1910 Shiraz blood libel
The 1910 Shiraz blood libel was a pogrom of the Jewish quarter in Shiraz, Iran, on October 30, 1910, organized by the apostate Qavam family and sparked by accusations that the Jews had ritually killed a Muslim girl. In the course of the pogrom, 12 Jews were killed and about 50 were injured, and 6,000 Jews of Shiraz were robbed of all their possessions. The event was documented by the representative of the Alliance Israélite Universelle in Shiraz.
There has been a significant Jewish population in Iran for 2,500 years. Pogroms have not been unknown. In 1892, several Jews were murdered in Shiraz. Twenty Jews were murdered and three synagogues were burned down in 1897. Pogroms, forced conversion and expulsion swept Zarqon, Lar, Jahrom, Darab, Nobendigan, Sarvestan and Kazerun. Jamshid Sedaghat, a historian in Shiraz, has said attacks happened annually during the late 19th century, finally ending as a result of pressure from Europe. The last of these occurred in 1910.
Events of 1910
In the beginning of October 1910, while cleaning the cesspools of a Jewish house in Shiraz, some scavengers claimed to have found an old book, some pages of which remained clean and were recognized as a part of the Qur'an. Then, on the first day of Sukkot, several Jews were coming home from a synagogue when they saw a veiled woman standing at the entrance of their house with a parcel. Seeing that she was noticed, the woman hurriedly threw the parcel into a cesspool (that were located near the front door in all Jewish houses) and ran away. The dwellers of the house promptly pulled out the parcel and found it to be a copy of the Qur'an. After being informed of this incident and fearing further provocations, the representative of the Alliance Israélite Universelle in the city contacted Mirza Ibrahim, the chief mullah of Shiraz, who promised to ignore the provocation and lend his assistance in case of need.
Allegations of ritual murder
Next evening, a gang invaded the houses of the two chief rabbis of Shiraz. The intruders were accompanied by a bazaar merchant, who pretended that one of his children, a girl of four, had disappeared in the afternoon in the Jewish quarter, where, he claimed, she had been killed to obtain her blood. The frightened rabbis swore that they did not know that a child of Muslim parents had strayed into the Jewish quarter and protested against the accusation. The hooligans withdrew after threatening to put the entire Jewish quarter to fire and sword if the girl had not been found by noon the next day. On the same day, the body of a child was found one kilometer away from the city behind an abandoned palace, one hundred meters from the Jewish cemetery. A rumor spread that the body was that of the missing Muslim girl and that she had been killed by the Jews. Subsequently it was found to be the disinterred body of a Jewish boy who had been buried eight days previously.
The next morning, a crowd began to gather in front of the government palace; the people were accusing the Jews of murdering the girl and were vociferously demanding vengeance. The temporary governor ordered the troops to disperse the mob, and the crowd headed for the Jewish quarter, where they arrived simultaneously with the soldiers. The latter, contrary to the orders given to them, were the first to attack the Jewish quarters, giving the rest of the mob a signal to plunder. Soldiers, hooligans, sayyids, Qashqais who were in the city to sell some livestock, even women and children, joined in the pillage, which lasted for six to seven hours, not sparing a single one of 260 houses in the Jewish quarter. The representative of the Alliance Israélite Universelle thus described the robbing:
|“||The thieves formed a chain in the street. They passed along the line carpets, bundles of goods, bales of merchandise [...], anything, in a word, which was salable. Anything, which did not have commercial value or which, on account of its weight or size, could not be carried off, was, in a fury of vandalism, destroyed and broken. The doors and windows of the houses were torn off their hinges and carried away or smashed to pieces. The rooms and cellars were literally ploughed up to see whether the substratum did not conceal some wealth.||”|
The assailants did not limit themselves to robbery, but also engaged in physical violence against the Jews. As soon as their quarter was attacked, most Jews fled, some finding refuge in the homes of their Muslim friends, others in the British consulate, on the terraces, and even in the mosques. Those few who stayed and tried to defend their properties were injured or killed. Twelve were killed in the mêlée, another fifteen were stabbed or hit with bludgeons or bullets, and a further forty sustained minor injuries.
As a result of the pogrom, the Jewish quarter was completely devastated:
|“||Women, men, and old folk are rolling in the dust, beating their chests and demanding justice. Others, plunged into a state of genuine stupor, appear to be unconscious and in the throes of an awful nightmare which won't end.||”|
Relief efforts were organized by the Alliance Israélite Universelle, assisted by the British consul. Some local Muslims helped too, distributing bread, grapes, and money. One wealthy Muslim sent a ton of bread, the governor sent two tons, and the chief mufti a further 400 kilograms.
- Laurence D Loeb (4 May 2012). Outcaste (RLE Iran D): Jewish Life in Southern Iran. Routledge. p. 33. ISBN 978-1-136-81277-4. "In 1892, several Jews were murdered in Shiraz (Alliance, 1892:52). Twenty Jews were murdered and three synagogues were burned down in 1897 (Alliance, 1897:87). Pogroms, forced conversion and expulsion swept Zarqon, Lar, Jahrom, Darab, Nobendigan, Sarvestan and Kazerun (Alliance, 1900—1910). Jews abandoned Lar and Jabrom. which were never resettled, and emigrated to Shiraz and thence to Palestine, where they joined the numerous Shirazis who had previously escaped. Just after the holiday of Sukkot in 1910, a pogrom organized by the apostate Qavam family resulted in thirteen deaths, injury, theft. vandalism and near starvation for the 6000 Jews of Shiraz (Alliance, 1910:229—245)."
- Littman (1979) pp 12-14
- Dinmore, Guy (2000-05-20). "Off Centre: An ancient community that is slipping away". Financial Times (London,England).
- Simon, Rita J (September 1980). "Review of "Outcaste: Jewish Life in Southern Iran by Laurence D. Loeb"". American Anthropologist. 2 82 (3): 675–676. doi:10.1525/aa.1980.82.3.02a00960. - "Indeed, Loeb begins his description of the Jewish community in Shiraz in 1968, with an account of what happened in 1910 when the last major pogrom was initiated against the Jews of Shiraz. After the murder, pillage, rape, and vandalism finally ended, the entire community of 6,000 was virtually homeless and terrorized."
- *Lewis, Bernard (1984). The Jews of Islam. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-00807-8, p. 183 - "Even the accusation of ritual murder, not known in the past, reached Iran, and a particularly bad case occurred in Shiraz in 1910."
- Nataf, M. Letter of 31.10.1910. AIU Bulletin, No 35, 1910, pp. 182–188. English translation in Littman, David (1979). "Jews Under Muslim Rule: The Case Of Persia". The Wiener Library Bulletin XXXII (New series 49/50).