POET-LAUREATE BAHAR IN THE CONSTITUTIONAL ERA

Published in IRAN, British Society of Persian Studies, 2002[1]

Bahar is generally regarded as the last distinguished poet writing within the structure of classical Persian prosody, although much of his living poetry is freshly modern in substance, use of words and figures of speech. Apart from that, he was active in the Constitutional Era, 1905-1925, as a journalist and Majlis deputy. In this paper it will be argued that, in politics, he was distinguished by his habitual moderation; his open opposition to chaos; his non-sentimentalist approach to popular and constitutional politics, and his belief in strong government so long as it worked within the spirit of the constitution.

The young revolutionary poet

In August 1906 when Mozaffar al-Din Shah signed the royal command (farman) for constitutional government[2], Bahar was 19.[3] The year before, his father, Poet-Laureate Saburi, had died, and he had been given his post and title, which, as he says, was both an official post and a formal position in the service of Imam Reza’s shrine in Mashhad.[4] Since then, he was known as ‘the poet-laureate’ (malek al-sho’ara), even though, from the very beginning, his ‘takhallos’ or nom de poésie was Bahar. In later years, when he was a Majlis deputy, he was referred to as Malek al-Sho’ara, and almost all his adult life he was known in private circles as Malek[5], and this despite his formal assumption of the surname Bahar, when official surnames became compulsory in the 1920’s. Indeed, it is only since his death that he has been generally known as Bahar. The point is worthy of emphasis because quite a few others in his time had literary titles, including his contemporary fellow Khorasani Amir al-Sho‘ara Nadiri. The reason for the persistent use of his title was both because he excelled in the art of poetry, and because he quickly became a notable public figure.

The shah signed the constitution in December 1906 and died in January 1907. The young poet – just turned 20 – praised him in a qasideh at the same time as he mourned his death.[6] And when, shortly afterwards his son Mohammad Ali succeeded him, he wrote another qasideh, lamenting the departure of the former and greeting the accession of the latter.[7] As is well known, the celebrations did not last long, and the clash of shah and Majlis, the intransigence of the radicals of both sides, and the inability of moderate politicians to forge a lasting compromise, resulted in the assassination of Atabak and the attempt on the shah’s life, followed by the 1908 coup and the restoration of arbitrary government.[8] Bahar writes that at this time:

My comrades and I…belonged to revolutionary groups, and we published the newspaper Khurasan under the pseudonym [for its editor] of Ra’is al-Tullab. And my first literary works in the service of freedom were published in that newspaper.[9]

But it was in 1909, upon a visit by Heydar Khan Amughli to Mashhad, that the Khorasan branch of the Democrat party was founded, and Bahar was elected to its leadership committee.[10]

Bahar’s use of the term ‘freedom’ here needs some explanation, because modern concepts of liberty, adapted as they were from European social and intellectual developments, had certain specific meanings in the Constitutional Movement. The term azadi-khah was, at first, invariably applied to all constitutionalists, perhaps especially to the more popular and/or idealist and radical among them. Thus, when Ahmad Kasravi wrote in 1922, ‘We all know Moshir al-Dawleh to be an azadi-khah’, he meant precisely that.[11] It did not mean ‘liberal’ as this term was understood in Europe at or before the time.

The main concern of Iranian reformers and constitutionalists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was the abolition of arbitrary rule (estebdad) and the establishment of government based in law. They saw law, first as responsible and orderly government, and later as freedom. It would make private property safe and powerful, official positions less insecure and more responsible, and life and limb less in danger of arbitrary violation. Classical liberalism had aimed at limiting the law and the extent of state intervention; the constitutionalists wished to abolish arbitrary government and establish the rule of law. The Iranian reformers’ concept of liberty was therefore first and foremost law itself. Any individual freedoms would not be possible outside a legal framework, whether in Europe or Iran. But the absence of any such framework in Iranian society made it obvious that without law there would be no freedom at all, except that which may be given and taken away arbitrarily, and as a privilege. Thus, by emphasising the importance of law the Constitutionalists were demanding a freedom that, in various ways, had existed in Europe since its classical foundations. It was the freedom from arbitrary rule (from estebdad), a negative concept in form, but a positive one in substance, since it implied the right to a secure life.[12] For it was through law as freedom – i. e. as the right to a secure and predictable life – that other freedoms, which they also listed and advocated, could be pursued. It was not the removal of existing legal restraints as in classical European liberalism, but the creation of a legal framework through which it was possible to legislate for personal freedoms. [13] Hence, Bahar’s first poem in response to the declaration of the constitutional government ended with the following distich:

Hope the kingdom will forever to flourish

Upon this auspicious foundation of law [14]

Even as late as the early 1920’s when, as a result of the chaos that followed the Constitutional Revolution,  both law and liberty had lost much of their appeal as a panacea for peace and progress, the poet and journalist Mohammad Farrokhi Yazdi defined freedom as law, in a quatrain:

Since law is the cause of our liberty

We shall survive as long as there is law

A people will never be lost

In a land which is ruled by law[15]

But, as we shall see below, the concept of liberty as law increasingly gave way to that of liberty as licence, and that was the main reason behind the 1921 coup, a few years after which chaos as well as constitutionalism ended for more than a decade. Back in 1908, when, in the dark days of ‘Lesser Arbitrary Rule’ (estebdad-e saghir), there was fear of the entire Movement being crushed by forces of reaction, Bahar, like other leading young intellectuals of the Movement, was campaigning largely through his pen for the restoration of constitutional government. His most famous poem of the time is the qasida-yi mustazad, beginning with:

The mazhab [creed] of the Shahanshah is unique to himself

Only God could save the country[16]

Meanwhile, the long and heroic resistance in Tabriz, and the liberation of Azerbaijan by constitutionalist forces heartened their comrades elsewhere in the country, and Bahar greeted the event with a mosammat, glorifying the resistance and its leaders.

Be joyful, for Sattar Khan’s luck has turned

Sattar Khan’s victory became talk of the world…[۱۷]

Not long afterwards Tehran fell to the combined forces of the Bakhtiyaris led by their khans, the forces of Gilan and Mazandaran led by Sipahdar (Muhammad Vali Khan Tunokabuni, shortly to be further honoured by the title of Sepahsalar), and the Mojahedin form Azerbaijan and elsewhere. This great victory prompted Bahar to write celebratory poems, all of which he recited in the festivities in Mashhad to celebrate the historic event. By far the longest and most powerful is the qasideh, after one by Farrukhi Sistani, which, a thousand years before, the latter had written in honour of Mahmud of Ghazna’s most spectacular campaign in India, the conquest of Somnath. It is entitled, ‘The Conquest of Conquests’:

Do not tell the story of Alexander, for now in this land

‘The story of Alexander is an old, bygone, legend’[۱۸]

It was shortly afterwards that Bahar began to publish the journal Nawbahar along the lines with the Democrat party. The other constitutionalist grouping was called the Moderate party. The parties had acted in concert in defence of constitutionalism during Lesser Arbitrary Rule. Yet, the victory celebrations were barely over when conflicts, which had not yet quite surfaced before the fall of Mohammad Ali, quickly began to appear among the victors. They led to the assassination of Sayyid Abdollah Behbahani, the leading Tehran Mojtahed, who had consistently supported the constitutionalist cause, an astute politician, and the most influential figure associated with the Moderate party.[19]

CONFRONTATION AND CHAOS

Bihbahani’s assassination was the climax of inter-party feuding at the time, although the destructive conflict was to continue and spread far, wide and deep, until constitutionalism lost its appeal for the large majority of the political public. They began to attribute the revolution they had made or supported to a British conspiracy, to describe Nasir al-Din Shah proudly as the Martyr Shah, and to wish for the emergence of a ‘strong man’. The pattern was familiar from past Iranian history whenever chaos had followed the fall of an arbitrary state. A verse became a turning phrase to denigrate constitutionalism and prescribe what was needed to save the country from rift and disintegration: ‘This land still needs the stick of arbitrary rule’.[۲۰]

There was a short- and-long term background to this. The basic and persistent antagonism in Iran was between state and society rather than the lower and upper classes, since, unlike in Europe, the state (dawlat) was independent of all the social classes, that is, of the entire society (or mellat). There were also conflicts between social classes, but these were seen as part of the state-society conflict, precisely because the upper classes depended on the state for their economic and social power and privilege. The fall of the state resulted in chaos, because there were no firmly established rules of legitimacy for succession. That is, since almost anyone could become ruler if he succeeded in seizing and holding power, the fall of the state would create a power vacuum in which various aspirants to supreme power fought one another for succession. That is how the basic function of absolute and arbitrary rule for keeping the peace would be lost, and the people at large would face lawlessness and plunder, not just by one, but by many centres of arbitrary power, each trying to eliminate all the others.[21] It was ‘the politics of elimination’.[۲۲]

This time, too, although the arbitrary regime apparently had been replaced by the rule of law, the result was in fact growing chaos, if only because old habits die hard. It is important to note that, contrary to common belief, the chaos was not just nomadic, ethnic and regional. On the contrary, it existed right at the centre, in the Majlis, among the factions and parties, within the ranks of the competing political magnates, and in the press. Indeed, had there not been such rift and chaos in the very centre of politics, it is unlikely that those centrifugal forces would have been released, or been effective, in the provinces. For it is characteristic of the country that whoever has the centre also has the periphery.[23]

Bahar’s reaction to discord

Bahar was one of the first to sense the danger of uncompromising discord, even before the onset of Lesser Arbitrary Rule. This was shortly after the accession of Mohammad Ali, when the radicals of both sides (including the shah) refused to reach a compromise despite the efforts of moderates such as Behbahani, Naser al-Molk, Sani’al-Dawleh, Mokhber al-Saltaneh, Mostawfi al-Mamalek, etc. The war of elimination led to the assassination of Atabak, the attempt on the shah’s life and, finally, the Shah’s coup against the Majlis.[24] The constitutionalists closed ranks at that point until their victory of 1909 and deposition of the Shah, but rift, discord, disorder and chaos returned shortly afterwards.[25]

Very significantly, Bahar had protested against the first round of destructive conflict, including the assassination of Atabak and the attempt on the shah’s life. It is difficult to believe that any other Democrat might have felt the same about these events. Certainly, none made a public statement to that effect.  In a qasideh entitled ‘Harj o marj’ (chaos), he wrote in 1906:

In one event Mozaffar Shah went to dust

In another, Atabak was drowned in blood…

Stupid men resort to trickery

Bent on spilling the blood of monarchs [moluk]…[۲۶]

And he protested even more desperately in a mosammat when rift and schism returned in 1910:

Agreed we not from the outset not to sow division?

Were we not united in making unity?

Whither then that pact and whereto that agreement?

Why have you all now changed your minds?

None of you utters a word that your home is in danger

O’ patriots beware, the patrie is in danger

Try to save the patrie for God’s sake,

Stop the rift and schism for God’s sake,

Destroy the enemy, instead, for God’s sake

O’ people try to help for God’s sake,

Because this sick and tired land is in danger

O’ patriots beware the patrie is in danger[27]

Within a decade, constitutionalism, i. e. law and liberty (qanunva azadi), came to be known to most people, not as liberty but as licence. Each time they wished to say someone had achieved his selfish and corrupt aims, they would cynically say that he had ‘made it to his constitutionalism (beh mashruteh-ash resid)’.  They even described incidents of looting and plunder by saying ‘there was constitutionalism’. This is mentioned by a contemporary historian, who himself witnessed lawless behaviour from close quarters:

There was loss of faith in constitutionalism and constitutionalists alike. Indeed, among the people, the word constitutionalism came to mean killing and looting, so that whenever anyone killed anyone and anywhere was looted, they said ‘there was constitutionalism’ (mashruteh shod).[28]

From this time onwards we find Bahar in the role of a constitutionalist as well as an opponent of chaos, neither willing to give up constitutionalism, nor fanning the fires of chaos in the name of freedom.  One of the earliest poems in which he openly wishes for a strong constitutional government is the qasida (later) entitled ‘Pishgu’i’ (Prophecy) which he wrote in 1914, after World War I had broken out.[29] There were one or two exceptions to this, the most important being his attitude towards the Morgan Shuster crisis of 1911, and his (much less important) reaction to the violent death of Shaykh Muhammad Khiyabani in 1920.

BAHAR AND THE 1911 ‘THERMIDOR’

The conflict and confrontation in 1911 between the cabinet and the Majlis, led to its dissolution following the Russian ultimatum for the removal of Morgan Shuster, the idealistic American financial advisor to Iran. Russian forces in Gilan would have moved to Tehran if the ultimatum were not accepted. The pro-Democrat government of Samsam al-Saltana, and its foreign minister Vusuq al-Dawla, saw no alternative but to comply with the Russian demand. Public feelings were running high, and, in the Majlis, most of the Moderates joined radical Democrats in rejecting the government’s plea for compliance. The result was disaster for all of them and for Iran.[30]

This author has compared the Iranian disaster of 1911 with the ‘Thermidor’ in the French Revolution.[31] The analogy is a fair one in so far as the idealists had a major setback on both occasions. But it must be further observed that, in both cases, the idealists played an important role in bringing disaster upon themselves.  It must also be emphasised that, unlike the case in France, the conflict in Iran over the Russian ultimatum was not a domestic matter, and so no domestic political force had engineered the ‘Thermidor’. It was Russian oppression as well as the emotionally charged response to it, which resulted in an unnecessary domestic struggle, entailing the worst possible outcome for the country.

The highly arrogant behaviour of Russia and its occupying forces in Iran was flagrant, and against all norms of behaviour towards an independent country. This indeed was the very reason behind the great emotional outburst of Democrats, Moderates and the urban crowd in defence of their country’s, and, indeed, their own dignity and integrity. On the other hand, it was clear that every act of Iranian defiance would simply raise the stakes, escalate the crisis and result in a much greater Iranian defeat, as in fact happened.

Thus the conflict was far from domestic, and the government of Samsam al-Saltaneh was trying to make the best of a bad job vis-à-vis a much more powerful foreign foe which Britain would no longer move to contain. Yet the Majlis and the crowd were facing the cabinet almost as if they were responsible for the Russian threat and that they or anyone else in Iran could possibly put an end to Russian aggression. There was therefore a destructive conflict, by means of which both they and the country would end up as losers.

This was anticipated by no less a radical Democrat leader than Taqizadeh, who recently had been effectively driven out of the country because of his radical views. He sent no less than thirteen telegrams to various government and Majils leaders, including Soleyman Mirza, the sentimentalist leader of Majlis Democrats, and Mo’tamen al-Molk, the moderate Majlis speaker, imploring them to come to terms with the Russians in order to avoid disastrous defeat.[32] His advice like that of the government was ignored, and this led to the Russian ultimatum, their occupation of Rasht and Tabriz, and their threat to occupy the capital. It led to abject surrender: The ultimatum was accepted and the Regent dissolved the Majlis on the cabinet’s advice shortly before its term would have come to an end.

Soleyman Mirza wired the Mashhad Democrats, where Russian troops were also stationed, instructing them to resist. They shut down the shops and took up arms, but no action was taken since, according to Bahar, the telegraph wire was cut, and they could not maintain contact with the centre.[33] Bahar wrote a long tarkib-band, blaming Naser al-Molk, the Regent, as did the Democrats and people at large. It is as scathing and intemperate as it is masterly in its classical form. The Regent is described as the ‘traitor’s scout’:

Traitors have no shame of their deed,

May they go blind and blind in speed,

Slaves and agents of Russia are they

From the progressist to the lumpen indeed…

‘These ministers, big and small

May God curse and damn them all’[۳۴]

He has very masterfully adapted or directly quoted a suitable couplet from Rumi’s Masnavi at the end of each band or stanza. And two in the following:

Someone asked the camel, hey tell me

Whence coming art thou this minute?

I come from the public bath, said she

Ah yes, It is clear from thy knee, said he [35]

Although uncharacteristic, it is not surprising that Bahar sided with the Majlis on the Shuster question. For, not only Democrat deputies, intellectuals and the urban crowd, but, willy nilly, virtually all the Moderate deputies also joined the Majlis resistance, only the cabinet, including its Democrat and pro-Democrat members such as Vosuq and Samsam, advising caution and compromise.[36]

Bahar also wrote a qasideh and a tarkib-band when Russian troops opened fire on the crowd who had taken sanctuary in Imam Reza’s shrine, and damaged the dome in the process:

Why is the prophet of God mourning?

He thinks of his honourable descendant’s tomb!

Reza the Shah, the Martyr of Khorasan, the Foreigner of Tus

Whose pure heart was set alight by the gun of Rus[37]

The Russian consul’s pressure on the government led to the banning of his newspapers, Nawbahar and Tazeh Bahar, one after the other, and the poet was banished to Tehran along with nine other protestors. He was allowed to return to Mashhad a year later, and, shortly before the outbreak of war in 1914, he was elected to the third Majlis by a Khorasan constituency. It took six months for his election to be authenticated by his fellow deputies, he says, because of the opposition of ‘pseudo-mullahs’[۳۸]

Bahar in the Great War

World War I boosted and accelerated existing chaotic trends. Foreign intervention and occupation helped the process, but – as noted above – the pattern was familiar from ancient times, and domestic forces needed little encouragement to engage in destructive conflict. Iran declared neutrality, but a Turkish force invaded Azerbaijan because Russian forces were there already. Cabinets rapidly succeeded one another, until the Russians threatened to occupy Tehran. The shah and Mostawfi’s government eventually negotiated a way out of this. But in the meantime, the third Majlis collapsed, and most of the Democrat and Moderate deputies, almost all of whom supported the Central Powers, left Tehran for Qom, and thence via Kashan to Isfahan. They eventually participated in the pro-Central Provisional Government in Kermanshah, led by Nezam al-Saltaneh (Rezaqoli Khan Mafi). Both Soleyman Mirza, the Democrat leader, and Sayyed Hasan Modarres, a leading Moderate, were in that government. The Democrats were generally pro-German, the Moderates, pro-Turkish, and this was a cause of continuing friction among them. After the collapse of that government, many of its leaders and activists took refuge in Turkey till the end of the war.[39] Mudarres returned before that in 1918, and played an important role in helping Vosuq to form a cabinet in August of that year.[40]

Inevitably, Bahar was pro-German, and joined the exodus of the Majils deputies and political activists to Qom late in 1915. But, while on a mission shortly afterwards, his hand was broken and he returned to Tehran.[41] He must have been voicing dissent there, because he was packed off to Khorasan, sometime afterwards, but it is significant that he did not rejoin the ‘migrants’ when his hand healed.[42] However, before all that, he had written a powerful qasideh in his usual Khorasani style, celebrating the German conquest of Warsaw. It began:

The Kaiser captured the realm of Warsaw

He broke the might of the Slav…

His offensive cut the Tsar’s army

Just like the gardener’s sheers do the weed…[۴۳]

Thus, while his sentiments were clearly on the Central Power’s side, he was apparently not too keen to join the pro-Central government of Kermanshah. In 1916, the Russian and British allies negotiated an agreement with Sepahdar’s government for raising a local levy in exchange for financial aid, which was effectively withdrawn by Vosuq’s ensuing cabinet.[44] Bahar wrote a qasideh against the so-called Sepahdar agreement, with the matla’: He whose flag is down / His help I would disown.[45] The agreement was never confirmed and, therefore, no further action was taken.

In 1918 almost all Iranian politicians thought that the country desperately needed order, stability and reconstruction. But there was disagreement on the means by which it could or should be achieved. Britain also looked towards a stable and pro-British Iran after the end of the war. They regarded Vosuq al-Dawleh as a political leader who passed both those tests, and actively supported his bid to form a government.[46] Some political leaders and intellectuals disliked Vosuq and were suspicious of British aims. But there were others – the most important being Mudarres – who genuinely wished for a strong government to deal with the devastating chaos that had visited the country both at the centre and in the provinces, to which the murderous Spanish Flu epidemic was now added. Bahar was also one such politician. Both he and Vosuq belonged to the Democrat party, although the situation was such that belonging to the same party did not necessarily carry much meaning.

That is how the so-called ‘Pro-reorganisation’ (Tashkili) and Anti-reorganisation (Zedd-e Tashkili) Democrats came into being. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the most important reason behind the schism was that the Pro-reorganisation group supported Vosuq and the Anti-reorganisation, opposed him:

It was then [he wrote 25 years later] that I realised that a strong central government is better than any movement in the provinces; that the central government must be supported; and that rabble-rousing, weakening of the government, mud-slinging of the press against one another and against the government, and encouragement of the people of the provinces to rebellion is fatal to constitutionalism and liberty [virtually synonymous words at the time] and even to the country’s independence. [47]

And he goes on to make a very explicit statement about his attitude towards provincial strife, although he was writing in 1944, when the Jangalis and Khiyabani, if not Pesyan, were very popular with modern political movements and intellectuals:

On the same basis, I was opposed to all provincial rebellion and any campaign of vilification against the state. Neither did I agree with the Jangalis, nor with Khiyabani, nor with the revolt of Colonel Mohammad Taqi Khan [Pesyan]…[۴۸]

But he stresses that he hoped for ‘a strong central government established with the support of constitutionalist parties and press…’[۴۹]

Bahar, Vosuq, and the 1919 agreement

Therefore, it was precisely because Bahar believed not just in a strong, but also constitutional, government that later he could not come to terms with Reza Khan and Reza Shah. For various reasons Iranians generally equate constitutional government with liberal democracy, but Bahar knew that not all constitutional governments are liberal (some are not even democratic), although all of them are based in law as opposed to arbitrary government. He did try along with Modarres to reach an accommodation with Reza Khan after he became shah, but the latter did not keep his end of the bargain (see below). Years later, when he commented on his attitude in favour of a strong government, he wrote with a clear mind:

The predictions on which I had written and spoken for years – i. e. the ill-consequences of intellectual chaos and weakening of the country’s statesmen and the central government – proved right, and a strong as well as powerful man [i. e.Reza Khan]…gained dominion over azadi [i. e. constitutionalism], the Majlis, and everyone’s life and property…[۵۰]

Bahar supported Vopsuq’s government in this vein, and it was not surprising that even in the 1940’s, when such men and ideas were not at all popular, he wrote that it was strong and realistic politicians of the type of Vosuq, his brother Qavam, Sepahdar (i. e. Sepahsalar) and Firuz, who were most suitable for running the country. By then, these politicians, certainly Vosuq and Firuz, had been condemned – all be it unjustly – as shameless traitors who had sold out their country to British imperialism, and Qavam was generally considered to be ‘the murderer’ of Colonel Mohammad Taqi Khan Pesayan. Yet, even then, Bahar generally praised Vosuq’s government of 1918-1920, although his attitude towards the 1919 agreement was rather ambivalent, but still not negative.[51]

Bahar had friendly relations with Sayyed Zia, the editor of Ra‘d and staunch defender of the Agreement, whose closeness to British diplomats and officers in Tehran were well known. Zia was the leading figure in the Committee of Iron, which was alternatively known as the Committee of Zargandeh, after the village in Shemiran where its meetings were held. Indeed one or two sources claim that Bahar was also a member, although, after the fall of the cabinets of Vosuq al-Dawleh and Moshir al-Dawleh, many politicians used to attend its meetings. The strong campaign against the Agreement both inside and outside the country, followed by Bolshevik invasion of Anzali, led to the fall of Vosuq’s cabinet in June 1920. Moshir al-Dawleh’s ministry which followed it lasted only until late October.[52] Khiyabani’s revolt which had been tolerated by Vosuq, easily collapsed in September, when Mokhber al-Saltaneh the new governor of Azerbaijan, sent by Moshir, took action against it.[53] Khiyabani himself was killed in the process, and there was an outcry by radical Democrats in Tehran. Bahar wrote a tarj’band, ‘The Blood of Khiyabani’, mourning his death and vehemently attacking both Moshir and Mokhber. As noted above, this was the second occasion – though it was much less important than the previous one – on which, uncharacteristically – he gave vent to radical sentimentalist passion:

If the blood of the innocent [mazlum]Khiyabani comes to boil

Iran would wear a red shroud from covering it all.

Both Vosuq’s and Moshir’s first names were Hasan. Bahar compared Vosuq’s execution of a couple of leaders of the rebel band of Nayeb Hoseyn Kashi (Kashani) with the death of Khiyabani in this verse: ‘If that Hasan killed a couple of Kashis for the sake of the motherland / This Hasan killed like beasts freedom-lovers of the motherland’.[۵۴]

After the fall of Moshir, Seyyed Zia helped the British legation in forming the cabinet of Sepahdar (i. e. Fathollah Khan Akbar, ‘Spehadar-e Rashti’) early in November 1920, and went on to suggest ways of strengthening it.[55] But he told Bahar at the time, referring to Sepahdar, ‘None of these men are worth much. We ourselves must do something’[۵۶].  Herman Norman was British minister in Tehran, and in Zia’s own words, everyone regarded him as ‘Norman’s left ball’.[۵۷]

Bahar and the coup

The coup d’état of February 1921 was the result of direct and indirect cooperation of Sayyed Zia and his lieutenants, General Ironside, some other British officers, and virtually the whole of the British legation in Tehran, although Curzon and the Foreign Office had no knowledge of it at all.[58]

Bahar had had more than an inkling that some kind of dramatic action was afoot. A couple of days before the coup Walter Smart, Oriental Secretary at the British legation, had probingly questioned Bahar on the type of government needed for Iran.  Zia had also discussed the subject with him later on the same day. Bahar had said that he would support a strong government ‘if you have a well-thought out and systematic plan’. He even says that, immediately after the coup, Zia asked him to collaborate ‘according to our verbal agreement’, and offered him the editorship of the semi-official Iran on a high government subsidy. But he refused. [59]

Ten days after the coup Bahar found himself in jail, not to be released until Zia’s dismissal and departure from Iran three months later. He says he did not oppose Zia’s coup and government, and mentions various reasons for his ambivalent attitude, but the most important must be his critical attitude towards the new government’s ‘revolutionary method’ (Bahar’s own words) especially its onslaught on key notables and politicians such as Firuz Mirza, Qavam al-Saltaneh, and Modarres. Bahar had close relations with them and quite a few others whom Zia put in jail. This was greeted as apposite revolutionary action by modern nationalist intellectuals such as Aref and Eshqi.[60] But, long before that, Bahar had abandoned hope in revolutionary action of this kind, which, as he says, ‘even if it had been practical and useful, it did not accord with my political attitude’. Although he was much in favour of strong government to end the chaos, he preferred ‘patient, cautious and deliberate planning’ for it.[61] While in Zia’s jail, he wrote a scathing piece, in the form of a long qasideh on Ahmad Shah, apparently because the shah had recognised the Sayyed Zia-Reza Khan coup and in that sense acquiesced in the arrest of politicians and notables, although Bahar was to learn later that the shah had had very little choice in the matter.[62] He wrote about the end of the poem that when the people move to avenge themselves on the shah:

Neither Reza’s force would be of much help to you

Nor would Zia’s light, of any use[63]

Zia, of course, literally means light.

But he also wrote a humorous qat’eh, poking fun at his young friend and jailer, it being more like a joke than a lampoon:

You and I, O’ Zia al-Din, are both

Two young men with little turban cloth

This minute you’ve got some money

from India’s budget,

and look mighty…[۶۴]

Within a short period, Reza Khan emerged as the strong man many nationalist modernists were looking for, though not the type conservative or popular constitutionalists liked.[65] It was therefore predictable that Bahar would follow Modarres’s lead both in the fourth (1921-1923) and in the fifth (1923-25) Majlis. The period 1921-1925 was a period of dual sovereignty and power struggle. Nationalist modernists were impatient both for political stability and rapid modernisation. Increasingly, they gathered around Reza Khan, who displayed ability and determination to bring the chaos to an end. Indeed, for a short while after the coup very few opposed him, since he looked like an honest broker, a man with little political (as distinct from military) ambition who put the country above politics. But this began to change as his power increased.[66] Bahar, too, as was noted, longed for strong government. He also wished for modernisation and change to the extent that – at least in one charged mood – he shouted through a poem: Modernisation, reform or death / No other road is open to the motherland.[67] Still he was in favour of moderate, systematic and deliberate action.

The shah, central and provincial magnates and notables, and constitutionalist politicians became increasingly alarmed at the prospect of radical political change. Some of them, notably Firuz, went over to Reza Khan and his growing supporters among nationalist modernists such as Davar and Teymurtash, probably because they believed his ascendancy was inevitable.[68] Within a couple of years, many influential political leaders and activists openly began to lobby for dictatorship.[69] That is how Modarres, who normally commanded a majority in the fourth Majlis, lost it by the time the fifth Majlis met in 1923. Popular politicians like Mostawfi and the brothers Moshir al-Dawleh and Mo’tamen al-Molk tried to avoid involvement in the struggle, but it eventually affected them too.

Modarres tried to use Qavam al-Saltaneh, the conservative constitutionalist and brother of Vosuq, as an alternative strong leader to Reza Khan. He hoped to rally the forces of people, parliament as well as the establishment to match Reza Khan’s popularity with the army and nationalist modernists, among the latter of whom Qavam was unpopular. But people were not organised, the parliament was increasingly led by nationalists, Democrats and Socialists in Reza Khan’s favour, and the old establishment was worn out, had no initiative, and did not have the stomach for a real struggle. Qavam became prime minister immediately after Zia’s fall in June 1921, but he fell in February 1922. Modarris managed to bring him to power once again, between June 1922 and February 1923. But he did not succeed in July 1923, the third and last time he tried, and Moshir al-Dawleh became prime minister as the compromise candidate. By late October 1923, Riza Khan had managed to chase both the shah and Qavam out of the country, bring down Moshir’s cabinet, and become prime minister.

The struggle between the two sides became increasingly bitter, and reached its first peak in March 1924. That is when the campaign for the declaration of a republic began. The ranks were closed. The republicans would have won the day if they had planned their action well and were not in a great hurry, and if Modarres had not played his hand astutely. It is from this time that Bahar comes into the political limelight as a leading spokesman of the shrinking Majlis opposition. Nevertheless he maintained cordial relations with Reza Khan. The ulama were anxious lest the country would follow the same road as the emerging Kemalist Turkey. But they did not take any visible action. On the other hand, men like Modarris and Bahar were convinced that it was the first stage of Reza Khan’s bid for the throne, followed by autocratic rule.  In a mosammat-i movashshah, which Bahar published at the time, he wrote:

In the guise of republicanism

He [Reza Khan] is knocking at the door of Shahi

We are naïve and the greedy enemy is canny.[70]

He also wrote a long and humorous poem entitled ‘The Republic Saga’ (Jumhorinameh), written in the wake of the campaign’s collapse, the poem describes its various stages and those involved in it with close accuracy. This was believed to have been the work of Eshqi, who was publishing signed and very much more scathing poems and articles against the proposed republic, which quickly led to his assassination by two police agents.[71] Bahar wrote in ‘The Republic Saga’ that as soon as a strong man appears, he is surrounded by a few ‘tramps’, ‘Who would tell him to take off the shah’s crown / And put it upon his own head’. And referring to a leading republic enthusiast and campaigner:

What republic[?], I am surprised at him

Who seems to be unaware of the bloke’s intention

That he wishes to succeed the Qajars

Just like that man of the Afshars [Nadir Shah]…[۷۲]

Bahar concludes this long ‘Saga’ by saying that Reza Khan began to regret the move, went to Qom to see the grand ulama, and they entered a pact with him (‘hojaj bastand ba u ahd o peyman’) to stop pursuing that line. There has been a faint oral tradition that the ulama had further told him that, in that case, they would be prepared to agree with his bid for becoming shah. At the time of writing, evidence has just come forth, which sheds much light on this subject; indeed, it may be described as an important historical discovery. It is the testimony of the late Ayatollah Mehdi Ha’iri, son of Hajj Sheykh Abdo ’l-Karim Ha’iri Yazdi, the famous marj’-e taqlid and founder of Qom’s Hawza-ye  Elmiya. For that reason, it is well worth giving the matter some space here.

This requires a brief background, which has not been quite described in Ha’iri’s account. The two other marja’-i taqlids of the time, Hajj Mirza Hoseyn Na’ini and Aqa Sayyed Abo ’l-Hasan Isfahani, had been temporarily in Qom following their exile from the atabat for political reasons. But just at the time of the collapse of the Reza Khan- inspired campaign for a republic, the exile order had been lifted and they were returning to the atabat. Reza Khan had first heard the news from Sir Percy Loraine, the British minister, with marked satisfaction, because he did not want the presence of two powerful marj’s with political views and influence at his doorstep.[73] He now hurried to Qom to see them off, because he was not yet too grand to do so, he had suffered a severe political setback, and he needed their good will.

Hai’eri says that his father Hajj Sheykh  ‘Abdo ’l-Karim, who was going to remain in Qom, invited the other two marja’s to his home to discuss and decide what to tell Reza Khan:

The three of us decided to say that if you [Reza Khan] want to be a dictator, the answer is, No. Let us tell you from the start that we would oppose you if you try to rule the country as a dictator and absolute ruler, whether in a republic or a monarchy. But if you want to be shah, and one who is just like a picture on the wall…that is, to be a shah who has this title but has no role other than being a picture on the wall, while the country’s affairs are run by a government based on the people’s representatives, then we will agree.[74]

In a word, they told him that they would agree with his bid for the throne within the framework of constitutional of monarchy. This is not surprising since all the three divines had been constitutionalists, and Na’ini in particular had written a famous treatise during the constitutional revolution to show that there was no conflict between Islamic doctrine and constitutional monarchy. From then onwards the grand Ulama began to give public demonstrations of support to Reza Khan, which for a couple year was very helpful to his campaign for the overthrow of the Qajars, his accession to the throne, and the consolidation of his position as Shah.[75]

The bizarre Saqqa-khaneh episode brought the struggle to its second climax.  In July 1924, it was suddenly claimed that the 9religiously endowed) public fountain for drinking-water in the Aqa Sheykh Hadi district of Tehran had performed a miracle by blinding a Babi (Baha’i)girl who had spat in it. Moharram-type demonstrations were held and the American vice-consul who had gone there to take pictures was killed by the mob.  Each side blamed the other for fomenting it. The government described it as organised rioting by its opponents. The opposition accused the government of the same thing, arguing that it wanted to use it to declare martial law, restrict the press, etc., which it did. Bahar describes the arguments of both sides faithfully and at length in his History, though he tends to hold the government responsible. But it is very likely that the royal court had been behind the organisers, although men like Bahar and Modarris cannot have been privy to it.[76] The defeat and confinement to Tehran of Sheykh Khaz’al broke the last line of the opposition’s resistance[77], although Bahar played no visible role in that affair.

The failure of the republican campaign left direct action to change the dynasty as the only remaining option for Reza Khan and his supporters. This time they planned the move well, given that they had all the military and security forces in their power as well as the Majlis majority and many political leaders and activists. The Majlis vote was taken on 31 October. There had been a bread riot in Tehran in late September, and once again there were mutual recriminations, although here it is likely that the government had been behind it.[78] In the evening of 29 October there was a lengthy debate regarding public petitions received for the deposition of the Qajars. Bahar delivered a long – reasoned and tempered, even subtle – speech on behalf of the opposition. His entire emphasis was on the argument that whatever decision might be taken it should be strictly according to the constitution.[79]

Agents had gone there to kill him, but not for that reason – merely to spread fear among the opposition – and in a case of mistaken identity, they killed a pro-Reza Khan journalist instead. The idea was to intimidate the dozen or so deputies who were opposed to the move, and judging by the number of those who defected or were absent from the Majlis two days later when the vote was taken, they seem to have succeeded.[80] But they would have obtained the vote even without such tactics. Bahar went into hiding and wrote a very moving qasideh, reflecting the mood of a man who might well have died a violent death that night, and lamenting the death of the poor pro-government journalist who had travelled from Qazvin to cover the big event for his newspaper, Ra’d: ‘You came from Qazvin to prepare for Ra’d [=thunder]/ Instead of thunder they hit you with lightning!’[۸۱] Not long after that, the constitutional era came to an end.

A BRIEF NOTE ON BAHAR’S LATER YEARS

Bahar gave up politics shortly after Reza Shah’s accession.[82] Still, he spent some time in jail and banishment between 1929 and 1933.[83] But in the remaining eight years of Reza Shah he was allowed to live a quiet life, mainly teaching at Dar al-Funun, the Teacher Training College, and the University of Tehran. Between 1933 and 1941 he wrote a few panegyrics for the Shah[84], but he later explained that this was his only way of, first, getting out of trouble, and, secondly, keeping out of harm’s way.[85] This is borne out by his political poems of that period which he kept close to his chest.[86] In the 1940’s, after Reza Shah’s abdication, he did not return to active politics, though he served briefly in Qavam’s cabinet during the Azerbaijan crisis. Soon afterwards, he contracted tuberculosis, for which he sought treatment both in Iran and in Switzerland, but it did not succeed.[87] Shortly before his death, he accepted the presidency of the (Iranian) Peace Association.[88] This was a Tudeh party front-organisation, but it included quite a few establishment figures, including Ali Asghar Hekmat, an established literary as well as political figure and former minister of education. Bahar died in April 1951 aged 65.

_____________________________________________________

Notes and references


[1] Revised version of paper presented in April 2001 to the conference organised by the Nouvelle Sorbonne University in Paris on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the death of Poet Laureate Bahar.

[2] Primary sources on the Constitutional Revolution such as those by Nazim al-Islam Kirmani, Yahya Dawlat-Abadi, Mukhbir al-Saltana (Mihdiquli Hidayat), Edward Browne, etc. (see below), are well known. A new primary source has just been published in Tehran, which sheds much light on detailed events, is written in a relatively sober and dispassionate way, and contains balanced and realistic analytical insights. It is the manuscript of a leading young participant in the Constitutional Revolution and member of the first Majlis, which he began to write between circa 1909 and his death in 1936. See, Mohammad Ali Tehrani Katouzian, Tarikh-e Enqelab-e Mashrutiyat-e Iran, ed., Nasser Katouzian Tehran: Enteshar, 2000. There are numerous secondary sources on the subject, for example, Ahmad Kasravi, Tarikh-e Mashruteh-ye Iran, Tehran: Amir Kabir, 1984, which may be regarded as a mixture of primary and secondary source; Janet Afary, The Iranian Constitutional Revolution, 1906-1911 New York: Columbia University Press, 1996; Vanessa Martin, Islam and Modernism: The Iranian Revolution of 1906, London: I B. Tauris, 1989; Homa Katouzian, State and Society in Iran, The Eclipse of the Qajars and the Rise of the Pahlavis, London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2000.

[3] He was born on 13 Rabi’ al-Awwal, 1304, 1 Day 1265, 11 December 1886. See Divan-e Bahar, ed., Muhammad Malikzadeh, first edition, vol. 1, Tehran: Amir Kabir, 1956, pp. Z-H.

[4] See Malek al-Sho’ara Bahar, Tarikh-e Mokhtasar-e Ahzab-e Siayasi dar Iran, Inqiraz-e  Qajariyeh, vol. 1, first edition, 1944, reprinted, Tehran: Jibi, 1978.

[5] This is well known from the oral tradition of the time. In two Ekhvaniyeh poems of his friend and outstanding poet Iraj, he is mentioned as ‘Malek’. But the habit was quite normal, and it is to be found in many books, articles, notes, memoirs and histories of the period. See Homa Katouzian, ‘Ekhvaniyat-e Aref-Nama-yi Iraj’, Iranshenasi, 1, 11, 1999, reprinted in Homa Katouzian, Hasht Maqaleh dar Tarikh va Adab-e Mo’aser, Tehran: Nashr-e Markaz, second printing, 2010.  See further, Mohammad Ja’far Mahjub, ed., Divan-e Kamel-e Iraj Mirza, first edition (Tehran,1963) sixth, revised and expanded, edition, USA: Sherkat-e Ketab, 1989.

[6] The title of this poem is ‘Adl-e Mozaffar’, which is also the ‘maddeh-tarikh’ of the signing of the constitution, since according to the numbers associated with abjad letters, it is equal to 1324 (1906), the lunar hijra year in which the constitution was signed.  The same words were later inscribed above the Majlis gate in Tehran’s Baharestan Square. In fact it is not unlikely that the title was an afterthought, either by Bahar or by his brother who edited his posthumously-published Divan. Yet the words Adl-e Shah Mozaffar’ occur in the first two couplets of the qasideh.  See his Divan, vol. 1, pp. 27-31. This is immediately preceded by another, much shorter, qasideh, greeting the good news of the signing of the constitution (pp. 26-27).

[7]‘Sad Shokr va Sad Heyf’, with the matla’: ‘A shah stepped in and a shah departed / A thousand thanks for the coming of that, and a thousand pity for the departure of this’. See Divan, vol. 1, pp. 33-35.

[8] See further on the difficulties of reaching a compromise both then and later in Iranian politics, Katouzian, State and Society, chapter 3, and ‘Liberty and Licence in the Constitutional Revolution of Iran’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 3, 8, 2, July 1998, reprinted in Katouzian, Iranian History and Politics, State and Society in Perpetual Conflict, paperback edition, London and New York: I. B. Tauris: 2006. The assassination of Atabak was organised by radical revolutionaries of the Secret Committee, though the shah must have welcomed the news. The same group later led the unsuccessful attempt on his own life, which played an important role in the final showdown between the two sides. See further, Tehrani Katouzian Tarikh-e Enqelab, Yahya Dawlat-Abadi, Hayat-e Yahya , Tehran: Ferdowsi and Attar, 1983, vol. 2; Ahmad Kasravi, Tarikh-e Mashruteh; Nazem al-Islam Kermani, Tarikh-e Bidari-yi Iraniyan, ed. Sa’idi Sirjani, Tehran: Agah, 1983; Mokhber al-Saltaneh (Hedayat), Khaterat o Khatarat (Tehran, 1984), and Gozaresh-e Iran: Qajariyeh va Mashrutiyat (Tehran, 1984); Abdollah Mostawfi, Sharh-e Zendagani-ye Man (Tehran, 1981).

[9] See his Tarikh-e Mokhtasar, vol. 1, Introduction, p. B.

[10] See ibid. p. H. For a more elaborate description of Bahar’s meeting with Heydar, see Khavajeh Abdolhamid Erfani, Sharh-e Ahval va Asar-e Malek al-Sho’ara Bahar (Tehran, 1954) pp. 63-64.

[11] See Homa Katouzian, ‘The Revolt of Sheykh Mohammad Khiyabani’, Iran, XXXVII 1999, published by the British Institute for Persian Studies, p. 167, reprinted in Katouzian, Iranian History and Politics, chapter 10; and Ahmad Kasravi, Qiyam-e Sheykh Mohammad Khiyabani, ed. and intro. Katouzian, Tehran: Nashr-e Markaz 1998, P.163.

[12] Thus the radical revolutionary Seyyed Mohammad Reza Shirazi wrote in the first issue of his newspaper Mosavat, in 1907, that ‘liberty is used in the sense of political freedom…i.e. [freedom] from arbitrary rule.’

[۱۳] This subject has been extensively discussed in Homa Katouzian, ‘European Liberalisms and Modern Concepts of Liberty in Iran’in Iranian History and Politics, chapter 5.

[14] Divan, pp. 26-27.

[15] Ibid. pp. 23-24, quoted from, Hoseyn Makki, ed., Divan-e Farrokhi Yazdi , Tehran: Amir Kabir, 1978) p. 213.

[16] Divan (second edition, 1964) vol. 1, p. 146. He is using the term ‘mazhab’ in its two classical senses, i. e. both ‘creed’ and ‘religious sect’. The idea is likely to have been suggested by Rumi’s verse, ‘mellat-e asheq zeh mellat-ha jodast…’, where ‘mellat’ virtually carries the same meaning as ‘mazhab’.

[۱۷] ‘The Conquest of Azerbaijan’, Divan, vol. 1, pp. 182-184.

[18] ‘Fath al-Fotuh’, Divan, first edition, vol. 1, pp. 169-181. Farrokhi’s ancient qasideh begins thus: ‘The story of Alexander is an old, bygone, legend / Speak of things novel as it has a different charm’. Bahar’s other poems on the fall of Tehran and return of constitutionalism are: ‘Alhmdo lellah, (pp. 146-148), ‘Fath-e Tehran’, (pp. 167-169) and ‘Kar-e ma bala gereft’ (p. 181).

[19] A number of radical Democrats, including Heydar Khan Amughli (who had been widely suspected both of being involved in Atabak’s assassination and the attempt on Mohammad Ali’s life) were arrested on suspicion but were quickly released without charge. In 1910, shortly after the conquest of Tehran, four masked gunmen assassinated Behbahani at his home. Taqizadeh was publicly accused of being involved in the plot and his young admirer and distant relative Mirza Ali Mohammad Tarbiyat was later killed in the street by an unknown assailant, apparently in revenge for the murder of Behbahani. Taqizadeh very probably did not know of the plan to kill Behbahani, but, despite his later claim, is not very likely to have regretted it when it happened. At any rate, he changed his view of Behbahani radically later in his life, ending up by remembering him in his memoirs with great admiration, and especially emphasising the divine’s political insight and courage. See Iraj Afshar, ed., Zindagi-yi Tufani-yi Taqizadeh (Tehran, 1989). See also, Tehrani Katouzian, Tarikh-e Enqelab.

[20] In Persian: ‘Molk-e Iran chub-e estebdad mikhahad hanuz’.

[۲۱] See Homa Katouzian, ‘Towards a General Theory of Iranian Revolutions’, and ‘Arbitrary Rule, A Comparative Theory of State, Politics and Society in Iran’۱, ۲۴, ۱۹۹۷ in Iranian History and Politics, chapters 2 and 3.

[22] See, in particular, Katouzian, ‘Problems of Democracy and the Public Sphere in Modern Iran’, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East,18, 2, 1998, ‘European Liberalisms’, reprinted in Iranian History and Politics, chapter 6, andFirqa-gara’i dar Tarikh-i Mu‘asir-i Iran’ in Saeed Barzin, Jinah-bandi-yi Siyasi dar Iran (Tehran, 1998) pp. 98-125.

[23] See further, Katouzian, ‘Liberty and Licence’, ‘European Liberalisms’, ‘Arbitrary rule, A Comparative Theory’, ‘Problems of Democracy’, and ‘Problems of Politics in Iran: Democracy, Dictatorship or Arbitrary Rule?’, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 4, 22, 1995, reprinted in Iranian History and Politics, chapter 7. See also Katouzian The Persians: Ancient, Mediaeval and Modern Iran, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, paperback edition, 2010, chapter 8.

[24] For a wider discussion of this subject see Katouzian, ‘Liberty and Licence’ and State and Society, chapter 2.

[25] These developments have been extensively documented and discussed in ibid. chapter 3.

[26]Divan, vol. 1, pp. 114-116.

[27] Divan, vol. 1, pp. 206-208, ‘vatan dar khatar ast’. This passionate poem in ‘vataniyat’ is an early example of those which (unlike classical and neo-classical Persian poetry) refer to the whole of Iran in the sense of a modern nation-state, a sentiment and a global concept which, just like that of the rule of law, had been acquired from recent contacts with Europe. As it happens, Bahar mentions the poetical category – ‘vataniyat’ – towards the end of the poem: vataniyati ba dida-yi tar miguyam… About the same time, others such as Ashrafeddin Hoseyni, Abolqasem Lahuti, and Aref-e Qazvini were using ‘vatan’ in their poems in the new sense. Indeed the refrain of a passionate poem written at the time by Ashrafeddin reads: eyvay vatan vay (woe motherland woe)! See, for example, Edward G. Browne, The Press and Poetry of of Modern Persia, and Aref-e Qazvini, Divan-e Aref-e Qazvini, ed., Abdorrahman Seyf-e Azad, sixth edition (Tehran:  Amir Kabir, 1957).

[28] See Mohammad Mardukh Kordestani, Tarikh-ieMardukh, quoted directly in Mehdi Bamdad, Sharh-e Hal-e Rijal-e Iran, vol. 6 (Tehran, Zavvar:1992) pp. 135-136. See also p. 293 on another case of ‘constitutionalising [i. e. looting] the people’.

[۲۹] Divan, vol. 1, p. 269.

[30] This view of the event has been extensively discussed in Katouzian , State and Society, chapter, 3, and further evidence for it has now come forth in Tehrani Katouzian, Tarikh-i Inqilab. See further, Mostawfi, Sharh-e Zendagani, Mokhber al-Saltaneh, Khaterat o Khatarat, Kasravi, Tarikh-e Hijdah Saleh-ye Azerbaijan, (Tehran: Amir Kabir,1992); Janet Afary, The Iranian Constitutional Revolution, 1906-1911.

[31] See Katouzian, The Political Economy of Modern Iran (London and New York: Macmillan and New York University Press, 1981), p. 68.

[32] In his telegram to Soleyman Mirza, for example, he wrote ‘I am absolutely astonished at the attitude which the Majlis has adopted towards the question of the Russian ultimatum…At this moment hostility and stubbornness would result in eternal damnation.’  See Zendagi-ye Tufani, p. 459.

[33] Bahar, Tarikh-e Mokhtasar, p. vav. This has now been confirmed by Tehrani Katouzian, Tarikh-e Enqelab.

[34] This distich is an adaptation of one in Rumi’s Masnavi-ye Ma’navi,  (ahl-e donya az kehin o az mehin / l’antollah-e alaihem ajma’in)  as indeed are the refrains of all of this poem’s stanzas. See above.

[35] An yeki porsid oshtor ra keh hey / az koja mi’a’i  ey eqbal pey; goft az hammam-e garm-e kuy-e taw / goft khod peydast az zanu-ye taw. Divan, vol. 1, pp. 217-220.

[36] Thus Aref-e Qazvini who watched the events from close quarters in Tehran wrote in a song: ‘If Shuster goes from Iran, Iran will go with the wind / O’ people do not let Iran disappear’. See his Divan, pp. 365-366.

[37] See Bahar’s Divan, vol. 1, p. 244-245 for this tarkib-band, and pp. 221-225 for the qasideh. See also his anti-Russian mosammat of the same year, ‘Iran mal-e shomast’, pp. 243-244.

[38] Bahar, Tarikh-e Mokhtasar, pp. vav  and zeh, and the qasideh entitled ‘Safarnameh’ (Travelogue) in Divan,  vol. 1, P. 239-243.

[39] See Eshqi’s long qasideh in praise of Nezam al-Saltaneh, which incidentally refers to the flight to Ottoman Turkey in Divan-e Mosavvar-e Eshqi, ed., Ali Akbar Moshir Salimi, first edition (Tehran: Moshir Salimi, 1943).

[40] See Bahar Tarikh-e Mokhtasar; Erfani, Sharh-e Ahval; Mostawfi, Sharh-e Zendegani; Dawlat-Abadi, Hayat-e Yahya, vols. 3 an 4 (Tehran: Attar and Ferdowsi, 1983); Mukhber al-Saltaneh (Hedayat) Khaterat o Khatarat; Ahmad Kasravi, Tarikh-e Hijdahsaleh; Katouzian, State and Society, chapter 3, Political Economy, chapter 4; Wm. J. Olson , Anglo-Iranian Relations during World War I (London: Frank Cass 1984). Ervand Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982).

[41] Bahar, Tarikh-e Mokhtasar, Erfani, Sharh-e Hal, and Bahar’s qasideh about the incident Dast-e Shekasteh’ – in Divan, vol. 1, pp. 280-281.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Divan, vol. 1, pp. 267-269.

[44] They explained privately to Sir Charles Marling, the British minister in Tehran, that this was an unpopular measure. Bahar, in his Tarikh-i Mukhtasar, believes that this was the reason why Vusuq’s cabinet did not last long, implying that the Anglo-Russian powers brought it down. Marling felt that it was a piece of ‘true Persian trickery’. See Marling to Grey, 16 /9/16, FO / 3712736, quoted in Olsen, Anglo-Iranian Relations, p. 150. Incidentally, by ‘Sipahdar’ they meant Sipahsalar-i Tunukabuni, who had previously held the former title.

[45] Ibid. pp. 289-290. See also, Katouzian, State and Society, ch. 3.

[46] See Houshang Sabahi, British Policy in Persia, 1918-1925, (London: Frank Cass, 1990) especially for a documented account of the role of Britain in Vosuq’s bid for premiership.  See further Bahar, Tarikh-e Mokhtasar; Kasravi, Tarikh-e Hijdahsaleh; Mostawfi, Sharh-e Zendagani, Mokhber al-Saltaneh, Khakerat, Katouzian State and Society, Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions.

[47] See Bahar’s almost bitter account in his Tarikh-e Mokhtasar, pp. 27-30. For a contrary view by an Anti-reorganisation Democrat, see Mohammad Mosaddiq, Mosaddeq’s Memoirs, ed. Homa Katouzian, tr. S. H. Amin and H. Katouzian (London: Jebhe, 1988), Book I.

[48] Tarikh-i Mukhtasar, pp. H-T. Bahar wrote a qasida attacking the Jangalis and praising Vusuq on an occasion when they had had a major setback vis-à-vis the government forces. See his Divan, vol. 2, 489-492, which begins:

By the Shahanshah’s good fortune the Jangalis were routed

From Tarum to Khalkhal the jangal was cleared.

[49] Ibid. emphasis added.

[50] Tarikh-i Mokhtasar, p. T.

[51] Ibid. especially pp. 29-33.

[52] See Katouzian State and Society, ch. 8.

[53] See, on the fall of Khiyabani, Mokhber al-Saltaneh, Khaterat, Gozarish-e Iran and ‘Nukteh-ha’i dar Tarikh-e Mashrutiyat’ in Ayandeh, January-March 1993. Kasravi Tarikh-e Hijdahsaleh and Qiyam-e Khiyabani. Katouzian , ‘The Revolt of Sheykh Mohammad’.

[۵۴] See his Divan, vol. 1, pp. 313-315. Katouzian, ‘The Revolt of Sheykh Mohammad’. Kasravi attributes this to the fact that Bahar had been a supporter of Vosuq al-Dawleh, whose cabinet had fallen to that of Moshir al-Dawleh. There may be something in that, but there must have been other motives, including the tragedy itself. More than twenty years later, at any rate, Bahar changed his mind and praised Moshir al-Dawleh’s ability to deal with such difficult situations, including Khiyabani’s revolt. See his Tarikh-i Mukhtasar.

[55] See Katouzian, State and Society, chapter 7.

[56] Bahar, Tarikh-e Mokhtasar, p. 46.

[57] Mohammad Ali Jamalzadeh, ‘Taqrirat-e Seyyed Zia va “ketab-e siyah-e u”’, Ayandeh, vol. 7, June 1981, p. 209.

[58] This subject has been extensively studied in Katouzian State and Society, chapters 8 and 9.

[59] Bahar, Tarikh-e Mokhtasar, vo. 1, p. 92. It is worth noting that when this volume was first published, Sayyed Zia had been back in the country, and elected to the fourteenth Majlis. At the time both the coup and Zia, were very unpopular. They still are, though to a lesser extent.

[60] These two popular nationalist poets were terribly excited by Zia’s words and measures, and went on to praise him long after, even, than he had fallen and left the country. But they were not alone; they simply voiced the sentiments of many modernist nationalists like themselves. See, Divan-iArif and Kulliyat-i Musavvar-i ‘Ishqi.

[61] Bahar, Tarikh-e Mokhtasar, p. 92.

[62] See, for example, Katouzian, State and Society, chs. 8 and 9.

[63] See his Divan, vol. 1, pp. 322-324.

[64] Ibid. vol. 2, pp. 512. See also more serious attacks on Zia, also written in jail (although, still, they are not too scathing for their type), pp. 367-368 and (in the second, 1964, edition of his Divan) pp.553-554 as well.

[65] See Homa Katouzian, ‘Nationalist Trends in Iran’, International Journal of Middle East Studies, November 1979.

[66] See, for example, Mostawfi, Sharh-e Zendagani, Dawlat-Abadi, Hayat-e Yahya, Mokhber al-Saltaneh, Khaterat o Khatarat, and Katouzian, State and Society.

[67] See his Divan, vol. 1, pp. 270-271. This qasideh is an eqtefa’ of one by the 12th century (6th hijra) Khorasani poet, Mas’ud-i  Sa’d-e Salman.

[68] See the references in notes 58 and 59, above, as well as the biographical essays of Ebrahim Khajeh Nuri on Davar, Teymurtash, etc, in Bazigaran-e Asr-e Tala’i, (Tehran, 1942-43).

[69] For example, in Davar’s newspaper, Mard-i Azad. But the zeal for dictatorship was greater than may be imagined. ‘Ishqi wrote explicitly in the short preface to his well-known long poem Mariam, that, by his appeal to intellectuals to describe their social ideal, Farajullah Khan Bahrami, Riza Khan’s chêf-de-cabinet, anticipated that they would write in praise of dictatorship. (See his Kulliyat-i Musavvar). The issue is clearly discussed in Mahmud Afshar Yazdi’s, Nama-ha-yi Dustan, ed. Iraj Afshar (Tehran, 1996).

[70]Divan, vol. 1, pp.357-359. These and similar lines were, of course hidden in the movashshah parts of the poem.

[71] See his Kolliyat-i Mosavvar. Books VI and VIII.

[72] Bahar’s Divan, pp. 359-366.

[73] Two months previously, he himself had said to Loraine that it would be better if they returned or otherwise they could make trouble for him.  See Loraine to Foreign Office, 15/11/1923, FO248/1369.

[74] There is a humorous side to this account. Na’ini was deaf. In the meeting with Reza Khan, before the conversation got to this particular issue, Na’ini, assuming that it had, kept pointing to the wall and saying ‘The shah must be just like a picture on the wall’. In the end, a bewildered Reza Khan asked what this was all about, and they told him. See Habib Ladjevardi (ed.) Khaterat-e Mehdi Ha’eri Yazdi, Tarh-e Tarikh-e Shafahi-ye Iran, Markaz-e Motal’at-e Khavar-e Miyana-ye Daneshgah-e Harvard, 9, December 2001, pp. 12-16.

[75] See further, Katouzian, State and Society, chapter 10, and Political Economy, chapter 5.

[76] See his Tarikh-e Mokhtasar, vol. 2 (Tehran, 1984) which was posthumously published after the February 1979 revolution. Hosayn Makki (Tehran: Elmi,  ۱۹۹۵) ch. 15. Some of the slogans leave little doubt that Reza Khan was the target. In a telegram by the Prince Regent to Ahmad Shah in Paris (parts of which have recently come to light), the impression is given that the Prince had sympathy with the demonstrators, though not with the killing of the American diplomat (see Katouzian, State and Society, ch. 10).

The following is largely from received oral tradition on the incident, which is worth recording, though the obscene word will be eliminated. The main slogan of the crowd was Az mo’jiz-e Abo’l-Fazl kur shudee chishm-e Babi (by a miracle of Abo’l-Fazl / the Babi has been blinded). When they approached Hasan Abad, and Estakhr street, they were shouting: Saqqa-khaneh chi kardeh?/chesh[m]-e dokhtareh ra kur kardeh!; Maga[r] nenmidani chi kardeh ?/ chish[m]-e doktara ra kur kardeh! (What’s the Saqqa-khaneh done? / It’s blinded the girl!; Don’t you know what it’s done?/ It’s blinded the girl!). A shroud-wearing crowd marching through the main bazaar were waving long sticks and iron bars, and shouting: In satur-e qassabi / Dar…zan-e Babi; In deylam-e tuntabi / Dar…zan-e Babi. (This butchers’ cleaver/ Be in the …of the Babi’s wife/ This bath-keepers’ crowbar/ Be in the…the Babi’s wife’. But when they went on to shout the following line, there was little doubt whom they meant by ‘the Babi’: In Babi-ye bi-gheyrat / Yaghi shodeh ba miellat. (This unprincipled Babi / has rebelled against the people). This leaves little doubt that the Prince Regent’s party had organised the riots against Reza Khan,  helped by such clerics as the crusading Sheikh Mohammad Khalesi before he returned to Iraq . It looks just like the typical ‘Babi-kushi’ of the late  ۱۹th and early 20th century for political reasons, such as that which they organised in Isfahan and Yazd in the summer of 1903 in part in order to topple Atabak’s government, and they succeeded. For a discussion of the latter event, See Homa Katouzian, ‘Sar-o-tah yek Karbas:, Naql-e Kudaki-ye Jamalzadeh’, Iranshinasi, XII, 4, Winter 2001, reprinted in Homa Katouzian, Darbareh-ye Jamazadeh va Jamalzadeh Shenasi, Tehran: Shahab-e Saqeb, 2003.

[77] See further Katouzian, State and Society.

[78] See Makki Tarikh-e Bist-saleh, vol. 3. Mostawfi, Sharh-e Zendagani, vol. 4; Mokhber al-Saltaneh Khaterat o Khatarart; Katouzian, State and Society, chap. 10 and Political Economy, chap. 5, and ‘Nationalist Trends’

[۷۹] For the full text of the speech see his Tarikh-e Mokhtasar, vol. 2.

[80] Next evening – i. e. on the eve of the vote taking in the Majlis – Davar invited the vast majority of the deputies to his own home and got their signed pledge to support the motion the following day. Dawlat-Abadi was the only deputy present who refused to give it. See for the details, his Hayat-i Yahya, vol. 4.

[81] Divan, vol. 1, pp.366-368.

[82] Led by Modarres, he tried to enter a dialogue with the new regime, after the latter believed that he had reached a compromise with the new shah. See Katouzian State and Society, ch. 11.Thus Bahar wrote a couple of poems in praise of the shah, e. g. ‘Din o Dawlat’, ‘Jazr va Madd-e Siyasat’, ‘Fakhriyeh’ (Divan, vol. 1, pp. 371-381), though they also included words of advice on just and constitutional rule. But by May 1927 the compromise collapsed because the shah was not prepared to allow for any independent influence. Shortly afterwards, Modarris was arrested and many years later was murdered in banishment. Bahar gave up politics, but did not remain immune from persecution. See, for example, his long poem, ‘Karnameh-ye Zendan’ (in a masnavi form), which is in the genre of classical habsiyat, but very much in a modern, at times even humorous, style. See his Divan, vol. 2.

[83] See Erfani, Sharh-e Ahval va Asar., and Bahar’s Divan, vols. 1 and 2.

[84] For a good example of this, see the tarji’band which, in 1933, he was obliged to write after imprisonment followed by banishment, for the banishment order to be lifted, when his influential friends had intervened on his behalf. The poem’s refrain (tarji’) was: Pahlavi, Grand Lord of the Realm / Pahlavi , inheritor from Tahmures and Jam. Divan, vol. 1, 575-578.

[85] A very good example of this is his 1939 panegyric, ‘Today and Yesterday’. It begins: ‘Today the crown and coronet are glorious / It is a lofty and enlightened era’; see Divan, vol. 1, pp. 652-656.  Bahar himself points out that he felt impelled to write this to ensure that his persecution would not be resumed. See Tarikh-e Mokhtasar, vol. 1, pp. yad/ya.

[86] For example, the long masnavi ‘Karnameh-ye Zendan’, mentioned above, and several poems in Divan, vol. 1, pp. 512 et seq.

[87] His lofty, and passionately nationalist, qasideh entitled ‘Lesaniya’, (its title alluding to Leysin, the village in Switzerland where he spent some time, in 1948, in a sanatorium) was the best poetical outcome of his illness.  See Divan, vol. 1, pp.723-729.

[88] To inaugurate his presidency, he wrote and personally recited to a select audience, in 1950, his last great qasideh, lofty as well as well as moving, against war, and in praise of peace, ‘The Crow of War’. The literal translation of the title of this poem is in fact ‘The Owl of War’ (vol. 1, pp. 740-743), but the owl in English culture is not a carrier of bad omen, though the crow is a somewhat negative symbol in both English and Perso-Arabic traditions. In fact Bahar’s qasieha is, in its form, an Eqtifa’ of Manuchehri Damghani’s great qasideh which opens with the distich: Faghan az in ghorab-e beyn o vay-i u / Keh  dar nava fiekandeman nava-ye u: Woe from this Crow of Separation, and its moaning / For its moaning has thrown us into mourning.



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