Princess Ashraf of Iran (1919-2016)

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Princess Ashraf of Iran, twin sister of Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was seen by many as the power behind the throne and remained an unapologetic defender of her brother’s rule until the very end. Princess Ashraf was born on 26 October 1919, passing away on 7 January 2016, aged ninety-six. Her family have not given any further details of the cause of death or of the funeral plans.

During her brother’s reign from 1953-1979, Princess Ashraf was a high profile and modernising figure.  She and her sister, Shams, were among the first Iranian women to wear their hair uncovered in public, whilst Ashraf’s appointment to a UN role was another push for women’s rights in the socially conservative Shiite country. But alongside her efforts for Iranian women, Ashraf was accused of corruption and was seen as sharing some of the responsibility for the widespread abuses under the Shah’s rule.

After the 1979 Iranian revolution, which brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power, Ashraf denied the allegations of corruption and profiteering: “After the death of my brother, if we had had the $65bn some people said we had we would have retaken Iran just like that.” As for the rise and fall of the Pahlavi dynasty she always said she regretted nothing: “I would want to do the same thing. It’s passed, now, only memories. But there were 50 years of grandeur, of glory.”