BECK index

Persia (Iran) and Afghanistan 1700-1950

by Sanderson Beck

Persia of Nadir and Zands 1700-94
Persia under Qajars 1794-1875
Persia under Qajars 1876-1905
Iran and its Constitution 1905-25
Iran under Reza Pahlavi 1925-41
Iran and Its Allies 1941-50
Bábis and Bahá’u’lláh
Afghanistan 1880-1919
Afghanistan Independent 1919-50

This chapter has been published in the book Mideast & Africa 1700-1950.
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Persia of Nadir and Zands 1726-94

Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian, and Persian Empires
Ottoman and Persian Empires 1300-1730

Sultan Husain became shah of Persia in 1694. After Baluchis attacked Qandahar, Gurgin Khan was sent there from Kirman. When the Ghalzai revolted against the Georgians, Gurgin Khan sent their leader Mir Vais as a prisoner to Isfahan; but Mir Vais won over the Shah and made him suspect Gurgin. Mir Vais was released to visit Mecca, where he was given a fatwa by the Sunnis to overthrow the Shi‘i Safavids. In 1708 Persia made a treaty with France granting them trade privileges and protection of Christian religious orders.

In 1709 while Georgian troops were away from Qandahar, Mir Vais lured Gurgin Khan into a garden by promising him his daughter in marriage and then had him murdered. A Persian army of 25,000 led by Georgia’s Governor Khusru Khan besieged Qandahar and insisted on unconditional surrender; the Afghans would have submitted if pardoned but decided to fight. After the battle less than a thousand Persians escaped. Mir Vais governed Afghanistan until he died in 1715. The Persian army had become so weak that it could not quell the rebellion. Maryam Begum persuaded Sultan Husain to move his court to Qazvin. While Abd al-‘Aziz, brother and successor of Mir Vais, was negotiating with Sultan Husain, Mir Mahmud, the 18-year-old son of Mir Vais, with forty supporters murdered his uncle and took power in 1717. Abdali chief Asad-Allah led a Sunni revolt in Herat and plundered Khurasan with Uzbeks. A Persian army of 30,000 defeated 12,000 Uzbeks, but they lost a third of their men fighting the Abdali Afghans. When Mahmud sent the Shah the head of Asad-Allah, he was appointed governor-general.

After Mahmud invaded Kirman with 11,000 Ghalzai, Grand Vizier Fath ‘Ali Khan persuaded Sultan Husain to mobilize his army; but they stopped in Tehran. The Grand Vizier was a Lezgian, and his religious opponents at court persuaded the Shah to have him blinded and imprisoned. The court returned to Isfahan in 1721. Irate Lezgians besieged and took over Shamakhi, the capital of Shirvan, going over to the Ottomans. Meanwhile Mahmud was marching toward Isfahan with about 18,000 troops. The Persian army had 42,000 including 12,000 cavalry; but in March 1722 in the battle of Gulnabad conflicts between Persian commanders led to their losing 5,000 men, ten times as many as the Afghans. Mahmud took over the Farahabad castle and offered to negotiate. Sultan Husain declined his demands for independence, a princess to marry, and money, but he did not evacuate the civilians. Mahmud destroyed the crops in the area, causing the people in Isfahan to starve and die of disease while thousands were killed trying to escape. In October 1722 the Shah Husain abdicated and capitulated to Mahmud. The next year Persians revolted and drove the Afghans out of Qazvin, and Abd al-‘Aziz’s son Ashraf returned to Qandahar. Not getting reinforcements from there, Mahmud massacred 3,000 Persian guards at Isfahan and later 39 Safavid princes.

Crown prince Tahmasp Mirza had escaped to Qazvin and claimed to be shah for ten years. The Ottoman empire declared war in 1723 and invaded Persia through Georgia, causing Tahmasp II to flee to Mazandaran. The next year the Russians and Ottomans partitioned Transcaucasia, giving the Turks Armenia and parts of Azerbaijan while Russia gained the provinces of Jilan, Mazandaran, and Astarabad by the Caspian Sea. In 1725 Afghan nobles elected Ashraf, and Mahmud soon died. Ashraf had Shah Husain decapitated in 1726.

Nadir Quli Beg fought the Afghans and the Turks successfully in Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia, enabling Tahmasp to return to Isfahan. Sayyid Ahmad ruled from 1726 in Kirman, but he was defeated and executed by the Afghans in 1728. Ashraf asked the Ottomans why they were fighting the Sunni Afghans. After a battle in which the Afghans killed 12,000 Turks, Ashraf released their prisoners and returned their property. Ahmad Pasha then recognized Ashraf as shah of Persia because he accepted the Ottoman Sultan as caliph. Nadir’s Persians defeated the Afghans twice in 1729. Ashraf retreated to Isfahan and then fled to Shiraz, where his army surrendered. Ashraf escaped but was killed by a Baluchi in 1730.

Nadir Quli Beg dethroned the drunken Tahmasp and proclaimed his infant son ‘Abbas III in 1732. The next year Nadir besieged Baghdad but was defeated by the Turks at Kirkuk, though greater numbers helped the Persians to route the Ottoman army at Topal Osman. In 1735 Nadir with 80,000 Persians won a big victory at Baghavand, gaining Tiflis, Ganja, and Erivan in the treaty of Baghdad. In 1736 he deposed ‘Abbas and named himself Nadir Shah Afshar. Nadir transferred his capital to Mashhad in his Khurasan homeland. He disestablished the Shi‘i institutions but aimed at reconciliation by adding the Shi‘i Ja‘fari as the fifth school of law, equal to the four Sunni schools. His attempted compromise did not satisfy either the Sunnis of the Ottoman empire nor the Shi‘a in Persia. He did gain Persian pilgrims equal status at Mecca, and Sunnis could no longer hold Persians in slavery for not being orthodox.

The ambitious Nadir Shah emulated Timur in his quest to conquer other lands. In 1737 his army of 80,000 besieged Qandahar, which gave in a year later. Nadir left Qandahar abandoned, founded a new city called Nadirabad, and moved on to Ghazna and Kabul to invade the Mughal empire of Muhammad Shah, using the pretext that he had given refuge to fugitive Afghanis. In December 1738 Nadir learned that Lezgis in the Caucasus had assassinated his brother. He appointed Riza Quli his viceroy in Persia and headed for Lahore, where the governor gave Nadir gold and was allowed to keep his position. Muhammad Shah came to visit Nadir, who had his army surround the Mughal army outside of Delhi. Sa‘adat Khan attacked the pillaging Kurds; but he was defeated and captured by Nadir’s main army. Nadir claimed that 20,000 enemies were killed and even more made prisoners. Nadir and the Mughal emperor entered Delhi together in March 1739, and Nadir had coins minted in his name. Gifts and taxes brought Nadir fifteen crores of gold, and he married Emperor Aurangzeb’s great granddaughter. This treasure enabled Nadir to exempt Iran from taxes for the next three years. By December Nadir was back in Kabul, where he recruited 40,000 Afghanis for his army.

At Herat in 1740 Nadir visited his nephew ‘Ali Quli and his grandson Shahrukh, and he publicly criticized Riza Quli for putting to death Shah Tamasp and his two sons. The Qajar chief Muhammad Husain Khan had persuaded Riza Quli and carried out the murders. Huwala Arabs were revolting, and they killed Nadir’s admiral Mir ‘Ali Khan. Nadir built up his navy using Indian shipbuilders and timber from the north. In October 1740 Nadir defeated Abu ’l-Faiz Khan of Bukhara but reinstated him as governor as he annexed Charju and added about 25,000 Uzbeks to his army. Khiva had been using Persian slave labor, and its ruler Ilbars Khan had invaded Khurasan and helped Bukhara’s resistance. After Nadir crossed Khwarazm, Khiva surrendered; but Nadir had Ilbar and twenty of his commanders executed, releasing the Iranian and Russian captives.

After briefly visiting Mashhad, Nadir marched toward Azerbaijan. In the Mandaran forests an attempted assassination wounded Nadir, who suspected his son Riza Quli and had his eyes put out. In the summer of 1741 Nadir’s army of 150,000 invaded Daghistan. By 1743 the Ottoman envoys had made it clear that the Ja‘fari sect would not be recognized by the Sultan. So that August with a force of 300,000 Nadir attacked Kirkuk and then besieged Mosul; but he had to give it up after a month and could never take Baghdad. After sending out forces to quell revolts, in July 1744 Nadir continued his war against the Turks by besieging Qars. Nadir put his son Imam Quli in charge of Khurasan and his nephew Ibrahim Khan over Iraq and central Iran. Finally in August 1745 the Turks were defeated as Yegen Muhammad died. Nadir released the wounded and weak but transferred four thousand prisoners to Tehran and Tabriz. A peace treaty in 1747 ended this Persian-Ottoman war and protected Iranian travelers through Ottoman lands because the Shi‘i custom of cursing the first three caliphs had been outlawed in Iran.

The treasure taken from Delhi seems to have made Nadir Shah a miser, and he demanded heavy taxes for his war expenses, provoking revolts throughout his own empire. All jewels were seized on suspicion that they had been stolen from his Delhi treasure. Persian officers resented his favoring the Afghans and Uzbeks. Traveling from Isfahan to Khurasan, he left towers of skulls to commemorate the uprisings he crushed. After returning to Mashhad, Nadir sent tax collectors to the 140,000 Kurds, who dispersed from Khabushan. Nadir marched toward Khabushan, but in the middle of 1747 he was murdered in his tent by orders from his nephew ‘Ali Quli Khan, who was proclaimed ‘Adil Shah two weeks later. He had Nadir’s sons murdered too but only imprisoned his 13-year-old grandson Shahrukh. After sending his brother Ibrahim Khan to Isfahan, ‘Adil Shah sent the Georgian Suhrab to poison him. Ibrahim learned of the plot and had Suhrab executed. He gathered forces on his way to Mashhad, capturing Kirmanshah. ‘Adil Shah fled, was captured, and blinded, having ruled less than a year. Nadir’s widow had him put to death in revenge for her sons.

Young Shahrukh was enthroned at Mashhad in October 1748 by Khurasan nobles and Kurdish, Turkmen, and Bayat chiefs. Two months later Ibrahim proclaimed himself shah; but he was defeated and fled. Sayyid Muhammad refused to admit him to the shrine city of Qum. Sayyid Muhammad’s mother was the daughter of the Safavid Shah Sulaiman, and so in 1750 he was enthroned by ‘Alam Khan ‘Arab Khuzaima and some Kurdish and Jalariyid chiefs as Sulaiman II. Shahrukh was blinded but was restored to the throne after only a few months as Sulaiman II was removed and blinded. Shahrukh’s infirmity was concealed, and Yusuf ‘Ali Khan Jalayir helped him govern. Shahrukh was supported by Afghani ruler Ahmad Shah Durrani (r. 1747-73), who had founded his own kingdom at Qandahar after Nasir’s death and helped protect Khurasan against incursions from central Iran. After the Mughal Emperor ‘Alamgir II recaptured Lahore, Ahmad Shah Durrani pillaged Delhi in 1756. He was succeeded in Afghanistan by his son Timur Shah (r. 1773-93) and grandson Zaman Shah (r. 1793-1800); but the latter was too occupied with India and Kashmir to help prevent the demise of Shahrukh by the Qajars in 1796.

At Isfahan a Bakhtiyar leader named ‘Ali Mardan Khan got Abu’l-Fath Khan to surrender and crowned a young Safavid as Shah Isma‘il III in 1750. ‘Ali Mardan Khan ruled as Vakil al-daula (viceroy of the state) and sent out the Kurdish leader Karim Khan Zand to subjugate the country. ‘Ali Mardan extorted taxes and gifts, and he deposed and killed Abu’l-Fath Khan, replacing him with his own uncle. He lost support and went out to pillage Kazarun. In 1751 Karim Khan returned with the army and routed the Bakhtiyari. ‘Ali Mardan fled to Khuzistan, and Karim Khan began his rule as viceroy. The new Zand dynasty of Karim was soon challenged by the Qajar leader Muhammad Hasan Khan from Astarabad. While Karim’s army was besieging Kirmanshah, ‘Ali Mardan raised an army in Luristan; he was joined by Azad Khan, a Ghilzai Afghan from Kabul. After several defeats, ‘Ali Mardan began negotiating a return to the Zands, but the Zand commander Muhammad Khan killed him with his own dagger.

In a three-way struggle for power, Karim Khan lost a battle to the Qajars but then attacked Azad, who found safety at Qazvin. Karim retreated past Isfahan to Shiraz, which turned him away also. Azad captured Zand generals Muhammad Khan and Shaik ‘Ali with a trick, but they escaped and raised Zand morale. Eventually the Zands defeated the Afghans led by Azar, and Karim established his rule at Shiraz by 1757. He was able to win over Qajar officers with bribes and because Muhammad Hasan Khan quarreled with other Qajar leaders. Karim imprisoned the last Safavid Isma‘il, who died in 1773. After promoting building and commerce in Shiraz, Karim returned to Isfahan in 1764 and ruled western Iran until he died in 1779. Preceded, surrounded, and followed by cruel warlords, Karim Khan was renowned for ruling peacefully and justly in a violent era.

Piracy caused conflicts between Oman and Iran in the Persian Gulf. Dutch Baron Kniphausen had been imprisoned, fined, and deported from Basra by the Ottoman governor in 1753, but he got three ships from Batavia and occupied the island of Kharg. Mir Muhanna killed both his parents and took over Bandar Rig in 1755. Ten years later Karim demanded tribute from him and Kharg; both refused, and Mir Muhanna’s fleet defeated the Dutch ships, taking over Kharg. However, Mir Muhanna had to flee a revolt in 1769, and the Zands took over the island. Karim worked with the British, who established trade at the Shiraz port of Bushahr (Bushire). In 1770 the British moved on to Basra. In 1774 Karim went to war with the Turks over the Shatt al-‘Arab waterway and the Kurdish provinces of Baban and Zuhab. In 1775 he sent Sadiq Khan with 30,000 men to besiege Basra, which was plundered and depopulated by plague, losing its value as a port.

When Karim Khan died in 1779, the castrated Qajar hostage Agha Muhammad escaped. Zaki Khan sent ‘Ali Murad Khan in pursuit, but at Isfahan he went over to Abu’l-Fath. Sadiq Khan had left Basra; but he fled when Zaki threatened to harm his family in Shiraz. Zaki Khan was so cruel on the march that his own men killed him, enabling Sadiq to occupy Shiraz. ‘Ali Murad blockaded Shiraz, and in 1781 he captured it by treachery and murdered Sadiq and his sons except Ja‘far. ‘Ali Murad claimed Isfahan, but he died there defending it from Ja‘far in the winter of 1785. Agha Muhammad drove Ja‘far out of Isfahan. Ja‘far retreated to Shiraz, but he was killed by a mutiny in 1789. Ja‘far’s son Lutf ‘Ali Khan was the most respected of Karim’s successors, and he was chosen to lead the defense of Shiraz from Qajar assaults. However, he was betrayed by Fars's mayor Hajji Ibrahim, who took over Shiraz while Lutf ‘Ali was attacking Isfahan in 1791. Deserted by much of his army, he fought to stop the Qajar advance led by Agha Muhammad toward Shiraz. When his men scattered to plunder after a raid on a Qajar camp, Lutf ‘Ali fled east to Kirman, which he lost to the Qajars in 1794. Agha Muhammad blinded and tortured to death Lutf ‘Ali. He ordered 20,000 men blinded as his men raped and plundered Kirman, taking 20,000 women and children as slaves; Agha also had 900 prisoners beheaded.

Persia under Qajars 1794-1875

In 1794 Agha Muhammad Khan besieged Kirman while his nephew Fath ‘Ali Khan subjugated the Kirman province. At Shiraz Agha Muhammad appointed Fath ‘Ali beglerbegi of Fars, Kirman, and Yazd, and he made Hajji Ibrahim his grand vizier. After returning to Tehran in 1795, Agha Muhammad invaded Azerbaijan with 60,000 cavalry and besieged Shusha before negotiating so that he could attack Georgia, which had been claimed by Catherine II of Russia in 1783. After a bloody battle Tiflis was sacked; the elderly, infirm, and priests were massacred, and 15,000 Georgians were deported to Iran as slaves. In 1796 Hajji Ibrahim and other Qajar chiefs persuaded Agha Muhammad to be crowned as shah before marching on Mashhad in Khurasan. Shahrukh was tortured until he revealed the location of gems, and then he died on the way to Mazandaran. Agha Muhammad ruled strictly according to Islamic law, punishing corruption and banditry. In 1797 Agha Muhammad was disturbed by quarrelling servants and ordered them put to death; but it was a Friday, and he delayed the execution. Foolishly allowing them to serve him, that night the two servants and a third accomplice murdered the first Qajar shah. Then they fled to Sadiq Khan with the Shah’s jewels.

Hajji Ibrahim marched to Tehran to support Fath ‘Ali Khan (r. 1797-1834); but Sadiq Khan Shaqaqi besieged Qazvin with 15,000 Kurds. Fath ‘Ali with fewer men defeated them as the Kurds dispersed; but Sadiq purchased his pardon with the crown jewels. Zaki’s son Muhammad Khan tried to rule from Isfahan, but he was driven into the Bakhtiari mountains and captured by a Persian army led by Muhammad Vali, who had him blinded. This general joined a challenge by the Shah’s brother Husain Quli Khan while Fath ‘Ali was facing a revolt by Azerbaijan's Governor Sulaiman Khan Qajar. However, the brothers came to terms, and Sulaiman was allowed to remain Governor of Azerbaijan. In 1798 Fath ‘Ali Khan led the campaign to defeat the rebels in Khurasan. Fearing the growing power of Hajji Ibrahim, Fath ‘Ali had him and all but one of his sons put to death.

When George XII ascended the throne in Georgia, Fath ‘Ali demanded that he send his oldest son to Tehran as a hostage. George appealed to Russia, and General Lazareff defeated the Avars and occupied Georgia, which was annexed by Russia when George XII died in December 1800. General Sisianoff led the Russian campaign to take Erivan in 1804; but Fath ‘Ali brought up reinforcements, and the Russians retreated. The Persian army got training in 1807 from the French general Gardanne and seventy officers, and in 1810 the tall English artillery officer Lindsay Bethune was so impressive that the Persians made him their commander-in-chief for a while. After the Russian general Sisianoff was treacherously murdered during a peace conference at Baku, the Russians won a major battle at Aslanduz in 1812, when Prince ‘Abbas Mirza commanded a retreat. In the 1813 treaty of Gulistan, Iran ceded to Russia Derbent, Baku, Shirvan, Shakki, Qarabagh, and part of Talish, agreeing not to put navy ships in the Caspian Sea. The British gained a definitive treaty with Persia in 1814 to protect the route to India and promising Persians an annual subsidy.

In 1821 a Russian agent named Mazarovitch at Tehran persuaded ‘Abbas Mirza to invade the Turks from Azerbaijan. The Baghdad pasha reacted by invading Persia, but he was defeated by the Shah’s oldest son Muhammad ‘Ali Mirza. After the Persian army suffered its first epidemic of cholera, they agreed to a treaty in 1823. When the Russians tried to claim disputed territory in 1825, the Persians defeated the Russians marching toward Shisha. Muslims in Ganja massacred the Russian garrison, and Persians reached the gates of Tiflis. However, the Russian army routed the Persians at Shamkar, and in the battle of Ganja the next year ‘Abbas once again ordered a retreat. Even though General Paskievich could not take Erivan in 1827, Tabriz surrendered; in the 1828 treaty of Turkmanchai the Persians gave the Russians fertile Erivan and Nakhchivan, promising payment of £3,000,000. This treaty also gave the Russians extra-territorial privileges, which were soon demanded by other European powers.

Fath ‘Ali brought back reliable Amin al-Daula as prime minister in 1828 in order to ensure a peaceful succession. Concerned that he was too influenced by western culture at Tabriz, he appointed ‘Abbas Mirza to govern Khurasan, where he campaigned against rebels in 1832; but the crown prince died the next year. Fath ‘Ali died at Isfahan in 1834 and was succeeded by the son of ‘Abbas, Muhammad Shah (r. 1834-48). His brother Husain ‘Ali Mirza in Shiraz claimed the throne also and was supported by a younger brother; but Muhammad Shah sent an army led by Manuchihr Khan Mu‘tamad al-Daula that captured them and took them to Tehran. Muhammad Shah campaigned against the Turkmen in 1836 and besieged Herat the following year, but the British persuaded him to abandon the siege in 1838. That year Qajar exiles in Baghdad instigated a rebellion led by Agha Khan Mahallati in Yazd and Kirman. In 1840 Aga Khan was driven out of Kirman and took the fort at Bam before fleeing to the British in Bombay.

In 1843 Baghdad pasha Muhammad Najib slaughtered people in Karbala because the city had been taken over by ruffians (lutis). British and Russian diplomats intervened to prevent another war between Persia and the Ottoman empire. After Muhammad Shah’s first prime minister Abu’l-Qasim Qa’im Maqam was murdered, he depended on the Sufi Hajji Mirsa Aghasi, alienating the ‘ulama. Iran continued to increase its use of European police training and weapons. However, in other respects Persia remained a medieval Muslim society. By the end of Muhammad Shah’s reign the Persian treasury was empty, and the soldiers’ pay was three to five years in arrears.

Muhammad Shah was succeeded by his 16-year-old son Nasir al-Din Shah (r. 1848-96). Nasir kept his main advisor Mirza Taqi Khan, who refused the title prime minister and was called the chief of the army (Emir Kabir). About 1840 the Persians had allowed the Russian navy to establish a base on the island of Ashurada in order to suppress Turkmen piracy in the Caspian Sea; but in 1851 Turkmen in a surprise attack killed and captured the garrison. Emir Kabir had to yield to the Russian request that the Shah’s brother be dismissed from governing Mazandaran. The Shah dismissed Emir Kabir, and the efforts to reform Persian society faded with his execution in 1852. The clerics and courtiers regained their influence as the corrupt and reactionary Agha Khan Nuri became the chief minister. Persia managed to remain neutral during the Crimean War. Emir Kabir had founded a college in 1851, and in 1855 a ministry of education was formed.

Another siege of Herat led to war with the British in 1856 as they captured the island of Kharak and invaded from the Persian Gulf. In the treaty of Paris the next year Persia gave up all its claims to Herat and Afghanistan. That year Khurasan's Governor Sultan Murad Mirza invited eighty Turkmen leaders to a conference at Mashhad and then treacherously imprisoned them. In 1858 Nasir al-Din Shah dismissed Agha Khan Nuri and ordered the six ministers of Justice, Finance, War, Foreign Affairs, Pensions and Religious Charities, and the Interior to report directly to him. The following year the Shah appointed a council and urged the provinces to use similar advisory groups.

Malkum Khan was born in 1833 into an Armenian family in the Christian quarter of Isfahan. He attended a French Catholic school in Isfahan and then studied engineering in Paris. There he became interested in Freemasonry and the ideas of Saint Simon on social engineering and August Comte’s religion of humanity. He organized the secret society called Faramushkhana (House of Oblivion) modeled on Freemasonry. Returning to Persia, he gained the ear of the Shah and wrote Book of Reform (Daftar-i Tanzimat), using the word qanun, meaning reform laws, to distinguish it from shari‘a (religious canons) and ‘urf (state regulations). Religious authorities criticized his qanun as heretical, and in 1861 the Shah banned his secret society and banished him to Baghdad. He was expelled from there in the spring of 1862 just before the Bábis were banished. Malkum went to the Ottoman empire and wrote the satirical Traveler’s Tale in clear Persian prose without decorative terms. He also wrote The Principle of Progress, The Shaykh and the Minister (on alphabet reform), and The Organ of State. In Istanbul he met the Iranian ambassador Mirza Husain Khan, who got him the post of consul general in Cairo in December 1863. Malkum helped set up the telegraph line through Iran that connected India to London by 1870.

In 1870 Mirza Husain Khan persuaded the Shah to visit Baghdad, where he met its reform governor Mihdat Pasha. Nasir al-Din Shah made Mirza Husain Khan minister of Justice and of Pensions and Charities, then of War, and finally prime minister even though it alienated clerics. He worked on reorganizing the government and eliminating corruption. During a terrible famine in 1871 he saved lives by stopping the rich from hoarding and opening the grain stores at subsidized prices. The bad harvests had been caused by shifting land from grain to opium and cotton for export.

In 1872 Mirza Husain Khan persuaded the Shah to sign a sweeping concession to Julius de Reuter, a British Jew, giving him, provided he started a railroad, rights to all factories and minerals that might be developed in Iran, which so far had exploited little. Husain Khan was accused of accepting more than £50,000 in bribes, and the concessions were so unpopular that the project was cancelled with Reuter losing his caution money. Nasir al-Din Shah traveled to Europe in 1871; but the extreme protection demanded by his favorite wife Anis al-Daula and other women caused problems in western society. On October 15, 1872 Husain Khan presented to the Shah a decree that would establish a Great Court or Supreme House of Consultation and a Consultative Assembly of Ministers or Council of State. These are similar to what Malkum had proposed, and they would become the main demands of the constitutional movement. In 1873 the Shah appointed Malkum ambassador to England, where he served for fifteen years. He warned the British of Russian advances, but he could not persuade the English to accept his proposals. Nasir al-Din Shah returned to Iran in September, and prominent people demanded that Husain Khan be dismissed. However, the Shah brought him back as minister of War the next year. Husain Khan’s attempt to establish provincial councils in 1875 was short-lived. About that time Malkum wrote his Principles of Civilization. The Faramushkhana evolved into the League of Humanity, and Malkum wrote The Principles of Humanity.

Under the Qajars the Shah usually appointed governors who contributed the most money, and governors in turn got their positions by selling local tax-collecting. This left most of the people with little savings for investment. Many peasants worked by sharecropping for their landlords. The Persian army mostly depended on tribal forces that were motivated by the opportunity to plunder. The central government maintained control by dividing opposing tribes, giving pensions as bribes, and by taking hostages from prominent families. Islamic law (shari‘a) was used for family issues, wills, contracts, and religious laws while criminal cases and rebellion against the state were usually handled by magistrates. Commercial litigants could choose between religious or secular courts. Very little printing was done in Iran, though from 1851 the Government published the weekly Iran Journal that became the official report of government orders and was required reading for officials.

Persia under Qajars 1876-1905

Nasir al-Din Shah traveled to Russia in 1878 and was impressed by their Cossacks. The next year Russian officers began training the new Persian Cossack Brigade. In 1880 the Shah sent Husain Khan to govern Khurasan, and he died in November 1881. When Aqa Ibrahim died, his son Ali Asghar Khan Amin al-Sultan took over his position and titles. Soon Amin al-Sultan was the Shah’s chief minister. He was a skilled politician and pursued a pro-British policy until 1892. In 1888 Persia gave the Caspian fisheries to Russia. That year Henry Drummond Wolff arrived from London, and he managed to gain economic concessions. The Shah opened the Karun River to international navigation. The Russians complained they were supposed to approve any transport concessions, but the Iranian government claimed it was not a concession. Wolff won a settlement of Baron Julius de Reuter’s claims that allowed Reuter’s bank the exclusive right to issue banknotes, and extensive mineral rights were included. This was called the Imperial Bank of Persia and had its headquarters in Tehran with several branches in various cities. The Russian Bank competed by making loans to prominent people, and they received road concessions.

In 1889 Nasir al-Din Shah went to Europe for the third time. He approved a lottery promoted by Malkum Khan; but he found opposition at home because gambling is forbidden by the Qur’an. The Shah cancelled the lottery, and Malkum Khan was able to sell his concession before the British were informed. Malkum was dismissed from his positions and lost his titles. He began criticizing the Iranian government in the reformist newspaper Qanun (Reform Law), which he founded in London and smuggled into Iran. The slogan “Unity, Justice, and Progress” was printed at the top, but he made personal attacks on Amin al-Sultan. Malkum quoted the merchant Qazvin who asked, “By what laws does the government sell our national rights to foreign racketeers?”1 The answer Malkum gave is that the Shah should call together a national assembly “to formulate laws that would initiate social progress.”

Sayyid Jamal al-Din al-Afghani was a Muslim reformer who helped to reconcile secularist reforms with the ‘ulama (learned Muslims). He was from an Azeri-speaking village in Afghanistan and traveled to India during the Mutiny of 1857-58, developing a hatred of British imperialism. He wrote “Refutation of the Materialists” and gained a reputation for supporting Islam, though he emphasized its social aspects. Jamal al-Din criticized the intolerance of religion that stifles science and serves political despotism, but he praised philosophy that frees one from beliefs. During the 1870s he educated young men in Egypt. Then in Paris he edited the Arabic newspaper al-‘Urwa al-Wuthqa, which promoted pan-Islamism. He went to London to try to influence British policy in Egypt, but he failed and returned to Persia. The Minister of the Press persuaded the Shah to invite Jamal al-Din to Tehran; but his anti-British ideas offended the Shah, who forced him to leave in 1887.

Jamal al-Din al-Afghani went to Russia, met the Shah’s contingent traveling in Europe and claimed that Amin al-Sultan gave him a mission in Russia to improve relations regarding the British. When he returned to Iran, Amin al-Sultan denied this and refused to see him. Hearing he might be banished, Jamal al-Din took sanctuary in the Shahzada ‘Abd al-‘Azim shrine south of Tehran, where he gathered disciples and sent out his writings to a secret political society. He was supported by the wealthy merchant Amin al-Zarb, Amin al-Daula, the ascetic reformer Shaikh Hadi Najmabadi, and some of the ‘ulama. In January 1891 because of an offensive leaflet, soldiers arrested him in the sanctuary and made him march in chains to the Iraqi border. He went to London and joined Malkum Khan, continuing to write and speak.

In March 1890 the Shah gave the British subject Major Talbot a fifty-year monopoly over Iran’s tobacco production and sales in exchange for a gift of £25,000, annual rent of £15,000, and 25% of the profits for Iran, but later in the year the newspaper Akhtar exposed the secret and criticized the concession. Jamal al-Din’s disciples added their leaflets on this issue that affected many Iranians who were involved in the tobacco business. When the tobacco company’s agents began to arrive in April 1891, a major protest was led by a religious leader from Shiraz. He was banished to Iraq and conferred with Jamal al-Din, who wrote to the top Shi’i ‘ulama, Hajji Mirza Hasan Shirazi. He put an interdict on smoking that was widely obeyed. A revolt in Tabriz forced the Government to suspend the tobacco operation, and the general strike spread to Mashhad, Isfahan, Tehran, Qazvin, Yazd, and Kirmanshah. The consumer’s boycott was supported by the Russians as well as Persians. By the end of 1891 a successful nationwide boycott on the sale and use of tobacco was in place. In Tehran troops fired on unarmed demonstrators, killing several, and the Government cancelled the concession in early 1892. The Iranian government contracted its first large foreign debt of £500,000 to the British-owned Imperial Bank, which authorized exorbitant pay to the company. As a result of this British fiasco the Russians became more influential.

Jamal al-Din al-Afghani in London printed a letter in Malkum’s Qanun calling upon Shi’a in Iraq and Iran to overthrow the Shah. In December 1892 Malkum used his Qanun journal to come out for parliamentary government. In late 1892 Jamal al-Din went to Istanbul to meet with Sultan Abdulhamid II, who encouraged him to spread pan-Islamic propaganda but not attack the Shah. Akhtar editor Aqa Khan Kirmani and the poet Shaikh Ahmad Ruhi sent out a letter to Shi’i ‘ulama in Iran, urging them to give their allegiance to the Sultan-Caliph. The Iranian embassy complained, and the Sultan agreed to extradite them and Khabir al-Mulk; but while they were imprisoned at Trabzon, Jamal al-Din persuaded the Sultan to change his mind. Rida Kirmani visited Jamal al-Din in Istanbul in 1895. Then Rida returned to Iran and shot the Shah dead on May 1, 1896. The crowd attacked him and cut off an ear, but he was rescued by Amin al-Sultan. Rida was not tortured, but he was hanged.

The Shah’s oldest son had been excluded from the succession because his mother was of low birth, and the sickly Muzaffar al-Din became shah. He made no more foreign loans, and kept order, but he was not interested in political reform. He promoted music, art, and poetry, and he encouraged the translation of Western literature. The police force in Tehran was modernized, and city services were improved. The postal service expanded and began using stamps. The three progressive writers in Trabzon were extradited and executed at Tabriz. Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, the only person implicated by Rida Kirmani, became very ill with cancer and died in 1897.

The Shah dismissed the unpopular Amin al-Sultan and appointed the reformer Amin al-Daula in August 1897; but when he could not raise a loan from the British, Amin al-Sultan was brought back as chief minister. Finances were re-organized; tariffs on native merchants were increased; and reduced court expenditures affected the ‘ulama. Belgian administrators were invited to reform the customs, but Iranian merchants complained that Russians were favored. The Shah sold an oil monopoly to the Australian British subject William Knox-D’Arcy, and new road tolls were granted to the Imperial Bank of Britain. A French company loaned Persia £200,000 to buy arms. Doctors advised the Shah to travel, and the British government loaned the Shah £300,000 so that he could visit London for medical treatment. Malkum Khan was appointed ambassador to Rome, and people were encouraged to form commercial, cultural, and educational associations. Amin al-Sultan arranged loans of £3,000,000 at five percent interest from Russia in 1900 and 1902 to repay previous loans. These proved to be financially disastrous. Persia’s annual revenue was about £1,500,000, but in three years they borrowed and spent almost that much. The Belgian Joseph Naus mediated a new customs tariff that was signed by Persia and Russia in the Treaty of Erzerum in November 1901, ratified in December 1902, and kept secret until February 1903.

People protested against the Belgian administrators and the foreign concessions. In the summer of 1903 anti-Bahá’í riots caused the death of dozens of Bahá’ís in Isfahan and Yazd. The Shah appointed his relative ‘Ain al-Daula as premier. Secret societies grew and spread critical literature. The Azerbaijani Fath ‘Ali Akhundov wrote Kamal al-Daula va Jalal al-Daula, a collection of letters criticizing conditions in Iran. In Tabriz intellectuals were led by bookstore owner Muhammad ‘Ali Khan and Sayyid Hasan Taqizada. The Society of Learning was organized in Tehran, and they founded the first national library. Malik al-Mutakallimin was a popular preacher and a secret ‘Azali. He argued that education is a “social factory that produces, not material goods, but responsible citizens and fully developed human beings.”2 Five of the most important organizations were the Secret Center in Tabriz with its journal led by the merchant ‘Ali Karbala-yi, the Social Democratic Party of Iran formed in 1904 in Baku by émigrés led by Azerbaijani school-teacher Narim Narimanov, the Society of Humanity in Tehran founded by ‘Abbas Kuli Khan Qazvini, the Revolutionary Committee headed by Malik al-Mutakallimin, and the Secret Society founded by Nazem al-Islam Kirmani who wrote History of the Awakening of Iranians. In February 1905 the Secret Society listed several demands for reforms including better laws and courts of justice.

Iran and its Constitution 1905-25

In 1905 Russia suffered a shocking defeat in a major war against Japan and a failed revolution. Yet that was the year that the Russian Diet was formed. Modernization in the Ottoman empire and Egypt also influenced Iranians. These events caused rapid inflation of food prices but also provided an opportunity in Iran for change with less Russian interference. In the first three months of 1905 sugar prices in Iran went up 33% and wheat prices in Tehran increased 90%. Two hundred shopkeepers and money-lenders demanded that the Belgian customs administrator Naus be dismissed and that loans be repaid. In December 1905 the Governor of Tehran bastinadoed some sugar merchants for refusing to lower their raised sugar prices. They took sanctuary in the Royal Mosque of Tehran and were joined by mullahs and tradesmen. Imam Jum‘a helped the agents of ‘Ain al-Daula to disperse them. At Sayyid Muhammad Tabataba’i’s suggestion they moved to the Shahzada ‘Abd al-‘Azim shrine, where they were joined by 2,000 students, lower mullahs, merchants, and common people. They held out for 25 days, demanding a House of Justice (adalatkhana). The Shah dismissed the Governor and agreed to the demand in January 1906. However, Muzaffar al-Din Shah and ‘Ain al-Daula did little on this, and the radical preacher Sayyid Jamal al-Din Isfahani was expelled from Tehran.

When the government ordered Shaikh Muhammad Va‘iz expelled too, people protested, and on July 11 an officer killed a young sayyid. At his public funeral outside the mosque the Cossacks attacked the crowd, killing 22 and wounding more than a hundred. Many mullahs and others left Tehran and went to Qum, and the crowd protesting inside the British legation grew to 14,000 people organized by guilds. They turned the legation into an open-air school and heard lectures. They demanded that ‘Ain al-Daula be dismissed, and they asked for a representative assembly (majlis) also.

Faced with a general strike in Tehran, Muzaffar al-Din Shah dismissed ‘Ain al-Daula, and on August 5, 1906 he agreed to the Assembly (Majlis), which was elected by male voters from the six classes of Mujahids, Qajars, nobles, landowners, merchants, and guilds. Only males literate in Persian between the ages of 30 and 70 who were not in the Government and had not been convicted of a crime were eligible to serve in the Assembly. The first Assembly began meeting in October 1906, and a committee wrote the Fundamental Law that the Shah signed on December 30, five days before he died. He was succeeded by his son Muhammad ‘Ali. He recalled Amin al-Sultan (Atabak) from his travels, and he tried to find a compromise between the Shah and the conservatives in the Assembly. A radical assassinated Atabak on August 31, 1907, the same day that the British and Russians settled their issues in Iran as well as in Tibet and Afghanistan. The treaty was signed before the Iranians were even informed, causing riots in Shiraz, Isfahan, and Tabriz.

The National Assembly also passed the longer Supplementary Fundamental Laws. These were based on the Belgian constitution and contained a bill of rights and concentrated power in the legislature. They were the basis of Iran’s constitution until 1979. They differed from the Belgian constitution in recognizing the local authority of provincial councils and making Shi‘ism the official religion of Iran. The laws provided for equal rights with a few limits for those of all religions despite the ‘ulama’s objection. The Assembly passed laws guaranteeing a free press and public education for all. The Assembly refused to approve a new loan from Russia and planned a national bank, which lacked capital. Suddenly newspapers were flourishing with political ideas, satire, and new poetry. Tabriz in Azerbaijan was a center of the revolution led by young Sayyid Hasan Taqizada. At first the Shah refused to ratify the Supplementary Fundamental Laws, setting off protests in Tabriz and other cities. Massive rallies were held, and a moneylender from Tabriz assassinated Premier Amin al-Sultan and then committed suicide outside the parliament. Threatened with a general strike, in October 1907 the new Shah signed the Supplementary Fundamental Laws.

After Muhammad ‘Ali Shah was the target of an assassination attempt in February 1908, on his second try he pulled off a coup on June 23. The Cossack Brigade commanded by Col. Liakhoff attacked the volunteers, killing more than 250 according to the British report. The Shah declared martial law and appointed Liakhoff military governor of Tehran. The Shah closed the Assembly and had many popular nationalists arrested and executed, including Jamal al-Din Isfahani, Malik al-Mutakallimin, and Jahangir Khan, the editor of Sur-i Israfil. However, Tabriz had an armed guard and defeated the Shah’s forces. Sattar Khan led the resistance there by tearing down the white flags of surrender to the royal forces. The poor and the middle class supported the revolution.

The siege of Tabriz began in February 1909. When food supplies ran low in April, Russian troops came in to help the Europeans and took over. Three of the leading mujahids in Karbala and Najaf supported the constitution and denounced the Shah. The nationalists called mujahids and fida’is left for the Gilan province by the Caspian Sea. They were joined by armed revolutionaries and marched in June on Tehran, which was held by 5,000 Persian troops. The Bakhtiyari tribe liberated Isfahan from the Qajars and also approached Tehran with about 2,000 men. On July 23 armed volunteers opened the gates of Tehran, and the Shah took refuge in the Russian legation. Five hundred delegates of the dissolved parliament met in Tehran as the Grand Assembly and deposed Muhammad ‘Ali Shah. His young son Ahmad became shah with Prince ‘Azud al-Mulk and then Nasir al-Mulk as regents. The Constitutionalists hanged the reactionary ‘ulama leader Shaikh Fazl-Allah Nuri.

The second Assembly was elected by a single class with the property qualification reduced from 1,000 tomans to 250. The number of seats for Tehran was reduced from 60 to 15, and one seat each was reserved for Jews, Zarathustrians, Christian Assyrians, and Armenians. On August 5, 1909 the cabinet called the second National Assembly. The Moderates led by Behbehani and Tabataba’i represented the landed aristocrats and the middle class and had 53 members. The Democrats led by Taqizada had 27 mostly from the north. The Armenian Dashnak party allied with the Democrats as did Social Democrats from Baku. Most of the Russian troops in the northern provinces were withdrawn. In 1910 the Assembly was divided by the two main parties, and tribal warfare broke out in the provinces. Four followers of Haydar Khan assassinated the respected Behbehani. The ‘ulama denounced Taqizada and forced him into exile. Mustawfi al-Mamalek became prime minister and decreed that private citizens must hand in their weapons to the police. Three hundred supporters of the Moderates refused to disarm and barricaded themselves in central Tehran, but they were disarmed by a large force of Bakhtiyari tribesmen and the police.

In 1911 Russian and British troops moved into northern and southern cities. The American financial expert Morgan Shuster came to Iran in May to reform its finances, and he tried to set up tax collection led by the British officer, Major Stokes. In November the Russians demanded that Shuster be dismissed. The Assembly rejected this, and a large crowd gathered outside; but when Russian troops moved toward Tehran, the premier Samsam al-Saltaneh, the regent, and the cabinet accepted the Russian ultimatum. Yprem Khan and his forces from the Caucasus barred shut the doors of the Assembly. Moderates dissolved the Assembly, and the Russians forced Shuster to leave Iran in December, ending the revolutionary period. Women participated in protests and published a newspaper, though they were disrupted by conservative ‘ulama. In Tabriz a battle between Russian troops and city police resulted in the suicide of the deputy governor and execution of 44 revolutionaries defending the Constitution. Russian soldiers seized food in Enzeli and Rasht, killing 43 people. After a Russian officer was assassinated in Mashhad, the Russians attacked a large crowd and bombarded the shrine of Imam Reza on March 29, 1912.

D’Arcy had been given an oil concession in Iran in 1901 except in five provinces. Iran received £20,000, an equal amount of shares, and 16% of the annual net profit. They struck oil, and D’Arcy formed a syndicate with the Burma Oil Company. In 1909 the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was organized with £2,000,000 of capital. In 1912 the British navy changed from coal to oil, and in 1914 the British government bought a majority of the shares in the oil company for £2,000,000. The British were dominant in southern Iran. On July 21, 1914 Ahmad Shah Qajar was crowned at the age of 17, and the next week the Great War began. Iran followed a policy of neutrality during the war. Russian troops withdrew, and the Turks moved into Azerbaijan. The Iranians elected the third National Assembly, and it opened in January 1915 but could not bring about financial reforms.

On March 19, 1915 a secret Anglo-Russian treaty promised control of Istanbul and the Straits to Russia and post-war control of the neutral Iranian zone to Britain along with the southern British zone. The British were allowed to move into the central neutral zone, and Russia was given freedom of action in their northern zone. In 1915 the German Wassmuss organized a tribal revolt in the south against the British. Iran’s government negotiated with the Germans. Russians defeated the Turks and moved into Qazvin near Tehran. Russians prevented the Government from moving to Isfahan by threatening to bring back the Shah’s father Muhammad ‘Ali. Some pro-German deputies went to Qum and set up the Committee for National Defense, dissolving the third Assembly. Russians forced them to retreat to Kirmanshah, where Germans gave them funds to organize tribal forces against the British and the Russians. The British sent the South Persia Rifles led by Percy Sykes that supplied the Bakhtiyari and Arab tribes, regaining control of the south in 1916.

Iran was devastated by the war and suffered famine. Revolutionary movements spread, and Kuchik Khan led the Jangalis in Gilan province in 1917-18. Iranians were inspired by the revolutions in Russia in March and November 1917. The Communists took Russia out of the Great War. The British persuaded the Allies to refuse to let Iran participate in the peace talks in Paris. Foreign secretary Curzon told Percy Cox in Tehran to negotiate a treaty, and it was signed on August 9, 1919. The authorized capital of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company had increased to £20,000,000. The British loaned Iran £2,000,000 at 7% interest, bribed premier Vusuq al-Daula and two ministers, and gained revised tariffs and became the sole foreign supplier in Iran. The Americans and French complained, and Iranians were upset and insisted that the Assembly had to ratify such a treaty. So elections were planned for the fourth National Assembly. Lt. Col. Fazl-Allah Khan served on the mixed military commission; but he was so frustrated by British imperialism that he committed suicide.

In April 1920 Shaikh Muhammad Khiyabani and the Democrats controlled Tabriz and changed the name of Azerbaijan to Azadistan; they published the bilingual Azeri-Persian newspaper Huriyat (Freedom). On May 18 the Red Army invaded Gilan at Enzeli and drove out the White Russians and a small British garrison. They formed a coalition with Kuchik Khan and the new Communist Party of Iran, calling it the Soviet Socialist Republic of Gilan in June. Vusuq al-Daula was forced to resign on July 24, and the Shah appointed Moderate Mushir al-Daula, who suspended the treaty until foreign troops left and the Assembly could debate the issue. Azadistan was attacked by rebellious tribes, and Cossacks suppressed the radicals and murdered Khiyabani in Tabriz in September. The Gilan Jangalis moved into Mazandaran, but they were divided by the Communists and Kuchik Khan. The British began reducing their military in Iran, and by April 1921 they had completely withdrawn. Premier Mushir al-Daula was replaced by Sardar-i Sipah Fath-Allah Khan, who postponed ratification of a treaty with the Soviet Union until they withdrew their troops.

On February 12, 1921 Reza Khan led 3,000 Persian Cossacks into Tehran, arrested about sixty prominent politicians, and replaced the pro-British regime Sipahdar government with Sayyid Ziya al-Din Tabataba’i as premier and himself as Minister of War. Ziya annulled the Anglo-Iranian Treaty, dismissed British advisors, and disbanded the South Persia Rifles in Kirman. He promised land reform and independence. On February 26 a treaty with the Soviet Union renounced all Russian loans and concessions except the Russian Caspian fisheries. The Soviets would be allowed to send in troops against their enemies. In April the last Soviet troops were withdrawn from Gilan, and the Soviet ambassador arrived in Tehran.

Conflict between Ziya and Reza Khan resulted in Ziya going into exile in May 1921. Reza released the aristocrats who had been imprisoned by Ziya. Qavam al-Saltana became premier, and the fourth National Assembly was elected and began in June. The Moderate Party had changed their name to the Reformers Party and won a majority, but they were still conservative and represented clerics, wealthy merchants, and landowners. They benefited from the new election law that extended suffrage to all adult males and thus to the rural masses who voted for the rural elites. Reza allied with them and strengthened his power with the military by moving the gendarmerie from the Interior Ministry to the War Ministry and by replacing British and Swedish officers in the Cossacks with Iranians. He closed down three radical newspapers—the Communists’ Haddiq, the Socialists’ Tafan, and Red Star. However, the landowners opposed conscription because it weakened their patrimonial authority and reduced their labor pool.

After Communists met at the Conference of Eastern Peoples at Baku, Major Lahuti of the Tabriz gendarmerie tried to challenge the central government; but the Cossacks forced him to retreat to the Soviet Union, where he became a famous Persian-Tajik poet. Col. Muhammad Taqi Khan Paysan formed a government with the Democratic Party in Khurasan with its own national army; but Paysan was killed in a skirmish with Kurds, and the Cossacks regained Mashhad. Religious guerrillas killed Haydar Khan, and his partisans fled from Gilan. The guerrillas outlawed the Communist Party and urged Kurdish warriors to support the central government. Kuchik Khan purged the leftists from his government in Gilan. Reza Khan sent in a force that defeated the Jangalis by the end of 1921, causing Kuchik Khan’s regime to collapse. Kuchik died of frostbite, and his head was displayed in Tehran. Between 1917 and 1921 about two million Iranians died from war, disease, and starvation.

Qavam began talking to Americans, and negotiations began with the Sinclair Oil Company. In 1922 Arthur Millspaugh was appointed administer-general of Finances. Reza Khan combined 12,000 men of the Gendarmerie with 7,000 Cossacks. They recruited and trained a new army of 40,000 men, and Reza made Qavam transfer funds to the Ministry of War to assure regular pay. The army had been used against Kurds in western Azerbaijan and the Kuhigiluyeh in Fars in 1922 and against Sanjabi Kurds in Kirmanshah in 1923.

The fifth National Assembly began meeting in January 1923. This time Reza Khan helped the Revival Party, made up of former Democrats, win a majority. They were led by three men with European education—lawyer Ali Akbar Davar, landowner ‘Abd al-Husain Timurtash, and Prince Firuz Farmanfarma. Foreign Minister Prince Firuz initiated the founding of the Pasteur Institute in Tehran under the direction of Dr. Joseph Mesnard from France. On October 28 Ahmad Shah appointed Reza Khan prime minister of Iran, and he continued as War Minister and became commander-in-chief.

On February 11, 1924 the Revival Party passed a bill that included compulsory military service for two years, reduced court expenditures, abolished Qajar court titles, required birth certificates and registration of a family name, laid taxes on income, tea, and sugar to finance construction of the Trans-Iranian railway, standardized weights and measures, and reverted to a pre-Islamic solar calendar. Reza Khan chose the name Pahlavi, an ancient Persian language. The influential reform journal Iranshahr was published in Berlin and was distributed in forty Iranian cities and towns. They published 73 articles on secular education, 45 on women’s rights, 30 on pre-Islamic Iran, and 40 on modern technology and western philosophy. They wanted to create a national culture over local ones. Other journals also emphasized national unity and modern ways. The historian Kasravi wrote books on the ancient Azeri language of Azerbaijan, a history of Khuzistan, and the important History of the Iranian Constitution. He was a strong critic of Sufism.

Other former Democrats organized the Socialist Party, which was centered in Tehran and published four newspapers. They called for an egalitarian society with education for women, banning child labor, an eight-hour day, and government projects to reduce unemployment. The Communist Party had branches in Tehran, Tabriz, Mashhad, Isfahan, Enzeli, and Kirmanshah, and they published six newspapers. The Socialists and Communists worked together in organizing the Central Council of Federated Trade Unions (CCFTU), which began in 1921. Within three years they had 8,000 members. Most of the Communists were Azeris and Armenians, but the peasants remained loyal to their landowners.

In 1924 the Iranian army intervened in Baluchistan and Luristan while occupying Khuzistan, overthrowing Shaikh Khaz‘al of Muhammara. The independence of Turkey inspired Iranians to consider becoming a republic, but the ‘ulama and many feared Ataturk’s secularization. On April 1 Reza rejected Ataturk’s approach. He sent his resignation to the Assembly and the army, but he was made premier again. In 1925 Reza sent the army to Mazandaran and Khurasan, and he was admired even more for his heroism. After rumors spread that the absent Shah might return from Europe, on October 31 the Assembly voted 80-5 to depose the Qajar dynasty. They reconvened as a Constituent Assembly, and on December 12 they voted nearly unanimously to invest the monarchy on Reza Khan and his heirs, and they excluded Qajars from the succession or regency.

Iran under Reza Pahlavi 1925-41

On December 15, 1925 Reza Shah swore to uphold the Fundamental Laws of the Constitution, support the Shi‘i faith, and preserve the independence and territory of Iran. The next day he received foreign diplomats, and on December 19 he appointed Muhammad ‘Ali Furugi prime minister. Reza Shah banned the sale of alcohol, lowered bread prices, and prohibited gambling. The Soviet Union persuaded Iran to sign a treaty of friendship with Turkey and Afghanistan. On April 25, 1926 while wearing his military uniform and royal jewels Reza Shah crowned himself. The new Shah used military force to pacify tribes in his effort to modernize Iran. He subjected them to taxation and conscription with governments that tended to be brutal and corrupt. Nomads often lost their livestock, and lack of food led to disease, death, and exploitation by the military and government.

Reza Shah appointed the Bakhtiyari leader Sardar As‘ad Minister of Posts and Telegraphs and then Minister of War. The government had been clashing with the Bakhtiyari since June 1922, and in 1923 Bakhtiyari khans were prohibited from having armed retainers. In 1929 both the Fars and Bakhtiyaris revolted, and three khans were executed. In 1934 three khans were arrested, and Sardar As‘ad died in custody. In 1936 Bakhtiyari was divided with part in Khuzistan and the rest in Isfahan.

The Qashqa‘is offered stronger resistance. In 1926 their leaders Saulat al-Daula and his son Nasir Khan were sent to Tehran as deputies in the Assembly, but they were not allowed to leave. The Qashqa‘is were disarmed, taxed, and conscripted. They rebelled in 1929 and were joined by Boir Ahmadis, Mamassanis, and Khamsas. By August the Qashqa‘is were defeated, and in the winter the army pursued and punished the Khamsas and Baharlus. Then the next year the Mamassanis and Boir Ahmadis were suppressed. The Kurds rebelled in June and July of 1930. In 1932 the Qashqa‘is revolted again and were severely punished. Over the next nine years Reza had most of the tribal leaders executed or banished.

From 1926 to 1941 Reza Shah increased the military budget fivefold. He also increased the civil service to 90,000 employees. He used court patronage and became the richest man in Iran. He consulted a police chief and gave a list of candidates for the Assembly to the Minister of the Interior who passed it on to provincial governors. In 1926 a British minister commented that whatever Reza Shah wanted passed and whatever he opposed was withdrawn. He closed down independent newspapers and stripped deputies of their parliamentary immunity. The Revival Party was replaced by the New Iran Party, which was later renamed the Progressive Party. Eventually it was dissolved because of its republican sentiments.

Reza Shah had roads built to improve motor transport. The Trans-Iranian railway was begun in 1926 and was finished in 1938. Reza used the policy of statism, giving the government monopolies in tobacco, cement, and power plants. European laws and legal practices from France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Italy replaced Shari‘a courts. Criminal and commercial codes were promulgated in 1925 based on the Italian Penal Code, and in 1927 Iran began using the French Civil Code. The Ministry of Justice was led by the University of Geneva graduate ‘Ali Akbar Davar, who replaced religious judges with educated lawyers. A hierarchy of courts extended from counties to regions to provinces to the Supreme Court.

The foreign capitulations were abolished in April 1927, and the Communist and Socialist parties were banned. The government also banned the CCFTU and all trade unions, arresting 150 labor organizers in the cities of Abadan, Tehran, Mashhad, Tabriz, and Isfahan as well as from the Qazvin Educational Society. Many exiled Iranian Communists were killed in Stalin’s purges. By abolishing taxes on the guilds, the Shah took away guild elders’ ability to decide how much each guild member paid. The guilds organized general strikes in the major cities. The Government broke the strikes by promising not to conscript urban youth and to appoint clergy to a judicial committee, but these promises were broken later. Reza wanted an Iran that was secular, anti-tribal, nationalistic and with educational development and state capitalism. Exit visas were denied for pilgrimages to Mecca, Medina, Najaf, and Karbala. Statues of Reza Shah adorned urban squares. In 1927 the American financial administrator Millspaugh was forced to resign. The National Bank of Iran was established in 1928 and was given the exclusive right to print money that before had been printed by the British Imperial Bank. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was ordered to lease oil land directly from the Governor of Khuzistan. In 1928 the Assembly banned traditional clothes for all males except the clergy.

By 1928 educational reform had produced a standardized textbook. In 1930 school children were required to wear Iranian cloth. In 1934 the six colleges of Medicine, Agriculture, Teachers Training, Law, Literature, and Political Science were combined to form the University of Tehran. The law school was taught by professors from France and Italy. In the late 1930s they added colleges in Dentistry, Pharmacology, Veterinary Medicine, Fine Arts, and Science and Technology. Between 1925 and 1941 the number of primary school students increased from 55,960 to 287,245, secondary students from 14,488 to 28,194, and college students from less than 600 to more than 3,300. The number of students in the religious madrasas declined drastically from 5,984 to 785. In 1941 still less than 10% of Iranians were literate. The number of workers in modern factories increased from less than 1,000 in 1925 to more than 50,000 in 1941. Pahlavi Iran tried to go back to ancient traditions before Islam, and in 1935 the Iranian Academy of Literature was founded to purge the Persian language of unnecessary Arabic words. This ethnic nationalism was combined with a desire for European modernization. In 1934 Bahá’í schools lost their licenses to teach because they had celebrated the anniversary of the Bab’s martyrdom. Armenian schools lost their licenses in 1938.

Many members of the ‘ulama were imprisoned or went into exile. Sayyid Hasan Mudarris tried to oppose the Shah’s policies with pan-Islamism, and he was influential in the National Assembly of 1921. He voted against restoring the monarchy in 1925. He was arrested in 1929 and was murdered in prison in 1937. On May Day in 1929 about 11,000 oil workers went on strike for higher wages, an 8-hour day, and union recognition. The British company granted their demands, but the Iranian government arrested more than five hundred workers and kept five strike leaders in prison until 1941. Reza Shah tolerated the different religions of Armenian Christians, Jews, and Zarathustrians, but they were not allowed to educate their children in parochial schools. He persecuted even more the ethnic minorities of Arabs, Baluchies, Kurds, and Turks.

In 1928 Reza abrogated the capitulations that had been given to Europeans. In 1931 the Iranian government took over the telegraph system from the British and the collection of customs from the remaining Belgians. A law prohibited foreigners from owning agricultural land, and the Iranian government monopolized foreign trade. In 1932 foreign primary schools were prohibited. In 1933 Timurtash was sentenced to five years in prison for bribery, extortion, and embezzlement, and he died five months later. John Cadman arrived in April 1933 to negotiate revision of the oil agreement that increased Iran’s share of the annual profit from 16% to 20%. In March 1935 the Government officially changed the name of Persia to Iran and insisted that foreigners no longer use the name Persia.

Influenced by his trip to Turkey in 1934, Reza Shah began allowing women more freedom. Women attended the University of Tehran and entered the workplace; the veil was banned in 1936. However, Iranian men could still have four wives and could divorce wives at will. Reza Shah married a Qajar noblewoman as his third wife.

In July 1935 a large crowd gathered at the shrine of Imam Riza to protest government policies unveiling women, use of the international hat, and to commemorate the Russian bombardment. After an incident with the local garrison, the crowd remained. Two days later the Shah ordered troops to fire machine guns into the crowd, massacring more than a hundred people and severely injuring nearly two hundred. Three conscripts who refused to fire into the crowd were shot. A British minister reported that the Shah had destroyed the power of the Mullahs, forgetting “Napoleon’s adage that the chief purpose of religion is to prevent the poor from murdering the rich.”3 In May 1934 the Shah had tried to claim Bahrain and the Shatt al-‘Arab frontier, and on July 4, 1937 Iran and Iraq signed an agreement. Four days later the four-power Sa‘adabad Pact also included Turkey and Afghanistan.

In 1936 three hundred students at the Teachers’ College went on strike to protest low wages, and in 1937 students in law school protested extensive spending for a visit by the Crown Prince. Some were charged with fascism and plotting against the Shah, and the conscripted leader was secretly executed. That May 53 Marxists were detained, and 45 were sentenced to from two to ten years in prison. In 1938 the crown prince Muhammad Reza married Princess Fawzia, the sister of King Faruq of Egypt. Prince Firuz died in 1938 a few months after Davar’s suicide. The Government began using deficit spending in 1937. Inflation resulted as the number of rials in circulation went from 0.16 billion in 1932 to 1.74 billion in 1941.

In 1939 the Iranian government by decree took over all the religious lands and foundations. In 1940 the Government established its own broadcasting station in the capital. In 1941 the Assembly passed a law to reduce infectious diseases by making treatment of venereal diseases and small pox vaccination compulsory, giving free medication to the poor, making the spreading of disease a criminal offense, certifying and inspecting brothels, and inspecting all public places regularly. Reza Shah did not allow land reform, and agricultural taxes were shifted from landowners to peasant farmers. The number of landowners increased in the Assembly and cabinet positions. Opponents were forced to sell their land at low prices.

By 1939 Germany had 41% of Iran’s foreign trade. As another war approached, Iran once again adopted the policy of neutrality; but Reza Shah cooperated with Germany to fend off the Soviets and the British. He refused to expel German nationals and would not allow the Allies to use the Trans-Iranian railway to transport war materials. He increased Iran’s army to 127,000 men. After he refused to agree to British and Soviet demands to expel the Germans in July and August 1941, both the British and the Red Army invaded Iran on August 25 and occupied it for the duration of the war. The British broadcasted criticism of Reza Shah’s despotism and greed, and in two weeks the deputies turned against him. Reza Shah abdicated on September 16, and the Allies accepted his son Muhammad Reza as his successor. Reza Pahlavi left his heir £3,000,000 in the bank and more than 3,000,000 acres. He left on a British ship that took him to Mauritius. Later he went to the Transvaal, where he died in 1944.

Iran and Its Allies 1941-50

Following the invasion that began on August 25, 1941 the Soviet Union occupied the northern provinces of Azerbaijan, Gilan, Mazandararn, Gorgan, and Khurasan. The British controlled the remainder of Iran. Reza Shah left in September, and about two hundred Iranian officers and technicians were arrested as Nazi sympathizers along with Germans working on the railways. The Iranian government continued to function, but the cabinet was transformed to support the Allies. The Allies supplied the government with food aid and promised to leave Iran within six months of the end of the war. Young Muhammad Reza Shah handed over the government treasury of 600 million rials, but he secretly transferred $1,000,000 into his New York bank account. In civilian clothes he took an oath before the Assembly to reign as a constitutional monarch and to respect the laws. He gave his father’s estates and the religious endowments to the Government. The veil was no longer banned, and women could choose to wear it or not. He was allowed to command the army, and he managed to get a quarter of the budget for the War Ministry. In October the Government granted amnesty to all political prisoners arrested by the previous Shah.

On January 29, 1942 Iran signed a treaty of alliance with Great Britain and the Soviet Union. Later that year 30,000 noncombatant American troops arrived to administer the lend-lease supplies going to Russia. The United States began sending financial aid to Iran, and early in 1943 Dr. Millspaugh returned to supervise Iranian finances. The Assembly gave him broad power and authorized him to hire sixty American aides. Col. Norman Schwarzkopf was put in charge of reorganizing the rural police. American experts also worked in various departments. On December 1, 1943 President Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin met at Tehran, and their communiqué affirmed the principles of the Atlantic Charter by promising to maintain “the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Iran.”

After World War II ended in 1945, an autonomous movement broke out in Azerbaijan. The Tuda Party and Soviet agents from across the border helped Azeri Democrats depose the Iranian governor and proclaim the republic of Azerbaijan on December 12. The Red Army protected them and blocked the Iranian troops from reaching the province. The Comintern agent Jaafar Pishevari, who founded the Democratic Party, led the government. They allowed women to vote, founded Tabriz University, and carried out land reform. This was soon followed by Kurds declaring a republic under the Soviets in Mahabad. The Iranian ambassador appealed to the United Nations. American troops left Iran before the end of 1945, and British forces departed in February 1946, but Soviet troops remained in Iran past the March 2 deadline. On May Day a woman speaker called for equal pay for equal work and suggested nationalizing the oil industry.

The Tuda (Masses) Party had been founded in October 1941 by a group which included 27 political prisoners from the 53 Marxists. They were led by Iraj Iskandari, and his elderly uncle Sulayman Iskandari became chairman. In August 1944 the first Tuda Party Congress was attended in Tehran by 168 delegates representing 25,800 members. However, they did not become a large party until after the war. Their newspaper Rahbar (Leader) increased to a circulation of more than 100,000, and the Tuda Party claimed 150,000 members. By 1945 their Central Council of Federated Trade Unions had more than 270,000 members working in oil, construction, textiles, railways, carpet-weaving, dockers, miners, and truck-drivers. In May 1946 they led a general strike in the oil industry and won the eight-hour day, overtime pay, higher wages, and better housing. The Tuda Party then got these reforms passed into law along with worker’s insurance, unemployment pay, minimum wages based on local food prices, no child labor, and the right to organize unions. Many prominent intellectuals supported the Tuda Party. However, Soviet demands for oil concessions in the north and rebellions in Azerbaijan and by Kurds hurt their cause.

The Iranian Assembly chose Qavam al-Saltana to be prime minister again in February 1946, and he held on to the Foreign and Interior ministries. He made the prince Muzaffar Firuz his deputy. Qavam went to Moscow to negotiate while Communists in Tehran prevented the Assembly from meeting. On April 4 Qavam made an agreement giving the Soviet Union 51% of the stock in the Soviet-Iranian oil company. Iran withdrew its complaint from the UN Security Council. On May 9 the Red Army evacuated Iranian territory. Qavam ended martial law in Tehran, permitted mass meetings, and encouraged the Tuda Party to reopen their clubs that had been burned down. He arrested Ziya, the pro-British Taheri, chief Qubadian of the Kurdish Kalhur tribe in Khuzistan, the royalist deputy Dawlatabadi from Isfahan, Justice Party leader Dashti, and three merchants who financed the National Will Party. He also confiscated the financial assets of the Justice and National Will parties, and he shut down ten rightist newspapers.

Prime Minister Qavam arrested the pro-British army chief of staff, General Hasan ‘Arfa, for having armed anti-Tabriz Shahsaven tribes, replacing him with General Razmara. Qavam made an agreement with the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan in June, recognizing their “national” government and assembly as the provincial council and assembly of Azerbaijan and their armed volunteers as local security. A commission was set up to resolve other disputes. Qavam started the Democrat Party to challenge royalists and pro-British candidates in the next election and as a counter-balance of reformers to the Tuda Party. The Democrat Party favored reforms such as revising law enforcement and the army, distributing state land, giving women the vote, reducing unemployment, encouraging village elections and provincial assemblies, and constructing rural clinics, schools, and irrigation projects. The party established the daily Demokrat-i Iran and three other newspapers. Also in June the Supreme Economic Council was set up to plan the distribution of crown land, aid peasants, set a minimum wage, stop the growing of opium, protect national industries, and implement a five-year plan.

When the Flag of Islam newspaper incited demonstrations against unveiled women, Prime Minister Qavam closed it down and arrested Ayatollah Abul Qassem Kashani for organizing protests against the Government. In July the Prime Minister ordered the army to stop arming those fighting against the Tuda in Gilan and Mazadaran. Qavam appointed the pro-Soviet ‘Abbas Iskandari mayor of Tehran and named a pro-Tuda politician governor-general of Isfahan. Muzaffar Firuz went to Khuzistan to persuade the oil company to settle the strike affecting 60,000 employees. Qavam appointed the Communists Fereydoun Keshavarz, Morteza Yazdi, and Iraj Iskandar to his cabinet on August 2, forming a coalition of the Democrat, Tuda, and Iran parties. He created the Ministry of Labor and Information headed by Muzaffar Firuz.

In the summer of 1946 a confederation of tribes formed and demanded that the Tuda ministers be dismissed and Communist agitation be suppressed, especially in the Anglo-Iranian oil fields where the Tuda provoked riots. Premier Qavam turned back to the right in October to avoid a civil war. He dismissed the Tuda and Iran ministers and ordered the army to move into Azerbaijan. He postponed land reform and labor legislation and released the politicians he had arrested. Qavam appointed anti-Communists to govern Isfahan, Khuzistan, Gilan, and Mazandaran, and they used martial law to ban ten leftist newspapers and to arrest 340 radicals. He moved the Democrat Party farther to the right by recruiting tribal chiefs as leaders. The Democrat Party became the reform alternative to Tuda, and to compete they organized the Central Syndicate of Iranian Craftsmen, Farmers, and Workers (ESKI).

On December 10 Prime Minister Qavam ordered the army to go to Azerbaijan and Kurdistan to maintain law and security during the national elections. The Shah led the army into Tabriz. After two days of fighting the autonomous governments surrendered. A new National Assembly was elected, and on October 22, 1947 they rejected the Soviet-Iranian oil agreement by a vote of 102-2. The Russians complained diplomatically, and Soviet broadcasts stepped up their propaganda against the influence of Western imperialists. After a vote of no confidence in the Assembly on December 10, Qavam resigned. Qavam’s predecessor, Ibrahim Hakimi, edged out Muhammad Mossadeq by one vote to become prime minister again. For the next six months Hakimi followed policies that favored the court and the British, refusing to change the oil agreement with the British. The royalists wanted someone more pro-American, and Hakimi resigned in June 1948. The National Unionists formed a coalition with the Democrats and elected ‘Abdul Hussein Hezhir, who got along with Qavam and the Shah.

On October 6, 1947 Iran had extended the agreement allowing American military advisors and preventing any others not approved by the United States. On July 29, 1948 the United States granted Iran $10 million to buy surplus military equipment and $16 million for repairs and shipping. The Morrison-Knudsen engineering company surveyed Iran’s economic conditions, and based on this the Assembly passed a seven-year plan on February 15, 1949. An American consortium called the Overseas Consultants, Inc. came to Iran to advise them for $600,000 a year. On October 6, 1948 the United States appropriated about $10,000,000 in military aid to Iran.

Gradually the young Shah, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, increased his power, and he called a Constituent Assembly that established a senate authorized by the 1909 constitution but which had never met. The Shah appointed thirty of the sixty senators, and he advocated a literacy test for voting. Hard winters in 1948 and 1949 caused crop failures, and the withdrawal of foreign troops caused a recession. Unemployment led to unrest, and in April 1948 many Tuda members were arrested in the northern provinces. Political assassinations occurred, and martial law was often invoked in various places. On February 4, 1949 a member of the Tuda Party who was also a fanatical Muslim wounded the Shah and was immediately killed. With public sympathy the Shah acted quickly to take more control. The next day the Tuda Party was banned, and many were arrested. Alleging a widespread conspiracy to overthrow the government, martial law was proclaimed on February 27. Fourteen prominent Communists were tried on March 2.

In the spring of 1949 the Iranians accused the Red Army of abducting Iranian soldiers from across the border. The Soviet ambassador Sadchikov went back to Moscow, and Soviet consulates were closed in Tabriz, Rezayeh, Maku, and Ardebil. Russia deported 150 Iranians, a usual way of sending out spies. Iran demanded that the Soviet Union pay the gold and currency it owed. With help from the Americans by 1949 the Iranian army had increased to 120,000 men. The Shah advocated electoral reforms, including banning the military from polling places and requiring a literacy test to reduce the power of the landowning aristocrats who controlled the votes of the illiterate peasants in what has been called “feudal democracy.” Kurds rebelled again in September 1950.

While Shah Muhammad Reza was planning a visit to the United States in October 1949, the Interior minister started packing the Assembly. Mossadeq led a protest demonstration against the lack of free elections into the palace grounds. They elected a committee of twenty led by Mossadeq to negotiate with Hezhir. When the court promised to restore the elections, the committee released the demonstrators to go home. Mossadeq organized a National Front to demand fair elections, ending martial law, and allowing a free press. Mossadeq was elected chairman, and the Front was joined by the Iran Party, the Toilers Party, the National Party of Iran, and the Society of Muslim Warriors. The Iran Party was middle class and socialistic. The Toilers Party was made up of shopkeepers and intellectual socialists from Tehran University. The National Party was small with high school students. Ayatollah Kashani led the Society of Muslim Warriors which was religious but not fundamentalist. A major struggle of the National Front was against the British-owned oil company.

On November 5, 1949 Prime Minister Hezhir was assassinated by the same man who had murdered the historian Kasravi in 1946. Hezhir was succeeded by Premier Muhammad Sa‘id Maraghei, who immediately stopped the elections and ordered new voting in Tehran. ‘Ali Mansur became prime minister in February 1950 and filled his administration with royalists.

The Shah arrived in the United States in November and stayed six weeks. In February 1950 the Shah donated his estates to the Imperial Organization for Social Welfare so that they could be parceled out to poor peasants. In June the National Front began demanding nationalization of the oil industry. In response the Shah appointed General Ali Razmara prime minister on June 26 to carry out reforms and reduce corruption. He aimed to increase taxes on the wealthy and appointed a committee to investigate corruption. He refused to send troops to the Korean War, and he signed a trade treaty with the Soviet Union. Regional councils investigated and dismissed four hundred officials. The Imperial Anticorruption Commission compiled a list of 500 high officials that provoked controversy. Iran received a loan of only $25 million from the Export-Import Bank in October. Razmara cancelled the Voice of America and BBC in November, and he allowed Soviet Tass dispatches in Iranian newspapers. The American ambassador Henry Grady went back to Washington. The seven-year plan lacked funding, and the Overseas Consultants did not renew their contract. On November 4 the Soviet Union made a $20 million trade agreement with Iran. In December some Iranian officers released ten Tuda leaders from prison.

Bábis and Bahá’u’lláh

On May 23, 1844 Sayyid ‘Ali Muhammad declared in Shiraz that he was the Báb (Gate)—“the channel of grace from some great person still behind the veil of glory.” Gathering eighteen disciples, he went on pilgrimage to Mecca, where his oratory and writings inspired his followers and alarmed the orthodox Muslim authorities. Shi’a believed that he referred to the hidden twelfth imam; but the Báb explained to the ‘ulama that the mission of Muhammad had ended and that he had come to proclaim a new era. He opposed polygamy and ritual purity, though he advised against conversations between unmarried women and men. The clerics persuaded the Governor of Fars to persecute the heretics, and the Báb was subjected to imprisonment, deportation, examination before tribunals, and torture. In 1846 he refused to accept an offer by the Governor-General of Isfahan to march an army against Tehran. Finally at Tabriz the Báb was put before a firing squad on July 9, 1850. After the first round of shots by 750 Armenian Christians, the Báb and his companion were unhurt; the bullets had merely cut the ropes by which they were suspended. The Báb talked for a while with his friends in a nearby room while the Armenians who made up the firing squad refused to fire again. However, a Muslim regiment of soldiers was ordered to fire, and his martyrdom was completed.

Bábis tried to seize the city of Yazd, but they failed and fled to Kirman. A plot to assassinate the Emir Kabir was discovered, and the captured conspirators were executed. Persecutions continued with more than 20,000 people losing their lives.

Mirzá Husayn Nuri, who became known as Bahá’u’lláh (Glory of God), was born about two years before the Báb on November 12, 1817 in Tehran. His father Mirza Buzurg of Nur was in the ruling class and served at the court of the Shah. At the age of seven Mirzá argued and won a case before the Shah, and he impressed people with his wisdom. He married Asiyih Khanum before his 18th birthday. He was concerned about the poor and did what he could to help them. His father died when he was 22, and it was expected he would take up his father’s prestigious position in the Government; but the young man had other ideas. His son, who was to become known as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (Servant of God), was born on the same day as the Báb's declaration on May 23, 1844. The Báb sent Mullá Husayn, his first disciple, with a letter for an unnamed person. When this envoy heard about Mirzá Husayn Nuri, he gave him the letter. The Báb renamed him Bahá’u’lláh.

After his conversion Bahá’u’lláh went to spread the new message in Mazandaran. When the Báb was in prison in 1848, his persecuted followers met at Badasht in Khurasan. Of the eighteen only the poetess Qurrat al-‘Ain had not met the Báb. She discarded her veil and appeared before the men with her face uncovered as a sign of the new day. Several men objected; but Bahá’u’lláh said that the Báb was the founder of a new dispensation. After returning to Tehran Bahá’u’lláh met with Mulla Husayn and more than three hundred Bábis, who had taken sanctuary in the forests of Mazandaran at a shrine where they built defenses. When troops besieged this fort of Tabarsi, Bahá’u’lláh went to be with them; but he was taken by the Governor’s men to Amul, where he was whipped to keep his companions from being punished. After the Báb’s martyrdom in the public square of Tabriz in 1850, Bahá’u’lláh sent a young man to conceal the corpse of the Báb so that it could be buried later at Mount Carmel. The Báb had sent his seals, pen, and papers to Bahá’u’lláh.

While Bábis were being hunted down and killed, Bahá’u’lláh went to Iraq and lived there in relative safety in the wilderness for two years. On August 15, 1852 two irresponsible young Bábis shot at Nasir al-Din Shah with birdshot and were put to death without a trial. When the poetess Qurrat al-‘Ain was told that she was to be executed, she said that they could kill her, but they could not stop the emancipation of women. Hearing that he was to be arrested, Bahá’u’lláh turned himself in and was taken to a dungeon in Tehran. In his book Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Bahá’u’lláh explained that he had nothing to do with the assassination attempt. For four months he was held with about 150 prisoners in a dark and smelly pit with two chains around his neck and his feet in the stocks. He led them in chanting verses such as “God is sufficient unto me.” Hundreds of Bábis were tortured and died that year. Bahá’u’lláh was cleared of any wrongdoing; but his property was confiscated, and he was banished from Iran. Declining an invitation from Russia, he returned to Iraq, arriving weak at Baghdad in March 1853. There his leadership of the Bábis was challenged by his half-brother Mirzá Yahyá, who was known as Subh-i-Azal, meaning “morning of eternity.” So Bahá’u’lláh withdrew into solitude in the mountains of Kurdistán. He was taken for a Sufi, and his reputation for wisdom spread.

Eventually the Bábis requested that Bahá’u’lláh come back, and he returned to Baghdad in 1856. He advised them not to resist with violence any persecution, and they began to live again with faith in their hearts. In the next few years Bahá’u’lláh wrote his best known books. The Hidden Word described the eternal truths of revealed religion, and he urged people to love God more than their own pleasures. They should not speak evil of others. He wrote The Seven Valleys to answer a learned Sufi. The valleys represent the seven stages of the spiritual path—search, love, knowledge, unity, contentment, wonderment, and finally true poverty and absolute nothingness. In the valley of searching the wayfarer rides the steed of patience and in the valley of love the steed of pain. After traversing the valley of knowledge, in the valley of unity the traveler understands abstract concepts. In the valley of wonderment the pilgrim realizes that the temple of wealth is lack itself, and in the last valley one dies from the self to live in God. In The Book of Certitude Bahá’u’lláh explained scriptures as progressive revelation. He described the attributes of God such as knowledge, power, sovereignty, dominion, mercy, wisdom, glory, bounty, and grace.

Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings attracted not only Muslims but also Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians. Because of his popularity and the animosity of the Muslim clerics, in April 1863 Persian diplomats requested that the Ottoman government order him transferred to Istanbul, upsetting his followers. While camping in a garden outside Baghdad for twelve days in preparation for the journey, Bahá’u’lláh announced that he was the promised one foretold by the Báb. A majority of the Bábis who accepted his mission became known as Bahá’ís. The journey to Istanbul took three months, and four months later he was moved to Adrianople. At this time it was believed that Azal tried to poison him, and Bahá’u’lláh felt its effects in his body the rest of his life. In 1866 Bahá’u’lláh claimed to be the one whom God would make manifest. After anonymous letters accused Bahá’u’lláh of plotting with Bulgarian and European leaders to attack the capital, in August 1868 Bahá’u’lláh was sent to barracks at Acre in Palestine; Azal was banished to Cyprus, where he died in 1912. His followers called Azalis or Azali Bábis followed the religion founded by the Báb. Bahá’u’lláh was under arrest in Acre until he died in 1892. The religion he founded is called Bahá’í. For a while about seventy prisoners were given only bread and polluted water. When three died, Bahá’u’lláh sold the rug on which he slept in order to pay the wardens to bury them.

Although a prisoner of the Ottoman government, in 1867 Bahá’u’lláh was allowed to send his famous proclamations to the current world leaders including Napoleon III, Czar Alexander II, Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm, Emperor Francis Joseph, Sultan ‘Abdu’l-Azíz, Nasir al-Din Shah, the rulers of America, the elected representatives of the people, Pope Pius IX, and the clergy and people of various faiths. In these exhortations he pleaded for peace and the unity of mankind.

O Rulers of the earth!
Be reconciled among yourselves,
that ye may need no more armaments
save in a measure to safeguard your territories and dominions.
Beware lest ye disregard the counsel
of the All-Knowing, the Faithful.
Be united, O Kings of the earth,
for thereby will the tempest of discord be stilled amongst you,
and your people find rest,
if ye be of them that comprehend.
Should anyone among you take up arms against another,
rise ye all against him,
for this is naught but manifest justice.4

The young messenger who took Bahá’u’lláh’s letter to the Shah was tortured and killed. To the Ottoman Sultan ‘Abdu’l-‘Aziz he urged undeviating justice so that none may suffer want or be pampered with luxuries. After Napoleon III scoffed at the man who claimed to be God, Bahá’u’lláh sent another tablet in 1869 prophesying the defeat Napoleon soon experienced. Wilhelm was warned that the German empire would suffer retribution for its bloodshed, and the lamentations of Berlin would be heard. Bahá’u’lláh commended Queen Victoria for forbidding the slave trade and allowing representative government; she wisely commented, “If this is of God, it will endure; if not, it can do no harm.”5

In 1870 Bahá’u’lláh and his family were moved to a caravanserai in Acre. Although he counseled patience when spies of Azal aroused animosity against him, Bahá’ís killed three of those men. His son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was put in chains for one night. Bahá’u’lláh complained that captivity did not harm him, but this violence by his followers did. When a new governor offered to help Bahá’u’lláh, he advised him to repair the aqueduct outside of town. This improved the water supply and air of Acre. After being confined for nine years inside the city walls, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was able to rent a house four miles from ‘Akká. After two years there, Bahá’u’lláh spent the rest of his life in the neighboring Mansion of Bahji, which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá purchased after it had been abandoned because of a plague.

In 1890 Bahá’u’lláh was visited by the Cambridge Orientalist Edward Granville Browne, who described their conversation. Bahá’u’lláh asked him if Europe did not need the “Most Great Peace” that Jesus foretold, because kings and rulers lavish their treasures more on the means of destruction than on what helps people. Rather than glorying in loving one’s country it is better to glory in loving humankind. That year Bahá’u’lláh was allowed to visit Haifa and camp on Mount Carmel. His last years were spent writing while his son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took care of administration. In The Most Holy Book Bahá’u’lláh laid out the laws and institutions for his world order, both for individuals and society, as he recommended being just, tolerant, truthful, loyal, and peaceful. Bahá’u’lláh died on May 29, 1892, and in his will he declared that his son, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, was to be the center of his covenant as his representative and expounder of his teachings. His will contained this admonition: “O people of the world! The religion of God is to create love and unity; do not make it the cause of enmity and discord.”6

Bahá’u’lláh continually taught that true religion recognizes and promotes the unity of mankind and the love of all humanity. Prejudices based on religion, race, or nationality are contrary to spirituality and divine love. He prophesied that civilization is moving toward world unity. The Earth is one, and the servant of God is dedicated to serving the entire human race. Even though his followers were persecuted, he advised peaceful nonresistance toward violence. Reconstructing the world does not require the use of weapons but rather a firm adherence to justice and faith in God. He noted that this people has had patience in their struggle for justice such that they allowed themselves to suffer and be killed rather than to kill. He explained that they can do this because of their trust in God.

Nevertheless to attain world unity and peace individual nations must not be allowed to make war on others. Therefore Bahá’u’lláh recommended a world assembly so that all the nations together could prevent aggression. He believed that this is divinely ordained and that in time people would come to recognize it. All the leaders of the Earth must participate and join together to maintain peace and justice with their collective power. Bahá’u’lláh described the political unity of states as the lesser peace while the most great peace requires spiritual unity in addition to political and economic cooperation. Bahá’u’ll’áh outlined a plan with a House of Justice to make lawful decisions. He suggested the use of a universal language and education for everyone.


The teachings of Bahá’u’ll’áh were expressed in more detail by his son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. He was released in 1908 when the Young Turk Revolution freed all the Ottoman empire’s political and religious prisoners. After recuperating in Egypt, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá traveled on a speaking tour through Europe and America from 1911 to 1913. He too exhorted everyone to realize the unity of humanity and practice love and spiritual brotherhood.

The time has come when all mankind shall be united,
when all races shall be loyal to one fatherland,
all religions become one religion,
and racial and religious bias pass away.
It is a day in which the oneness of humankind
shall uplift its standard,
and international peace like the true morning
flood the world with its light.7

For ‘Abdu’l-Bahá any religion which causes hatred and division is no religion at all, and to withdraw from such a religion is a religious act. Likewise race prejudice is an illusion created by people because God created one human race and wishes all colors to share the blessings. We must practice the divine religion of love and unity or else restrictive dogmas and bigotry will lead to strife and warfare, threatening the destruction of the human race. Love and accord dissolve dissensions and unite all in one happy family of peace and unity. Religion can be a powerful influence for peace because it recognizes that there is one reality.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá contrasted peace and war. Peace is light, life, guidance, Godly, humane, constructive, love, harmony, health, and brotherhood while war is darkness, death, error, satanic, savage, destructive, hatred, discord, disease, and strife. Men do not need to kill other men to survive. Therefore the causes of war are to be found in greed, hatred, and selfishness. Ignorant soldiers fight for the greed and ambition of their leaders. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá recounted how Bahá’u’ll’áh declared the Most Great Peace and the principle of international arbitration and disarmament even though he and his followers had to suffer persecution for his criticism of leaders’ selfish aims.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave the details of his father’s teachings on Universal Peace. First, the independent investigation of reality enables humanity to move toward greater truth. Second, humanity is one, and all human beings have the same divine Shepherd. Third, religion is to be the cause of fellowship and love, and any religion which causes estrangement is unnecessary. Fourth, religion must be in harmony with science and reason so that it may influence people. Fifth, religious, racial, political, and economic prejudices destroy humanity. Patriotic prejudices forget that the land belongs to all people and is to be shared. Sixth, a universal language may be spread to all people in order to eliminate misunderstandings. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá personally commended efforts to promote the use of Esperanto.

Seventh is the equality of women and men. Women must have equal opportunity to advance in science, literature, and in civil and political life. In fact the imbalance of masculine qualities over the feminine has prevented a harmonious and peaceful society. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explained:

The world in the past has been ruled by force,
and man has dominated over woman
by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities
both of body and mind.
But the balance is already shifting;
force is losing its dominance,
and mental alertness, intuition,
and the spiritual qualities of love and service,
in which woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy.
Hence the new age will be an age less masculine
and more permeated with the feminine ideals,
or, to speak more exactly, will be an age in which
the masculine and feminine elements of civilization
will be more evenly balanced.8

Society is like a bird with two wings, woman and man; both wings must be equally developed for the bird to fly successfully. He prophesied that the emancipated power of women will help to bring peace.

In past ages humanity has been defective and inefficient
because it has been incomplete.
War and its ravages have blighted the world;
the education of woman will be a mighty step
toward its abolition and ending,
for she will use her whole influence against war.
Woman rears the child and educates the youth to maturity.
She will refuse to give her sons
for sacrifice upon the field of battle.
In truth, she will be the greatest factor
in establishing universal peace and international arbitration.
Assuredly, woman will abolish warfare among mankind.9

Eighth, the voluntary sharing of property by the wealthy eliminates conflict between the rich and poor. Ninth is human freedom—not only political but liberation from the captivity of animal drives. Tenth, religion is a tremendous power for moral education. Eleventh, the successes of material civilization must be vivified by spiritual values, as the body by the soul.

Twelfth, universal education must be provided by the community, if not privately, for every child. Finally, the principle of justice must be practiced, and for this Bahá’u’lláh suggested a Supreme Tribunal made up of representatives elected from every nation in proportion to population. This union of nations will decide all disputes by international arbitration. The power of the union must be used to prevent aggression by any nation. By general agreement all the governments of the world must disarm at the same time. Both Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá emphasized the importance of converting armaments into constructive instruments. Once the governments of the world enter into a covenant of eternal friendship, they will no longer need large standing armies and navies. Every country must disarm simultaneously. Nations will not disarm while others remain armed. Thus peace can only come from an international agreement involving all nations. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá declared that the financiers and bankers must stop lending money to any government contemplating war. The managers of the railroads and shipping companies must refuse to transport ammunition and weapons. Soldiers must demand proof that a war is just before they fight.

 As early as 1875 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote that all the sovereigns of the world must make a binding treaty, what he called a Most Great Covenant. In this peace pact the borders of every nation should be clearly fixed, the principles of international relations should be definitely settled, the amount of armaments should be agreed upon, and all international agreements and obligations should be ascertained. If any government later violates any provision, then all the governments on Earth and all humanity must unite to make it submit. In this way the sick body of the world may recover from its ills and remain safe and secure. During his tour of America on October 26, 1912 in Sacramento, California, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá prophetically warned of an imminent European war.

The issue of paramount importance in the world today
is International Peace.
The European continent is like an arsenal,
a storehouse of explosives ready for ignition,
and one spark will set the whole of Europe aflame,
particularly at this time
when the Balkan question is before the world.10

In 1914 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá warned that nations were increasing their military and naval budgets, forcing other nations into a crazy competition because of their supposed interests. The duty of nations is to check aggressors rather than remain neutral; world unity requires that every other nation unite against any aggressor. During the Great War he lived at his home in Haifa while he encouraged establishing spiritual assemblies in Persia and America as elected bodies to supervise publications, education, and devotional services. After the war ‘Abdu’l-Bahá received a letter from the executive committee of the Central Organization for a Durable Peace at The Hague. In his reply he warned that the League of Nations was incapable of establishing universal peace, and he described the stronger plan of his father Bahá’u’lláh that called for the elected representatives of all nations to choose a Supreme Tribunal. If any government should be negligent, then all the rest of the nations using the Supreme Tribunal should rise up against it. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá lamented that the noble purposes of the League of Nations would not be fulfilled, though he supported its efforts. In a second letter to the committee in July 1920 he wrote,

Today the most important problem
in the affairs of the world of humanity
is that of the Universal Peace,
which is the greatest means
contributing to the very life and happiness of mankind.
Without this most luminous reality
it is impossible for humanity to attain
to actual comfort and proficiency.11

After a brief illness ‘Abdu’l-Bahá died on November 28, 1921. His funeral drew a crowd of about ten thousand people. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá passed on the Guardianship to his eldest grandson Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, who held that position until his passing in 1957. He was assisted by specially chosen individuals called “Hands of the Cause of God” who guided the international community to the election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963. The Bahá’í faith was founded in Iran and had most of its adherents there; but it spread around the world as its writings were translated into hundreds of languages.

The Bahá’í faith emphasizes the oneness of God, the oneness of humanity, the oneness of religion, harmony between religion and science, the equality of men and women, universal education, economic justice, a universal language, universal currency, international justice, and world peace. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá looked toward the unification of the East and West, the spiritual and the material, so that there may be a paradise on Earth. Peace, love, and friendship enable both science and the knowledge of God to flourish. He also recommended that people recognize their enemies as their friends so that their hearts may be free of hatred. World peace is not an impossible ideal, for everything is possible with divine benevolence. If we desire friendship with everyone on Earth with all our hearts, then this ideal will spread until it reaches the minds of all people. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá encouraged us to practice universal love.

Be kind to all people, love humanity,
consider all mankind as your relations
and servants of the most high God.
Strive day and night
that animosity and contention may pass away
from the hearts of men,
that all religions shall become reconciled
and the nations love each other,
so that no racial, religious or political prejudice may remain
and the world of humanity behold God
as the beginning and end of all existence.
God has created all, and all return to God.
Therefore love humanity with all your heart and soul.
If you meet a poor man, assist him;
if you see the sick, heal him;
reassure the affrighted one,
render the cowardly noble and courageous,
educate the ignorant, associate with the stranger.
Emulate God.
Consider how kindly, how lovingly He deals with all,
and follow His example.
You must treat people in accordance with the divine precepts
—in other words, treat them as kindly as God treats them,
for this is the greatest attainment possible
for the world of humanity.12

Afghanistan 1880-1919

British Invasion of Afghanistan and Sind
Famine and a Second Afghan War 1876-81

During the second Afghan war Abdur Rahman signed a treaty with the English on July 20, 1880. He agreed not to have relations with any other nation but the British in exchange for the annual subsidy of £60,000. He was recognized as the new Emir by the Afghans in the Koh-i-Daman Valley north of Kabul. Twelve days later British forces withdrew from Kabul into eastern Afghanistan where they held the Khyber Pass. The British also left Qandahar and Herat to the Afghans. Abdur Rahman’s cousin Ayub Khan held Herat, and he proclaimed a holy war against Abdur Rahman for selling out to the British. He marched most of his forces to Qandahar; but Abdur Rahman gathered an army in Kabul and drove them out of Qandahar. The Emir sent his commander Quddus Khan from Turkestan to Herat, which they took over with a thousand Uzbeg horsemen. Ayub Khan fled to Persia and ended up living in India on a British pension.

In November 1884 Russians in the north moved into Pul-i-Khatun on the Hari Rud River. The Russian commander insulted the Afghan General Ghaus-ud-din at Ak Tepe in Panjdeh, and a quarrel ensued. On March 14, 1885 the British ambassador Edward Thornton warned M. de Giers that a Russian attack on Panjdeh would rupture their relations, and two weeks later he said an attempt to take Herat would be an act of war. On March 30 the Russians attacked the Afghans at Panjdeh, but M. de Giers said they would not go to Herat. About four hundred Afghans were killed as the rest retreated to Maruchak. The Russians occupied the oasis of Panjdeh. In April the Russians advanced and clashed with the Afghans again. The diplomats regained control, and on September 10 Lord Salisbury from the Foreign Office and Russian ambassador M. de Staal signed a protocol that set the Russian-Afghan border running from Zulfiqar on the Hari Rud to Khwaja on the Oxus River. The final agreement was signed on July 22, 1887.

Afghan tribes were not accustomed to being under a central government. In the summer of 1886 Ghilzai clans near Ghazni led by the mullah Abdul Karim rebelled. They were divided and were quelled without reprisals, and ten thousand Ghilzai families were forced to migrate north of the Hindu Kush. However, other Afghans were forbidden to migrate without government permission. Early in 1888 in Afghan Turkestan the Emir’s cousin Ishak Khan began a revolt. He was the son of the former emir Azim Khan, and Abdur Rahman tested him by sending out a false report of his own death. When Ishak immediately claimed the throne, Abdur sent against him his army led by Ghulam Hyder Charkhi, and he ordered Governor Ghulam Hyder Tokhi of Badakshan to lead a force against him from the east. The two Afghan armies met on September 23 near Tashkurgan and defeated Ishak’s forces in a bloody, six-day battle. In the spring of 1891 the Mongol Hazaras in the central mountains declared themselves a separate nation. Abdur Rahman called upon the Pashtuns who helped him put down the rebellion after several years. Finally they were defeated by Ghulam Hyder Charkhi; thousands of Hazaras were enslaved while others fled to Persia and India.

Tribes in eastern Afghanistan began acquiring guns illegally from India, and skirmishes became more deadly. Viceroy Lansdowne proposed sending an envoy to Kabul, but Abdur Rahman adamantly refused to receive any such mission. Lansdowne reacted by banning arms, iron, steel, and copper from being shipped to Afghanistan. The Emir then forbade Afghans to ride on the Quetta railroad, and the twelve-lac subsidy he was receiving was withheld. The British began a forward policy with military expeditions against troublesome tribes. In 1892 the British offered the Turi tribe in the Kurram Valley protection, provoking a Pashtun reaction. In September 1893 Lansdowne sent Mortimer Durand to Kabul with orders to insist that the Emir agree to the border proposed by the British. Faced with the threat of war, Abdur Rahman agreed on November 12. Some of the eastern tribes were lost to British India, and others such as the Afridis, Orakzais, Waziris, and Mohmands were divided by the border. Many Afghans resented this agreement, and many revolts resulted.

The Kafirs of eastern Afghanistan had even defeated the powerful Timur the Lame; but in the winter of 1896 four Afghan armies invaded Kafiristan and defeated the Kafirs, who still used bows, in forty days. The region was renamed Nuristan, meaning “land of light,” and many Kafirs converted to Islam. Some settled in Laghman and Paghman, and they were replaced by landless Tajiks.

In June 1897 the Waziris rebelled in the Maizar Valley, and the revolt quickly spread to the Malakand Pass. During the summer these Pashtuns were fought by 35,000 British and Indian troops. When Curzon became viceroy, he abandoned the forward policy and withdrew British forces from the tribal areas, letting the tribes govern themselves. Two years later he organized the North West Frontier Province containing Hazara, Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu, and Dera Ismail Khan with a free tribal zone between the Durand line and the enforced border.

Abdur Rahman ruled the Afghans autocratically although he maintained a Supreme Council and a General Assembly (loya jirga) of the tribal chiefs in Kabul to advise him. He drafted one out of eight men into his army, and they had to pay for their uniforms and upkeep. He also had an effective network of spies. Abdur Rahman imposed rough justice by imposing cruel punishments such as hanging robbers in cages where they committed their crimes until they died of cold or hunger, torturing and stoning to death violent criminals, and nailing the ears of unjust tradesmen to the doors of their shops. He did little for education but set up a religious school (madrasah) in Kabul. Abdur had four wives and many concubines, who provided him with many children.

Abdur Rahman educated his eldest son Habibullah and gave him governing responsibilities, but he kept him in the capital. When the Emir was invited to visit England, he sent his second son, the Anglophobe Nasrullah Khan, who arrived in London in May 1895. He wrote his criticisms of England in a book. Abdur suffered from gout and Bright’s disease, and in May 1901 he got worse. His mind still worked well until he had a stroke on September 20. He died on October 1 and was succeeded by Habibullah.

Habibullah dismantled his father’s spy system; he allowed banished Afghans to return; and he stopped the cruel punishments. He allowed Mahmud Beg Tarzi, who was educated in Damascus while his father was in exile, to found Afghanistan’s first newspaper, the Siraj-al-Akbar Afghania, which advocated for pan-Islamism and against imperialism. Tarzi also tutored Habibullah’s sons Inyatullah and Amanullah, and they each married one of his daughters. Viceroy Curzon invited Habibullah to India, but he declined. Yet the Emir sent 24 envoys to other countries. Curzon wanted to go to war with Afghanistan, but London sent Louis Dane, who arrived in Afghanistan in December 1904 with the draft of a treaty. Because the British were concerned about the Russians, Habibullah was able to get the arrears of his subsidies and no limits on his importing arms from India in the treaty. On March 21, 1905 Habibullah confirmed the exclusive alliance with the British, and his annual subsidy was £160,000.

In 1907 Habibullah left his brother Nasrullah and his second son Amanullah to govern while he visited India. The number of raids in the North West Frontier Province increased from 56 in 1907 to 159 in 1909. In 1913 the Mangals in Khost revolted against taxes, and the Afghan army had to get 14,000 other tribesmen to help them put down the revolt. Nadir Khan gave them easy terms and was made commander-in-chief. During the Great War a mission of about eighty envoys from Germany and the Ottoman empire arrived in August 1915 and promised Afghanistan twenty million pounds of gold, 100,000 rifles, and 300 cannons; but Habibullah stayed with British support, and in January 1916 Afghanistan again declared neutrality. The Mohmands led by Abdul Wahid attacked Peshawar in 1915 and 1917. Habibullah’s educational achievements included the Habibia School modeled on the French lycée, a military academy, and a college for training teachers. Habibullah had so many wives and concubines that he fathered more than a hundred children. Habibullah was on a hunting trip when he was shot in the head while sleeping in the camp on February 20, 1919.

The next day Nasrullah was proclaimed emir by the mullahs and tribes, and he was supported by his brother Inayatullah; but on February 27, 1919 Amanullah, the governor of Kabul, overthrew his uncle with the aid of the army. He accused Nasrullah of plotting to kill his brother Habibullah, and he died in prison. Col. Shah Ali Reza Khan was convicted of the assassination and was executed. Amanullah had imbibed anti-British sentiment from his mother and tutor Tarzi, whom he appointed foreign minister. After his first wife died, Amanullah married Tarzi’s well educated daughter Souriya, and he had no other wives. At his coronation on March 1 he announced his intention to abolish the system of forced labor used outside of Pashtun areas. Abdul Kuddus Khan became prime minister. According to the British agent, on April 13 Amanullah invited chiefs to Kabul, and he declared himself and his country “entirely free, autonomous, and independent both internally and externally.”13 He indicated that a jihad (holy war) against the British was imminent.

Amanullah wanted to move the border from the Durand Line back to the Indus River, and in early May he ordered his army to invade the disputed territory of India. On May 3 Shinwaris led by the outlaw Zar Shah attacked a squad of Khyber Rifles escorting a caravan. The next day Afghan troops occupied the Shinwari hamlet of Bagh and stopped the water supply to Landi Kotal. The British closed the Khyber Pass and gathered 140,000 troops in northwest India. Afghanistan moved three regiments from Jalalabad to the Mohmand region, and General Nadir Khan went to Khost with several thousand Ghilzais and other tribesmen. The British declared war on May 6. The next day General Climo surrounded Peshawar, and searching house-to-house they arrested the postmaster and thirty-three others with seditious material. On May 9 Brigadier General G. F. Crocker attacked the Afghan army at Bagh, and the Afghans retreated. General Fowler brought reinforcements, and they attacked again on May 11; the Afghans left 66 dead and fled. The British lost more men to sunstroke and heat exhaustion than to bullets. Two days later British forces moved into the deserted village of Dakka. The British were suffering a cholera epidemic.

On May 24 Amanullah asked for an armistice and complained that the British planes had bombed his palace in Kabul that day, and they also attacked Jalalabad. Nadir Khan invaded Waziristan, and the British retreated. On May 28 the British captured the Spin Boldak Fort at Qandahar. Three days later the British commissioner of the North West Frontier Province reported that he had ordered all frontier constabulary posts to withdraw from Shirani country, and on June 1 Commissioner George Roos-Keppel said that Jandolal and Manji posts were surrounded by Mahsuds. The Afghan postmaster in Peshawar said that India was on the verge of revolt. On June 3 Viceroy Chelmsford replied to Amanullah’s proposal with his conditions for a cease-fire which began that day. The short war had cost India £16 million. The British continued to fight the Darwesh Khel Waziris in India for the next two years.

Afghanistan sent a mission led by pro-British Ali Ahmad Khan, and they began negotiating at Rawalpindi on July 26. The military occupation was a burden, and on August 8 they agreed on the Treaty of Rawalpindi. At this time many nations were becoming independent, and the British granted that to Afghanistan in a letter. In the Treaty the British subsidy was terminated; the Durand Line was recognized as the border; importing arms through India was prohibited; and Afghans were put on probation for six months. After this Afghanistan would celebrate August as the month of their independence.

Afghanistan Independent 1919-50

An Afghan mission went to Moscow, and a Soviet mission led by Michael Bravine came to Kabul on September 12, 1919. The British asked Amanullah to expel the Indian revolutionaries Obaydullah, Mahendra Pratap, Barkatullah, and others who were sponsored by the Soviet Pan Hindu Revolutionary Committee at Tashkent, but Amanullah refused. Mahmud Tarzi led the Afghan delegation that met with British envoys led by Henry Dobbs in Mussoorie, and a British delegation came to Kabul in October 1920. That summer about 20,000 Muslims had migrated from the Punjab to Afghanistan. In August 1921 the Soviet Union and Afghanistan agreed to a treaty of friendship, and the Afghans signed a treaty with the British on November 15. Kabul accepted foreign legations from the Russians, British, French, Germans, Italians, and Turks. Amanullah sent aid to the emir of Bukhara and rebels in Turkestan; but their revolt was defeated in 1922, and thousands of Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Turkmen fled from the Soviet Union to Afghanistan. So many Muslims fled from Sind and the North West Frontier Province into Afghanistan that Amanullah prohibited immigration.

Amanullah also signed friendship treaties with Turkey on March 1, 1922 and with Iran on June 22. The British came to Kabul and made a new treaty on November 22, giving Afghanistan customs and transit facilities in India. The Oriental Institute of France was given permission to begin archaeological work in Afghanistan. Amanullah was influenced by Mustafa Kemal of Turkey, and on April 9, 1923 he initiated the Fundamental Law for modernizing Afghanistan. The Emir attended a Loya Jirga at Jalalabad, and he supported chiefs east of the Durand line. British threats forced him to renounce these diplomatic relations. In March 1924 the Lame Mullah in Khost led the Mangals and Jajis in the first rebellion against antireligious portions of the new law code. Abdul Karim Khan was the son of the exiled Emir Yakub Khan, and he claimed the throne. The revolt spread to the Ghilzai, and it took ten months for the Government to restore order. The Lame Mullah was taken to Kabul and executed, and Abdul Karim fled to India. Many believed that British agents had secretly stirred up these rebellions. Amanullah summoned a Loya Jirga in July to mollify the conservatives, and the reforms liberating women were repealed, restricting female education to girls under the age of twelve. Amanullah initiated the building of a new city five miles from Kabul called Dar-ul-aman, but it was not completed. Hashim Khan quarreled with the King as did his brother Nadir Khan, who resigned and went to France as an envoy before resigning again and living on the French Riviera.

Germans provided technical advice, and in 1924 a German school for teachers began in Kabul. Amanullah promoted education, including some schools for girls. He issued decrees giving women more rights and abolishing domestic slavery and forced labor. He initiated a government budget, established a customs tariff, and began collecting taxes in cash instead of in kind. He campaigned against corruption, and he cancelled many titles, sinecures, and stipends. He imposed these reforms, and many were unpopular with the mullahs and tribal chiefs who believed they violated Islamic laws. In 1925 the Soviet Union evacuated an island in the Oxus River, and Amanullah claimed a diplomatic victory. Thirty Soviet instructors trained the Afghan air force, and in 1926 they signed a non-aggression pact. In 1927 regular air travel began between Tashkent and Kabul.

Amanullah left in December 1927 for a seven-month tour that took him to Bombay, Egypt, Italy, Germany, France, and England. He made trade agreements with Finland, Latvia, Poland, Switzerland, Egypt, and Japan. On the way home he visited Moscow, Turkey, and Iran, and he drove his new Rolls-Royce from Tehran to Kabul. At the next Loya Jirga the King, as he now called himself, insisted that the chiefs cut their hair and beards and wear European clothes. A legislative assembly of 150 men was to be elected by the literate men, and hereditary ranks were abolished. He announced monogamy for government employees, a minimum age for marriage, education for women, and abolishing purdah. He increased taxes on land and conscription from two years to three. Critics of his new policies were arrested, and some mullahs were executed for treason. On his European tour the King had spent nearly £1,000,000, mostly on arms. Yet the army was badly paid and poorly housed. Amanullah gave a series of lectures in Kabul during October on various reforms he wanted to implement. The audience was expected to be sympathetic. When the Queen tore off her veil, they applauded.

A tribal revolt began as a protest against taxes on November 14 led by conservative chiefs and encouraged by mullahs. By the end of the month the Shinwari tribe had captured Jalalabad. Then in the north the Tajik robber Bacha-i-Saqao answered the call and came to Kabul for rifles and was made a general in the Afghan army. When he saw how poorly defended the capital was, he went back to Kohistan and gathered three hundred men and led attacks that captured the 900-man garrison at Jabul-us-Siraj on December 10 and Kabul on January 17, 1929. Amanullah abdicated in favor of his older brother Inayatullah and fled to Qandahar in his Rolls-Royce. Inayatullah was only king for a few days, and then Francis Humphrys sent a plane to help the rest of the royal family leave under a guarantee of safety made by Hazrat Sahib. Most foreigners fled, and a total of 586 people left on planes. Bacha-i-Saqao was crowned Emir Habibullah Ghazi on January 27, and he tried to organize a government; but only two men in his cabinet could read.

Amanullah renounced his abdication, organized a force and began marching; but on April 26 he ordered a retreat to Qandahar, and in May he escaped to Bombay and then to Europe. King Victor Emmanuel had made Amanullah a cousin and granted him asylum in Italy where he died in 1960. The Soviets were concerned that the Tajik might inspire others in Central Asia, and their military force entered Afghanistan; but after Amanullah gave up, they returned to the Soviet Union.

Habibullah Ghazi managed to raise an army of 10,000 men, and he ruled with terror and cancelled Amanullah’s reforms; but the mullahs still would not support him. The treasury was empty, and he extorted money or plundered. Muhammad Nadir Khan and his brothers Hashim Khan and Shah Wali Khan left France, and in March 1929 they returned to Khost, where their brother Mahmud Shah Khan was governor. They recruited in the south as well as getting Waziri and Mahsud tribes from India. Nadir and his brothers defeated Bacha’s forces and took over Kabul on October 16, but Nadir had no army or police to keep his tribal supporters from looting the city. Bacha was promised a pardon and surrendered, but the tribesmen put him to death.

Nadir Khan was proclaimed king of Afghanistan. He raised the pay of soldiers and stopped deducting provisions from their wages. Abdul Ghaffur Khan in the North West Frontier Province founded the Khudai Khitmatgaran (Servants of God) in 1927, and they were called the Red Shirts. Their rebellion erupted in 1930 in Waziristan with Soviet encouragement. The Fakir of Ipi preached against the British, who wanted to come to terms with the Afghan government. In July the uncle of Bacha led the Tajiks of Kohistan in another revolt, and Nadir had to ask the Pashtun tribes to help his army suppress them. In September 1930 tribal chiefs met in the Loya Jirga. They chose 105 men for a National Council to advise the King. Nadir used the 1923 constitution as a model for a new constitution promulgated on October 31, 1931, and an upper house with 27 men was formed. Four of Nadir’s brothers were in high positions: Muhammad Hashim Khan was prime minister for seventeen years; the popular Mahmud Shah Khan was commander-in-chief of the army; Shah Wali Khan was ambassador to Paris and watched Amanullah; and Aziz Khan was ambassador in Berlin until he was assassinated in July 1933. Cabinet officers headed eighteen departments.

Experts came from Germany, France, Switzerland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Turkey to advise them on the military, medicine, and education. Ibrahim Beg led guerrilla actions from Afghan Turkestan against Soviet authorities. In June 1930 the Soviet army crossed the Oxus into Afghan territory, but in the fall the Afghan army drove Ibrahim back into Soviet territory. The Shinwaris revolted in 1930, but Nadir was able to pay off their leaders. He also annulled Amanullah’s secular laws and confirmed Islamic law. He quickly built up the army to 40,000 men. Nadir Shah stabilized Afghanistan, and his new constitution lasted more than thirty years. He reformed the currency and established Afghanistan’s first bank. He improved communication and had a road for motor cars built through the Hindu Kush. The Soviets and Afghanistan agreed to a non-aggression pact in June 1931. The British provided £175,000 and 10,000 rifles with ammunition. In 1932 the University of Kabul was founded, and even a few schools for girls were started despite complaints from the mullahs. Nonetheless Afghanistan continued to be a traditional country, and women were veiled in public. Nadir Shah executed Ghulam Nabi Charki for treason on November 8, 1932, and exactly one year later his adopted son assassinated Nadir.

Nadir’s nineteen-year-old son Muhammad Zahir Shah succeeded as king, but Prime Minister Hashim Khan and Mahmud Shah Khan led the government for many years. In 1934 Afghanistan joined the League of Nations. In 1935 German scientists were allowed to explore the Hindu Kush mountains, and the next year Lufthansa began air service between Berlin and Kabul. The engineering firm Siemens had an agency in Kabul. Afghanistan also received aid from Italy and Japan. Fakir of Ipi, using the name Islam Bibi, led a rebellion of Waziris, and three British divisions did not put it down until 1937. That year Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey signed the Sa‘adabad Pact. In 1939 Shami Pir and tribes on the Indian border tried to restore Amanullah, but they were suppressed by the Afghans and by the British, who bribed Shami Pir with £20,000 and transportation to Baghdad.

During World War II Afghanistan was again neutral. In August 1941 the Allies had invaded Iran for refusing to surrender Axis nationals, and so in the fall the Loya Jirga agreed to comply by expelling them. In 1944 the British began training Afghan army officers in India. Afghanistan welcomed a British Council in Kabul, and British experts advised them on education, radio, and textiles. Kabul had schools run by the English, French, Germans, and Americans. Hashim Khan retired in 1946, and Mahmud Shah became prime minister. He granted amnesty to political prisoners and allowed more freedom of expression in print and in the Loya Jirga. The Awakened Youth movement was allowed, and a student movement began at Kabul University. The Morrison-Knudsen Corporation from Boise, Idaho implemented technical projects to build roads, bridges, dams, power plants, and canals. Afghans exported karakul (wool) and earned $20 million in credit.

In 1947 Afghans wanted a plebiscite in the North West Frontier Province so that several million Pashtuns might have their own homeland or join Afghanistan, but the British and the new Pakistan refused to give them any choice but Pakistan or India. On September 7 attacks were made against Sikhs and Hindus in Peshawar and Nowshera, and many took refuge in Afghanistan, which helped them get to India by way of Iran. Afghanistan was the only nation to vote against Pakistan’s admission into the United Nations. Many border incidents occurred through 1949. In 1948 the diplomatic missions were recognized as embassies. Afghanistan asked for a loan of $118 million from the Export-Import Bank of the United States, but they received only $21 million for development. The Afghan-Soviet boundary commission fixed the Oxus border on September 29. Trade goods were exchanged with the Soviet Union at designated points on the border so that neither side entered the other’s territory. On August 12, 1949 Afridi tribes met at Tirah Bagh and proclaimed the new nation of Pashtunistan. The government of Afghanistan recognized them, and the Fakir of Ipi was elected president. The Loya Jirga of Afghanistan met and declared all their treaties with Britain null and void. On January 1, 1950 Afghanistan signed a treaty of eternal friendship with India. Afghanistan was admitted into the United Nations in 1946, and in 1950 a UN mission of economic experts was sent to Kabul.


1. “A Letter from Qazvin,” Qanun, No. 6 (July 1890) quoted in Iran Between Two Revolutions by Ervand Abrahamian, p. 69.
2. Quoted in Malekzadeh, Tarikh, I, 153-54.
3. “Report on the Situation in Iran,” Foreign Office 371/Persia 11935/34-18992 quoted in Iran Between Two Revolutions by Ervand Abrahamian, p. 141.
4. Bahá’u’lláh, “Tablet to Queen Victoria” from Gleanings 119.
5. Quoted in Balyuzi, Bahá’u’lláh, p. 51.
6. Ibid., p. 69.
7. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912, p. 153.
8. Star of the West, Vol. 8, no. 3, p. 4 quoted in Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era by J. E. Esslemont, p. 133.
9. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912, p. 108.
10. Ibid., p. 371.
11. Star of the West, Vol. 11, p. 288 quoted in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá by H. M. Balyuzi, p. 440.
12. The Promulgation of Universal Peace by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 291.
13. Quoted in Afghanistan, 1900-1923 by Ludwig W. Adamec, p. 110.

Copyright © 2009-10 by Sanderson Beck

This chapter has been published in the book Mideast & Africa 1700-1950.
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Ottoman Empire 1600-1907
Ottoman Fall and Turkey 1908-1950
Persia (Iran) and Afghanistan 1600-1950
Arabia, Yemen, and Iraq 1600-1950
Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan 1600-1950
Palestine and Zionism 1600-1950
Egypt, Sudan, and Libya 1600-1950
Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco 1600-1950
West Africa and the French 1600-1950
West Africa and the British 1600-1950
Ethiopia and Somaliland 1600-1950
East Africa 1600-1950
Congo, Angola, and Mozambique 1600-1950
Southern Africa 1700-1950
Summary and Evaluation



World Chronological Index
Chronology of Asia & Africa to 1800
Chronology of Asia & Africa 1800-1950
Mideast & Africa to 1950

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