Pahlavi is the founder and leader of the self-styled National Council of Iran, an exiled opposition group. Pahlavi has emerged as a leading critic of Iran's Islamic Republic government, but lacks an organized following within Iran since there is no serious monarchist movement in Iran itself. He has also been described as having "little in common with the intellectuals and students who make up the core of the reform movement".
As Crown Prince of Iran, Pahlavi left Iran at the age of 17 for air force training at Reese Air Force Base near Lubbock, Texas, two years before the Iranian Revolution.
In 2011, Pahlavi was named Iran's Person Of The Year by an online poll conducted by Radio Farda that included thousands of Iranian respondents inside and outside Iran. In November 2014, Pahlavi founded his own television and radio network called OfoghIran.
Reza Pahlavi was born in Tehran, Iran, the eldest legitimate son of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran and Farah Pahlavi, the Shahbanu of Iran. Pahlavi's siblings include his sister Princess Farahnaz Pahlavi (born 12 March 1963), brother Prince Ali-Reza Pahlavi (28 April 1966 – 4 January 2011), and sister Princess Leila Pahlavi (27 March 1970 – 10 June 2001), as well as a half-sister, Princess Shahnaz Pahlavi (born 27 October 1941).
Accepted into the Imperial Iranian Air Force as a junior officer following secondary schooling, he left Iran in 1977 at the age of 17 for air force flight training in the United States. He spent a year at Williams College in the United States, but was forced to leave because of the turmoil in Iran. With the monarchy overthrown and an Islamic Republic established, Pahlavi did not return to Iran.
He obtained a BSc degree in political science by correspondence from the University of Southern California, because Williams did not offer that option.
The Crown Prince successfully completed the United States Air Force's Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) Program at the former Reese Air Force Base in Lubbock, Texas. Shortly thereafter, at the start of the Iran–Iraq War, Pahlavi wrote to General Valiollah Fallahi, Chief Commander of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic, offering to fly and fight as a pilot for the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force. His offer was rebuffed.
On the death of his father on 27 July 1980, Pahlavi became the Head of the House of Pahlavi.
Following in a line of Persian dynasties stretching back 3,000 years, the Pahlavi dynasty was founded early in the twentieth century. The 1979 revolution replaced the monarchy with an Islamic republic. After the death of his father, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, he symbolically declared himself Shāhanshāh (literally King of Kings in Persian) at the age of 21. He remains crown prince according to the former Constitution of 1906, as he is required to take the oath in the Iranian Parliament first. His press releases refer to him as either "Reza Pahlavi" or "the former Crown Prince of Iran".
On his website, Pahlavi has said that the state of Iran should become democratic and secular, and human rights should be respected. Whether the form of government would be that of a constitutional monarchy or a republic is something that he would like to leave up to the people of Iran.
Pahlavi has used his high profile as an Iranian abroad to campaign for human rights, democracy and unity among Iranians in and outside Iran. On his website he calls for a separation of religion and state in Iran and for free and fair elections "for all freedom-loving individuals and political ideologies". He exhorts all groups dedicated to a democratic agenda to work together for a democratic and secular Iranian government.
According to Reza Bayegan, Pahlavi believes in the separation of religion from politics. However, he avoids the "Islam bashing" that Bayegan writes occurs in some circles of the Iranian opposition. Rather, he believes that religion has a humanizing and ethical role in shaping individual character and infusing society with greater purpose.
In February 2011, after violence erupted in Tehran, Pahlavi said that Iran's youth were determined to get rid of an authoritarian government tainted by corruption and misrule in the hope of installing a democracy. "Fundamental and necessary change is long overdue for our region and we have a whole generation of young Egyptians and Iranians not willing to take no for an answer", he told The Daily Telegraph. "Democratisation is now an imperative that cannot be denied. It is only a matter of time before the whole region can transform itself."
Reza Pahlavi II is first in the line of succession to his late father, while his younger brother Ali-Reza Pahlavi II was second in line until his death in January 2011. His first cousin Prince Patrick Ali Pahlavi is now next in line to the throne.
Pahlavi enjoys wide popularity with the older generation of Iranian expatriates that left Iran at the time of the 1979 revolution and with some people in Iran. In 2006, Connie Bruck of The New Yorker wrote that Los Angeles is home to about 600,000 Iranian expatriates, and said it was a monarchist stronghold.
A 2013 survey of Iranian-Americans conducted by George Mason University's Center for Social Science Research found that 79% of respondents did not support any Iranian opposition groups or figures. Of the 15% that did, only 20% supported him.
Bob Woodward wrote in 1986 that Reagan administration authorized the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to support and fund Iranian exiles, including Pahlavi. The agency transmitted his 11-minute speech during which he vowed "I will return" to Iranian television by pirating its frequency. The Tower Commission report published in 1987, acknowledged that CIA was behind the event. In 2006, Connie Bruck of The New Yorker wrote that "Pahlavi had CIA funding for a number of years in the eighties, but it ended after the Iran-Contra scandal". Andrew Freedman of Haverford College states that Pahlavi began cooperation with the CIA after he met director William J. Casey and received a monthly stipend, citing Pahlavi's financial advisor and other observers. He also connects his residence in Great Falls, Virginia to its close distance from the vicinity of George Bush Center for Intelligence, headquarters of the service.
Pahlavi denied receiving U.S. government aid or any foreign aid. In an interview with The New York Times, Pahlavi said "No, no. I don't rely on any sources other than my own compatriots." He has also denied allegations of working with the CIA, calling the allegations "absolutely and unequivocally false".
Reza married Yasmine Etemad-Amini on 12 June 1986. Yasmine, a graduate of the George Washington University School of Law, worked for ten years as a lawyer for the Children's Law Center as a legal advocate for at-risk youth. Yasmine also founded the Foundation for the Children of Iran in 1991, a non-profit foundation that provides health care services to Iranian children or children of Iranian origin.
In 2004, Pahlavi was named as the "unofficial godfather" of Princess Louise of Belgium, the eighth granddaughter of King Albert II of Belgium.
When interviewed about religion, Pahlavi said, "That's a private matter; but if you must know, I am, of course, by education and by conviction, a Shia Muslim. I am very much a man of faith." Iranian writer Reza Bayegan also notes that Crown Prince Reza is deeply attached to his Shi'a Muslim faith. He has performed the Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca.
Pahlavi was a keen football player and spectator. He was fan of the capital's football club Esteghlal, then known as Taj (lit. Crown) and his support was even televised by the National Iranian Radio & Television. The club performed in annual rallies organized on his birthday, which as a result identified the club with the Pahlavi's regime.His Imperial Highness The Crown Prince of Iran (1960–1979)
His Imperial Highness Crown Prince Reza of Iran (1979–present)
Commoner name: Reza Pahlavi (1979–present)
Grand Collar of the Order of Pahlavi (26 September 1967, Iran)
Mohammad Rezā Shāh Pahlavi Coronation Medal (26 October 1967, Iran)
25th Centennial Anniversary Medal (14 October 1971, Iran)
Persepolis Medal (15 October 1971, Iran)
Knight of the Royal Order of the Seraphim (24 November 1970, Sweden)
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (15 December 1974, Italy)
Knight of the Collar of the Order of Isabella the Catholic (19 April 1975, Spain)
Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour (14 December 1976, France)
Grand Star of the Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria (1976, Austria)
Grand Collar of the Royal Order of the Drum (Rwanda)
Key to the City of Beverly Hills (January 2017, Los Angeles, California)
Reza Pahlavi, Iran: L'Heure du Choix [Iran: The Deciding Hour], Denoël, 2009.
Reza Pahlavi, Winds of Change: The Future of Democracy in Iran, Regnery Publishing Inc., 2002, ISBN 0-89526-191-X.
Reza Pahlavi, Gozashteh va Ayandeh, London: Kayham Publishing, 2000.
Pahlavi is the owner of Medina Development Company. He and his company were engaged in a civil lawsuit against a family member in the 1990s culminating in a favorable judgment in May 1997.