The Princess Ashraf, twin sister of the exiled shah of Iran, is not happy and sees no point trying to be.
She is hardly the object of universal sympathy. Not at a time when to many, the name Pahlavi summons up images of dictatorial power, vast private wealth in foreign banks, the abuses of SAVAK and the arrogance of the Peacock Throne.
But to Princess Ashraf, hers is a world in ruins: her country ruled by "a madman," her family betrayed by those who were supposed to be close friends or loyal supporters.
She lives in luxury on Park Avenue, if luxury means costly quarters alone. Her penthouse has a garden, the great entrance hall paved in marble with magnificent brass lamps. Two guards unlock the door and a German shepherd comes to sniff.
"He doesn't bite," said the princess, and in fact he wagged his tail. It is said he commonly growls at photographers (two have so attested) but who knows, maybe any pup would.
The princess smiled, a rare thing for her now, perhaps, at the thought of her dog.
"In Islam, they're ritually unclean, aren't they?" she was asked.
"Yes. You are sullied if you touch one. I love dogs. I've had as many as 10 at once."
She sat in a beautiful room paneled in walnut, carved and pedimented in the style of George II, and called for tea.
One of the most beautiful of the world's famous women, her beatuy has suffered. She is 60. Her eyes were not so much sad as numb with grief. Her red hair is still fashionably and beautifully dressed, and she still wears a great emerald ring.
"What am I supposed to wear?" she asked, with the air of a woman who no longer cares. "We were not a communist country, and my family reigned for 50 years.
"In Islam, among all religions, property is sacred."
"You mean a man's house is his castle, inviolate from interference?" she was asked.
"Yes. Property in Islam is sacred. Now, of course, the framework is set up for a communist state, though they don't call it that.
"In the West, it's supposed that the kind of Shiite fundamentalism that Khomeini has invented will at least be a bulwark against communism --".
She cast a look of resigned contempt that anyone could be so blind.
"Only a monarchy can keep Iran united, and without it, the many ethnic groups will come apart. I don't say it should eben be the Pahlavis [her own house] and perhaps it might be another. But monarchy is what Iran has known for 2,500 years, and nothing else.
"It is not just the fall of the shah -- it is the destruction of my country by this madman [Khomeini] that distresses me.
"The communists will use the fundamentalist right and get what they want --"
"And then get rid of the mullahs and ayatollahs?" she was asked.
"Perhaps kill them," she said
"But in the long run, the United States and the West will suffer most for it, even more than Iran."
She was aksed if she forsaw, then, a communist state in Iran.
"This may seem hard to say. I had rather see a communist state than one ruled by the religious fanatics, who will return Iran to the 7th century."
She dipped a sugar cube in her tea and munched it, then drank the tea from a little glass held in a Persian silver supporting frame, carved with facing birds.
"For centuries, she said (and the motif of facing birds is immemorially ancient and uniquely Persian), "Persia was the fountain of art for the West, for the world. And now --."
The princess worked at the United Nations for 16 years -- as member of the delegation from Iran, as member and eventually chairman of the Human Rights Commission, and for seven years as head of the Iranian delegation.
She was last inIran in August 1978. She had been attending a World Health Organization meeting in the Soviet Union and stopped in Iran to visit the shah, with whom she has always felt the usual closeness of twins. Disorder was already mounting. The shah insisted she leave. Since the revolution of February 1979, she has lived in virtual seclusion in New York. She said she rarely goes out, and is now marshaling her thoughts for a second book.
Her son, Shahriar, was murdered in Paris this year. She has refused to let him be buried except in Iran. The body is preserved until that is possible, she said.
She still cannot take it in that she will never see that son again, and she accepts the fact that her family will be hounded as long as the present Iranian regime lasts.
"I could, I suppose, have chosen a different life. A royal princess has choices. I could be living now in a beautiful quiet garden, with flowers and dogs and friends,not here as an exile.
"I have had three marriages, and I respect no man so much as my present husband, though we live apart, because I have always had to do the things that seemed important to me. I have been vilified, my country is ruined, my brother depends on Sadat's kindness. Sadat has a true understanding of the righteousness of Islam, not like Khomeini. And Kissinger too has a strong sense of morality and what is honorable.
"All this talk of human rights, all this talk of the shah's repressiveness and crimes. Where were those people when Khomeini began murdering pregnant women, thought to be adulteres, and homosexuals, said to be enemies of God?"
The princess was dressed in dark brown-black silk with long sleeves and a neckline up to her chin.
Her eyes rarely blinked, she rarely turned her head away. She rarely spoke with animation. The words, even when full of bitterness, came out like lead, as they do when the speaker is in shock or in a grief past giving and inflection to.
She feels secure enough, physically, in New York where for 20 years she has been identified with the United Nations. She was chairman of its committee on human rights. She was a leader in its efforts for women's rights. Now she is cut off from all of that.
"I could go to the theater. Movies. If I took a guard with me. I have done it -- I have always loved movies" (she was especially fond of Clark Gable and Cary Grant films, she said). "But now if I go I find myself thinking, 'What are they saying? What is the film about?'
"I cannot concentrate at such things, not even enough to follow the plot.
"Bridge? You know I loved bridge. And you can see how easy it would be to have friends over to play on this very table. But I do not dream of it.
"How do I make you understand? I am not a happy woman. Why should I pretend to be happy, or go through the motions of diversions?
"I have just come from seeing my brother in Cairo, and I will soon go back. His doctors cannot say. It might even be 10 years. Or it might be much sooner.
"In any case, the decision is not with the doctors or with the shah or with us. It is with God. He appoints death and the means of death. Nothing a man can do can hasten or postpone that day.
"My brother the shah is a man of God. He has always believed life and death are in God's hands.
"And you believe that too, do you not?" she was asked.
"Yes. I can still see the two barrels of the Colt .45s, the night I thought I would die. It was in the summer of 1976. We were driving to my hose at Juan Les Pins [on the French Riviera] and not far from my own road when a Peugeot passed us and turned to block us. Two men leaped out with the pistols and began firing.
"I was up front with the driver. Two friends were in back. I heard a moan and turned to see my friend, the woman, with blood streaming from her eyes. She died half an hour later. The driver was shot, too. But he backed up our car [a Rolls-Royce of sturdy, heavy build] and rammed the car that blocked us. Then he backed up and rammed again and finally got a clear route and sped ahead. Why they didn't shoot out our tires I don't know. That way we could never have escaped.
"After we got away, the driver stopped at the Pam Pam [a cafe] to call the police. They told him to go away, they didn't want any trouble.
"No arrests were made. Some people said it was a mafia-type thing, connected with what they called my drug traffic. I doubt experienced assassins would have bungled it."
"The next day I counted 14 bullet holes on my side of the car. Why wasn't I killed?
"So now I think it is part of me, death is part of my life. My brother, who has survived assassination attempts, it is part of his life, he has made death part of his life.
"Should I sit here thinking maybe today or tomorrow I die? What purpose is served by that? I shall die, and when God means me to.
"I had rather die being shot than die in my bed," she said. "From a sickness."
"We do not have the choice," she was reminded.
"No. The means as well as the time are not in our hands at all," she said.
Her new book, "Faces in a Mirror," is an account of Iranian and personal and royal events from her point of view.
She barely disguises -- she does not disguise at all, though she refrains from invective -- her contempt for the Carter administration or Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
"Though I've learned long ago not to expect much of politicians," she said. "The last eight American presidents, of course, praised the shah, and Sen. Kennedy has spoken to me very cordially in the past about our achievements in Iran. Mr. Carter, in his very first speech of 1978 [this was at a New Year's Eve party given for President and Mrs. Carter in Tehran by the Iranian royal family], spoke in his toast of 'the great leadership of th shah' and spoke of the 'love and respect' he had earned from the people, and concluded saying there was no other leader he had a deeper sense of gratitude to and pesonal friendship for.
"But then that very year he sent emissaries to deal with Khomeini, and a military envoy to undermine the army.
"Everybody knew the United States was abandoning the shah.
"Now I know Dr. Kissinger has been strongly criticized for his part in having my brother admitted for medical treatment in New York.
"You may have noticed it was only 12 days after the shah was in America that the revolutionaries took the Americans hostage.
"Does that sound like a spontaneous act? No. The hostages had nothing to do with the shah. Khomeini is playing with America. The hostages ensured every word he said would be given enormous weight here."
She was asked about the shah's abrupt departure from Panama, to accept asylum in Egypt from Anwar Sadat.
"Panama does not have an extradition treaty with Iran. The American government -- the State Department and the White House -- kept assuring us there was no way the shah could be sent back to Iran from Panama.
"But then why were Iranian emissaries received in Panama?
"The Iranian foreign minister kept boasting that within 60 days the shah would be extradited. The Iranians announced they were serving extradition papers.
"All our friends urged the shah to leave Panama, though the American government kept saying there was no danger.
"When the shah did leave for Egypt, the Iranian government said he had 'escaped' and that within a few more hours he would have been arrested."
She was asked if she was implying, or had any reason to believe, that some level of American government was willing for the shah to be forcibly returned to Iran, provided the Panamanians did it.
"I could never make such an accusation. Such a charge would be serious, and even today, when charges are flung about lightly, I would not do it since I have no facts to support such a thing.
"But I do ask on what authority the Panamanians were receiving Iranian lawyers. Perhaps they intended to let the Iranians file charges against the shah in a Panamanian court, and perhaps they intended to hold a hearing in Panama.
'Even less understandably to me was the behavior of Kurt Waldheim at the United Nations. On what authority did he appoint a commission to investigate the so-called crimes of the shah?"
The princess, who was not born yesterday and who understands better than most people the unholy tangles of political intrigue over the centuries, said she is not much astonished that people jump off to new bandwagons the minute it seems expedient to do so.
Only she had really expected better of America and of the United Nations.
"Once when there were serious disturbances in Iran, Khomeini was arrested. He was let off with banishment.
"When Prime Minister Mossadegh tried to overthrow my brother, so that the shah went into exile, the shah did not seek vengeance on Mossadegh when the tide turned and the shah was restored. Mossadegh died years later at his home in the country.
"And Khomeini was spared also, even after he was arrested. The chief of SAVAK [the shah's counterintelligence arm] was Gen. Hassan Pakravan, who spared Khomeini's life even after treasonable activity. That was in 1963. But when Khomeini returned, one of his first actions was to execute the man who once saved his life.
"Over the years, as everybody knows who wishes to know, the shah had worked to turn Iran into a modern state. I myself worked for years for the rights of women -- a Persian woman could not even keep custody of her children if her husband died.
"A man would not be punished for killing a woman if be believed she was engaged in adultery. Never mind what the true facts were, it was enough of a defense if the man believed she was in adultery.
"There was a case in which a brother murdered his sister because he saw her get in a taxi with a man. And he was not punished.
"So great advances were made in basic rights for women, and I am proud of that. But this did not set well with the fundamentalist clergy. They saw their hold over people being weakened.
"But they could have lived with that, all the same. What really set them against the shah was the shah's land reforms. The shah began giving away his own lands in 1950.
"My father left me vast lands in the north, and much of it was distributed to the people in this reform.
"But the Moslem clergy also controlled great lands, and they bitterly resisted having it distributed to anybody. That was what did it, not the reform of laws about women.
"In the land reform acts of 1963, Khomeini and others incited riots to prevent land reform. They lost, and ever since they have preached against the throne. The shah never was fully aware of the attacks year after year by the fundamentalist clergy, who would gladly have kept Iran in the Dark Ages.
"Any pretext would serve as an attack. I was a favorite target, partly because I was not only a royal princess but had worked all my life on commissions for women, and had traveled through the Third World to see how other undeveloped countries were coming into the modern world. I had opposed apartheid in South Africa and was vocal on human rights.
"I have been accused of heading a great opium ring. Despite the royal family's efforts to ban the raising of it.
"Le Monde [the important Paris newspaper] once identified me with drug traffic. I asked Giscard d'Estaing, then minister of finance, if it was proper to sue. He said, 'If you are certain of your facts, and that there is no truth in it, then sue,' and I did. I won damages and a full retraction.
"But of course even if you win such suits, people always say there must be something to it.
"The same way with the charges you have heard that the revolutionaries have photographs of me naked with senators or congressmen.
"I only know senators [Charles] Percy and [Jacob] Javits. Which one was it supposed to be?
"If a woman," it was suggested to her, "wanted to cavort about naked with men, she might have chosen outside the Congress."
"Yes," she said with something approaching a smile.