Fereydoun Hoveyda; Iranian Delegate to United Nations During Shah's Rule

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Fereydoun Hoveyda, 82, who represented Iran at the United Nations when Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi led the country, died of cancer Nov. 3 at his home in Clifton.

Mr. Hoveyda, a novelist who followed his father into the diplomatic service, represented Iran from 1966 to 1979, first as deputy foreign minister and from 1971 on as its ambassador and chief delegate to the United Nations. In 1979, he was forced out of Iran's foreign service after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini overthrew the shah. His brother, Amir Abbas Hoveyda, who had been the shah's prime minister, was executed by Khomeini supporters that year.

He lashed out at the revolutionaries, publishing a letter to the new prime minister in the New York Times in which he called his brother's execution murder "simply because no other word can be used for the kind of mock justice he was subjected to in the dead of night in front of masked judges."

Mr. Hoveyda also assailed the corruption of the shah's regime in his book "Fall of the Shah" (1980).

"There is something rather grotesque in his attempt to portray his family as victims of the Shah's greed and ambition. Nobody, after all, forced them to serve," wrote Ronald Steele, in a review in the Times. "But he is entertainingly malicious, and his tale, self-serving though it is, offers an interesting glimpse into the mentality of those who profited from the Shah's rule, even while complaining sotto voce of its corruption and megalomania."

Mr. Hoveyda also spoke publicly later in life about what he considered the dangers of Islamic extremism, asserting that theologically, Islam was locked in the 12th century and that lasting changes must come from Muslim theologians.

"I only say that we have one battle everywhere, against fanaticism in all its forms," he said in an interview in 1994. "Any form of fanaticism -- the Pope on contraception, Farrakhan on Islam, a Hitler, fanatic Jews about being 'chosen' -- it is hara-kiri. It is suicide."

Born in Damascus, Syria, he grew up in Beirut among many cultures. "At home there was Persian, in the streets Arabic and in school French," he said. He graduated from the Sorbonne in Paris and worked briefly as a news attaché for the Iranian foreign service before joining his professor, Rene Cassin, preparing for the San Francisco conference that established the United Nations. He helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and signed it.

In 1948, he received a doctorate in international law and economics from the Sorbonne.

Mr. Hoveyda returned to Paris to write novels and work for UNESCO's Department of Mass Communications and was a founding contributor to the influential Les Cahiers Du Cinéma, a French magazine credited with launching a new wave of film directors. He also wrote a screenplay for Roberto Rossellini's 1959 film "India."

In 1966, Mr. Hoveyda joined the Iranian government, first working on land reform in Iran, then as a diplomat in New York City.

During the 1960s, Mr. Hoveyda, his brother and the shah served as secret go-betweens for President Lyndon B. Johnson and the North Vietnamese government in an unsuccessful effort to negotiate the end of the Vietnam War. In 1972, he was elected chairman of an ad hoc U.N. committee on international terrorism, created after the assassination of Israeli athletes at the Summer Olympics in Munich. In 1973, he was elected chairman of a U.N. committee on international disarmament.

After leaving the Iranian foreign service, he was a senior fellow at the National Committee on American Foreign Policy in New York and acquired U.S. citizenship in the early 1990s. He moved to Northern Virginia in 1998.

He wrote more than a dozen books, most recently "The Shah and the Ayatollah, Iranian Mythology and Islamic Revolution" (2003).

Survivors include his wife of 38 years, Gisela Hoveyda of Clifton; and two daughters, Roxana Hoveyda of Fairfax County and Mandana Hoveyda of New York City.

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