BOSTON—The youngest son of the late shah of Iran was found dead Tuesday of an apparent suicide at his home in Boston, after he had “struggled for years to overcome his sorrow,” his brother said.
“Once again, we are joined with mothers, father and relatives of so many victims of these dark times for our country,” the shah’s oldest son, Reza Pahlavi, wrote on his website in announcing the death of his brother, Alireza Pahlavi.
Boston police said they found a man dead from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound shortly after 2 a.m. Tuesday at a home in the city’s South End neighbourhood.
Police would not confirm the man’s identity, but a law enforcement official who was not authorized to release the man’s identity and asked for anonymity confirmed that the man was Alireza Pahlavi, 44.
Fardia Pars, who is close to Reza Pahlavi, said by phone from Paris that Alireza Pahlavi went into a deep depression following the death of his sister Leila in 2001, who was found in a London hotel room at age 31 after overdosing on barbiturates.
Alireza Pahlavi never recovered, Pars said.
“He became a different person,” he said.
Pahlavi’s depression “grew over time — his departure from Iran, living in exile, the death of his father and then his sister to whom he was very close,” said Nazie Eftekhari, who works in Reza Pahlavi’s office in Washington and is a close family friend.
“The deaths were a huge blow to him,” she said.
When Leila Pahlavi died, her mother said her daughter had been “very depressed.” Her doctor had said she had a history of anorexia, bulimia and psychological problems.
Pars said Alireza’s style even in taking his life was militaristic in nature, reflecting his royal background. “Like an army commander, he shot himself. He was a very disciplined man,” Pars said.
Former Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic revolution. He fled Iran and wandered from country to country, ill with cancer, and eventually died in Egypt in 1980.
Alireza Pahlavi was born in Tehran in 1966 and attended school there until 1979, according to a brief biographical sketch on the website of his mother, the former empress Farah Pahlavi.
From 1979 to 1981, Pahlavi attended schools in New York and Cairo, and from 1981 to 1984 he attended Mount Greylock Regional High School in Williamstown, Mass.
Pahlavi studied music as an undergraduate at Princeton University and ancient Iranian studies as a graduate student at Columbia University.
He also did postgraduate work at Harvard University in ancient Iranian studies and philology. Pahlavi was not studying at the university at the time of his death, a Harvard spokesman said Tuesday.
A police officer was seen late Tuesday afternoon going in and out of Pahlavi’s Boston apartment and speaking with family representatives, who would not talk to reporters.
A neighbour, Dan Phillips, 42, said he did not know Pahlavi personally but recognized his picture and described him as someone who was very social and “who always dressed very dapper.”
“I would always see him walking around here and he used to wear blue jeans and a blazer,” Phillips said.
Reza Pahlavi is based in the U.S. and has spoken out in opposition to Iran’s clerical regime.
It’s not clear how much weight exiled opposition forces have inside Iran, nor how many Iranians support the idea of a return to monarchy. Pahlavi said in 2009 that that is not his goal.
“I’m not here to advocate anything but . . . freedom and democracy for the Iranian people at first and I’ve determined this as my unique mission in life,” he said at the time.
Pahlavi will head to Boston on Wednesday, Eftekhari said, and she expected his mother, who’s in Paris, to go as well.
Eftekhari said the family asks to be allowed to mourn privately for a few days and that no funeral arrangements have yet been made.