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Press Release - CELEBRATED U.N. HUMANITARIAN LEADER PRINCE SADRUDDIN AGA KHAN DIES AT AGE 70 - 2003-05-13

Date: 
Tuesday, 2003, May 13
Location: 

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, son of the late Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan and the late Princess Andrée Aga Khan, died in Boston yesterday, aged 70 after a short illness. Coincidentally, his half-brother, the late Prince Aly Khan died on exactly the same day forty-three ago. The younger of Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah's two sons, Prince Sadruddin was the uncle of the present and 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Ismaili Muslims, His Highness the Aga Khan. The Aga Khan traces his lineage back to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and Prince Sadruddin's grandmother was the granddaughter of the Qajar Emperor Fath'Ali Shah.
Born in Paris, France on 17th January, 1933, Prince Sadruddin received his early education in Switzerland before graduating in 1954 from Harvard University. After three years of post-graduate research at Harvard's Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Prince Sadruddin followed a family tradition in international service established by his father who had served two terms as President of the League of Nations.

In 1958, Prince Sadruddin joined UNESCO, becoming in 1961, Executive Secretary to its International Action Committee for the Preservation of Nubia, which brought together archaeologists from Eastern Europe and the West at the height of the Cold War to save the ancient treasures of Abu Simbel, the temples of Philae and Kalabsha and the Christian churches of Nubia.

For twelve years, beginning in 1965, Prince Sadruddin was UN High Commissioner for Refugees, coordinating the international response to crises in, amongst other countries, Bangladesh, Uganda, Sudan, Chile and Cyprus. Widening the UNHCR mandate well beyond its original focus on Eastern Europe, Prince Sadruddin, during his tenure extended the organisation's reach to refugees from Palestine, Vietnam, Angola and Algeria.

Prince Sadruddin had, since 1978, been variously: Special Consultant and Chargé de Mission to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Commission and Convenor and Co-Chairman of the Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues and of the Independent Working Group on the UN Financial Emergency. He was, later, Coordinator for United Nations Humanitarian and Economic Assistance Programmes Relating to the People of Afghanistan, Personal Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Humanitarian Assistance Relating to the Crisis between Iraq and Kuwait and Executive Delegate of the Secretary-General for a United Nations Inter-Agency Humanitarian Programme which dealt with problems of Iraq's border areas.

In 1977, Prince Sadruddin, together with Denis de Rougemont and a few other friends, established in Geneva, a think-tank, Groupe de Bellerive (named after his Geneva property), and a non-profit organisation, the Bellerive Foundation, a leading grassroots action group promoting environmental protection, natural resource conservation and the safeguarding of life in all its forms.

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A long-standing trustee and former Vice-President of the World Wide Fund for Nature International (WWF), Prince Sadruddin led Bellerive's support for threatened species. Bellerive was also amongst the first organisations to warn of the potential human health hazards of modern intensive farming methods.

A recipient of several honorary doctorates and national decorations from states as diverse as Egypt, Pakistan, Poland and the Vatican, as well as the United Nations Human Rights Award, Prince Sadruddin was a Bourgeois d'Honneur de Geneve, Commandeur de la Legion d'Honneur and most recently, named Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his services to humanitarian causes and the arts.

Prince Sadruddin was a keen collector since his youth and his knowledge was much respected. His sale, some years ago, of his collection of primitive and African art was considered a milestone. His collection of Islamic art is widely known and admired. Miniatures and other pieces from the collection were recently exhibited in London and Zurich. The collection will be housed in a new museum being established by the Aga Khan in Toronto. Prince Sadruddin was also a familiar figure at music festivals and other cultural events, both in Europe and overseas. He was a keen skier and an accomplished sailor throughout his life.

A rare combination of reflective wisdom and outspoken activism, Prince Sadruddin brought to each of his endeavours a commitment of intellect and passion. Known for a sharp analysis of contemporary affairs, Prince Sadruddin's contribution to diplomacy as well as to the preservation of the environment and cultural heritage drew on deeply rooted ethics. Proud of his Muslim heritage, Prince Sadruddin has said that 'the true message of Islam is about brotherhood and solidarity, as well as care for nature.' Ever conscious of his Persian roots, Prince Sadruddin often saw the blend of the two worlds in which he lived -- that of the East and that of the West -- as a means 'to contribute to a better understanding of problems of a global nature, which know no borders.'

Widely known for his generosity and warm personality, Prince Sadruddin was highly regarded and greatly respected by family and friends and held in deep affection by the Ismaili Muslim Community around the world. His support for the Community and for the work of the Ismaili Imamat in improving the quality of life for people across the developing world was unfailing.

Prince Sadruddin is survived by his wife of 31 years, Princess Catherine (formerly Catherine Aleya Sursock) as well as his nephews, His Highness the Aga Khan, Prince Amyn Aga Khan, his niece, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan Embiricos, and his stepsons, Alexandre, Marc and Nicholas Sursock.

Arrangements are underway to convey Prince Sadruddin's body to Switzerland. Details of funeral ceremonies will be announced shortly.

For further information, please contact:

The Information Department
Aiglemont
60270 Gouvieux, France
Telephone: +33.3.44.58.40.00
Fax: +33.3.44.58.11.14
E-mail: amyn.ahamed@aiglemont.org

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