was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at US home.

Updated: Jan 06, 2011, 12:47 PM IST

Boston: The oldest son of the former shah of Iran spoke of the "tragic consequences" of depression on Wednesday as he reacted to the suicide of his younger brother, who was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his Boston home.

Reza Pahlavi fought back tears as he remembered his brother, Alireza Pahlavi, 44, and spoke about how depression has taken a toll on his family. His sister, Leila, 31, was found dead in a London hotel room in 2001 after overdosing on barbiturates.

"My family has had its share of dealing with this debilitating illness, but we also realise it is not a tragedy isolated to us; we share this with the millions around the world, particularly those in our homeland, Iran, suffering from the same," Reza Pahlavi told reporters in Boston.

"We mourn today, the succumbing of our beloved Alireza to the weight, pain and daily burdens of this grave illness, and because of its robbing the promise of yet another life, unfulfilled," he said, then paused and put his hand over his mouth to hold back tears.

Reza Pahlavi said his brother, who died on Tuesday, had struggled with depression for years. He said Alireza had lived in Boston for the past several years, where he was completing studies and research on the history of the Persian civilisation. He had done postgraduate work at Harvard University in ancient Iranian studies and philology.

Their late father, former Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Reza Pahlavi said his brother was 12 and his sister 10 when the family had to leave Iran after the revolution, a "trauma" he said that "maybe never leaves them”.

He was in regular contact with his brother, most recently, about a week before his death, and said he had no indication of why he decided to end his life now.

Reza said his brother "left behind his final wishes”, including his request for his cremated remains to be released into the Caspian Sea. The family is finalising plans for a memorial service, which will likely be held in the Washington, DC, area.

The shah died of cancer in Egypt a year after fleeing Iran, and his family sought haven in exile with many members settling in the United States.

Reza Pahlavi divides his time between raising a family outside Washington and trying to burnish the Pahlavi dynasty image for a dreamed of return to Iran. He has spoken out in opposition to Iran`s clerical regime.

Reza Pahlavi said he did not want to discuss politics on Wednesday because of his brother`s death. When asked about his role in Iran`s opposition movement, he said, "My commitment to my country remains the same and I shall do whatever I can to help the cause of freedom and democracy in our homeland."

Bureau Report