Persian Constitutional Revolution

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This article is about the Iranian revolution of 1905–1907. For the revolution that took in 1979, see Iranian Revolution. For the series of reforms launched in 1963, see White Revolution.
Persian Constitutional Revolution
(Iranian Constitutional Revolution)
(1906 Revolution)
Farmane e mashrutiyat.jpg
The royal proclamation of Mozaffar ad-Din Shah that agree the Constitutional monarchy on August 5, 1906.
Date 1905-1911
Location Iran
Participants People of Iran
Outcome Establishment of Constitutional monarchy
Writing a new Constitutional
Persian Civil War

The Persian Constitutional Revolution or Iranian Constitutional Revolution (Persian: مشروطیتMashrūtiyyat, or انقلاب مشروطه Enghelāb-e Mashrūteh) (also known as the Constitutional Revolution of Iran) took place between 1905 and 1907. The revolution led to the establishment of a parliament in Persia (Iran).

The Revolution opened the way for cataclysmic change in Persia, heralding the modern era. It saw a period of unprecedented debate in a burgeoning press. The revolution created new opportunities and opened up seemingly boundless possibilities for Persia’s future. Many different groups fought to shape the course of the Revolution, and all sections of society were ultimately to be in some way changed by it. The old order, which Nasser-al-Din Shah Qajar had struggled for so long to sustain, finally died, to be replaced by new institutions, new forms of expression, and a new social and political order.

The system of constitutional monarchy created by the decree of Mozaffar ad-Din Shah that was established in Persia as a result of the Revolution ultimately came to an end in 1925 with the dissolution of the Qajar dynasty and the ascension of Reza Shah Pahlavi to the throne.

The movement did not end with the Revolution but was followed by the Constitutionalist movement of Gilan.

History[edit]

With the first provision (the fundamental law) signed by Muzzafir al-Din just days before his death, Iran saw legislative reform vital to their goal of independence from British and Russian imperialism. The three main groups of the coalition seeking a constitution were the bazaar merchants, ulama, and a small faction of radical reformers. These groups shared the goal of ending royal corruption and stopping the dominance of foreign exploitation. The role of the shah was once again being used to keep the Shah, Qajar, and the other aristocrats wealthy at the expense of surrendering the country's resources and economy. Not only was Iran's oil industry sold to the British, tax advantages on import/export and manufactured textiles destroyed Iran's economy formerly supported by bazaar merchants. Muzzafir al-Din accumulated a fortune in foreign debt while selling off his country to repay the interest, instead of investing in Iran. This rift founded Iran's constitutional revolt. The fundamental law gave the elected legislature a final approval over all loans, concession, and budget. Further power was diverted from the shah with the supplementary fundamental law passed a few days later giving power over appointing ministers, and later a committee of mujtahids was introduced to confirm new laws abide by the shari'ah. Despite the ulama's best efforts towards independence from external dominance, in 1907 Britain and Russia capitalized on Iran's weak government and signed the entente which divided Iran among the two leaving a neutral zone in the center of the country. The end of this constitutional period came when members of the Majlis in the remaining neutral zone of Tehran dissolved under the issue of equal rights for non-Muslims, Russia then invaded Tehran and captured the city. While Iran did gain a constitution, the goal of Iranian independence was not achieved by the revolts.

Context[edit]

Persian Constitutional Revolution revolutionary fighters of Tabriz. The two men in the center are Sattar Khan and Bagher Khan

Weakness and extravagance continued during the brief reign of Mozaffar ad-Din Shah (1896–1907). He often relied on his chancellor to manage his decentralized state. His dire financial situation caused him to sign many concessions to foreign powers, on an expanding list of trade items ranging from weapons to tobacco. The established noble classes, religious authorities, and educated elite began to demand a curb on royal authority and the establishment of the rule of law as their concern over foreign, and especially Russian, influence grew.[1]

He had also taken out several major loans from Russia and Britain to pay for his extravagant lifestyle and the costs of the central government. In 1900 the Shah financed a royal tour of Europe by borrowing 22 million rubles from Russia. Iranian customs receipts served as collateral.[2]

Members of the First Majlis (October 7, 1906 — June 23, 1908). The central photograph is that of Mortezā Qoli Khan Sani od-Dauleh, the first Chairman of the First Majlis. He had been the Finance Minister for seven months when he was assassinated on 6 February 1911 by two Georgian nationals in Tehran.[1]

First protests[edit]

In 1905 protests broke out over the collection of Persia tariffs to pay back the Russian loan for Mozaffar ad-Din Shah's royal tour.[2] In December 1905, two Persian merchants were punished in Tehran for charging exorbitant prices. They were bastinadoed (a humiliating and very painful punishment where the soles of one's feet are caned) in public. An uprising of the merchant class in Tehran ensued, with merchants closing the bazaar. The clergy following suit as a result of the alliance formed in the 1892 Tobacco Rebellion.

Bast at British Embassy, 1906

The two protesting groups sought sanctuary in a mosque in Tehran, but the government violated this sanctuary and entered the mosque and dispersed the group. This violation of the sanctity of the mosque created an even larger movement which sought refuge in a shrine outside Tehran. On January 12, 1906 the Shah capitulated to the demonstrators agreeing to dismiss his prime minister and to surrender power to a new "house of justice," (the forerunner to the parliament). The Basti (protesters who take sanctuary in mosques) returned from the mosque in triumph, riding royal carriages and being hailed by a jubilant crowd.[2]

In a scuffle in early 1906 the Government killed a seyyed (descendant of the prophet Muhhamed). A more deadly skirmish followed a short time later when Cossacks killed 22 protesters and injured 100.[3] Bazaar again closed and the Ulama went on strike, a large number of them taking sanctuary in the holy city Qom. Many merchants went to the British embassy which agreed to offer protection to Basti in the grounds of their legation.[3]

Creation of the constitution[edit]

In the summer of 1906 approximately 12,000 men camped out in the gardens of the British Embassy. Many gave speeches, many more listened, in what has been called a `vast open-air school of political science` studying constitutionalism.[3] It is here that the demand for a majles (parliament; also means gathering in Persian; pronounced "Madj-less") was born, the goal of which was to limit the power of the Shah. In August 1906, Mozaffar ad-Din Shah agreed to allow a parliament, and in the fall, the first elections were held. In all, 156 members were elected, with an overwhelming majority coming from Tehran and the merchant class.

October 1906 marked the first meeting of the majles, who immediately gave themselves the right to make a constitution, thereby becoming a Constitutional Assembly. The Shah was getting old and sick, and attending the inauguration of the parliament was one of his last acts as king.[2] Mozaffar ad-Din Shah's son Muhammed Ali, however, was not privy to constitutionalism. Therefore they had to work fast, and by December 31, 1906 the Shah signed the constitution, modeled primarily from the Belgian Constitution. The Shah was from there on "under the rule of law, and the crown became a divine gift given to the Shah by the people." Mozaffar ad-Din Shah died five days later.

Aftermath[edit]

Execution of "Constitutional Imperial Government" followers by Cossack soldiers, Tabriz, Iran
Inside Parliament

Within the decade following the establishment of the new majles a number of critical events took place. Many of these events can be viewed as a continuation of the struggle between the constitutionalists and the Shahs of Persia, many of whom were backed by foreign powers against the majles.

The following January Shah Muhammad Ali, the 6th Qajar Shah, came to power. He moved to "exploit the divisions within the ranks of the reformers" and eliminate the Majles.[2] In August 1907 an Anglo-Russian agreement divided Iran into a Russian zone in the North and a British zone in the South. The British switched their support to Shah, abandoning the Constitutionalists.[2]

  • Persia tried to keep free from Russian influence through resistance via the majles to the Shah's policies.
  • Majles brought in Morgan Shuster to reform treasury against initial desires of Russia and the Shah. Russia expelled him.
  • Reza Shah seized power and curtailed the power of the Majles.

Notable individuals[edit]

Commemorative poster (3 x 4 m2) pertaining to the conquest of Tehran by the Constitutional Revolutionaries in July 1909. The two men on horse are Mohammad Vali Khan Tonekaboni (Sepahsālār-e A'zam-e Tankāboni), and Sardar Asad.

Constitutionalists[edit]

ای٬ محترم مدافع حریت عباد- وی قائد شجیع و هوادارعدل و داد- کردی پی سعادت ایران فدای جان- پاینده باد نام تو٬ روح توباد شاد- Translation: You, the respected advocate of liberty sun- The brave chief of righteousness- You, who gave your life for Iran's bliss- Long live your name, may your soul rests in eternal peace-

Later Mr. Mahdavi had this poem inscribed on a tabular tombstone which was placed on Baskerville’s resting place in Tabriz. Howard Baskerville was and still remains a beloved hero for all liberty seekers in Iran. There is a photo of Mr. Mohammad Ali Mahdavi with the inscribed tabular tombstone for Mr. Baskerville in a book written in Persian entitled, “Baskerville and the Iranian Constitution” authored by Mr. Ali Kamalvand, 1957.

Monarchists[edit]

Religious leaders[edit]

Second Anniversary of the Revolution

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b W. Morgan Shuster, The Strangling of Persia, 3rd printing (T. Fisher Unwin, London, 1913), pp. 48, 119, 179. According to Shuster (p. 48), "Five days later [measured from February 1st] the Persian Minister of Finance, Saniu'd-Dawleh was shot and killed in the streets of Teheran by two Georgians, who also succeeded in wounding four of the Persian police before they were captured. The Russian consular authorities promptly refused to allow these men to be tried by the Persian Government, and took them out of the country under Russian protection, claiming that they would be suitably punished."
    See also: Mohammad-Reza Nazari, The retreat by the Parliament in overseeing the financial matters is a retreat of democracy, in Persian, Mardom-Salari, No. 1734, 20 Bahman 1386 AH (9 February 2008), [1].
  2. ^ a b c d e f Mackey, Sandra The Iranians : Persia, Islam and the Soul of a Nation, New York : Dutton, c1996. p.150-55
  3. ^ a b c Abrahamian, Ervand, Iran Between Two Revolutions by Ervand Abrahamian, Princeton University Press, 1982, p.84

Sources[edit]

  • Ahmad Kasravi, Tārikh-e Mashruteh-ye Iran (تاریخ مشروطهٔ ایران) (History of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution), in Persian, 951 p. (Negāh Publications, Tehran, 2003), ISBN 964-351-138-3. Note: This book is also available in two volumes, published by Amir Kabir Publications in 1984. Amir Kabir's 1961 edition is in one volume, 934 pages.
  • Ahmad Kasravi, History of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution: Tarikh-e Mashrute-ye Iran, Volume I, translated into English by Evan Siegel, 347 p. (Mazda Publications, Costa Mesa, California, 2006). ISBN 1-56859-197-7
  • Mehdi Malekzādeh, Tārikh-e Enqelāb-e Mashrutyyat-e Iran (تاريخ انقلاب مشروطيت ايران) (The History of the Constitutional Revolution of Iran), in 7 volumes, published in 3 volumes, 1697 p. (Sokhan Publications, Tehran, 2004 — 1383 AH). ISBN 964-372-095-0
  • Haghshenas, Seyyed Ali, Movement of Jangal (owjnews.ir)

Further reading[edit]

  • Mangol Bayat, Iran’s First Revolution: Shi’ism and the Constitutional Revolution of 1905–1909, Studies in Middle Eastern History, 336 p. (Oxford University Press, 1991). ISBN 0-19-506822-X
  • Browne, Edward G., "The Persian Revolution of 1905-1909", Mage Publishers (July 1995). ISBN 0-934211-45-0
  • Afary, Janet, "The Iranian Constitutional Revolution, 1906-1911", Columbia University Press. 1996. ISBN 0-231-10351-4
  • Foran, John. "The Strengths and Weaknesses of Iran’s Populist Alliance: A Class Analysis of the Constitutional Revolution of 1905 - 1911", Theory and Society, Vol. 20, No. 6 (Dec 1991), pp. 795–823. JSTOR

External links[edit]

  • Reza Jamāli in conversation with Dr Abbās Amānat, Professor of History and International and Area Studies at University of Yale, in Persian, Radio Zamaneh, August 7, 2008, [3]. Audio recording: [4].
  • Shokā Sahrāi, Photographs of the Constitutional Revolution of Iran, in Persian, Jadid Online, 2007, [5].
    Slide Show, narrated by Dr Bāqer Āqeli, Jadid Online, 2007: [6] (4 min 30 sec).
  • Constitutional Revolution of Iran