Azad Khan Afghan

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Azad Khan Afghan
Portrait of Azad khan afghan, at the court of karim khan.png
Azad Khan, during his time at the court of Karim Khan
Shiraz, Zand Iran
IssueMahmud Khan (son) [1]
Full name
Azad Khan Sulaimankhel Ghilji
FatherSulaiman Khan
ReligionSunni Islam

Azād Khān Afghān (Pashto: آزاد خان افغان‎), or Azād Shāh Afghān (آزاد شاه افغان) (died 1781), was a Pashtun military commander and a major contender for supremacy in western Iran after the death of Nader Shah Afshar in 1747.[2] Azad rose to power between 1752 and 1757, and controlled part of the Azerbaijan region up to Urmia city, northwestern and northern Persia, and parts of southwestern Turkmenistan and eastern Kurdistan. Azad was a contemporary of Ahmad Shah Durrani, the founder of the Durrani Empire.

Early life career[edit]

Azad was born in Andar town in the east of Ghazni, Afghanistan, into the Sulaimankhel clan of the Ghilji confederacy. He joined Nader Shah's army around 1738 and took part in his campaigns in India and Iran. At the time of Nader's murder, he was second-in-command to Amir Aslan Khan Qerglu Afshar, the governor of Azerbaijan.[2]

Rise to power[edit]

Azad played a prominent role in the power struggle that followed the death of Nader. He quickly defected Aslan Khan to Nader's nephew and would-be successor, Ebrahim Mirza, and earned for himself the title of khan. In 1749, Ebrahim was himself defeated by Nader's grandson, Shahrukh Shah, Azad Khan attached himself and his Afghan cavalry to Mīr Sayyed Moḥammad, the superintendent of the shrine at Mashhad, following whose orders he withdrew to the western marches of Iran. He continued to be involved in the unrest in Iran and, through a series of alliance with local Kurd and Turkish chieftains and a policy of compromise with the Georgian ruler Erekle II, Azad rose to control all the territory between Ardabil and Urmia by 1752.[2]

Mohur of Azad Shah Afghan


Azad, defeated in the battle of Kirkhbulakh, failed to gain the lands north of the Aras due to the Georgian power, but succeeded, in 1753, to annex the central Zagros provinces. He was going to unite his forces with the Bakhtiari leader Ali-Mardan Khan, advancing from Baghdad against the de facto regent of western Iran, Karim Khan of the Zand clan, but the union was prevented by Karim victory over Ali-Mardan Khan. Azad Khan had to retreat, but inflicted a heavy defeat upon the pursuing Zand army and then took Karim's home fortress of Pari, near Malayer. In 1754, Azad, allied with the Afshar chief Fath-Ali Khan, attacked Karim at Qomesa and occupied Shiraz, driving him to Kazerun. The Zands eventually defeated Fath-Ali Khan and took Shiraz on 29 November 1754, marking the reversal of Azad's fortunes. By June 1757, he had lost Isfahan, Tabriz, and Urmia to the resurgent Qajars of Mazandaran under Mohammad Hasan Khan. Azad fled to Baghdad and, following a failed attempt at comeback, took refuge at the court of Erekle II in Tbilisi, Georgia, in 1760. In 1762, he surrendered himself to victorious Karim Khan, by that time the master of all of northern Iran, and ended his days as Karim's honored pensioner in Shiraz. Azad died in 1781 and, in accordance with his will, was interred in his native lands, in Kabul, many hundreds of miles to the east.[2]


  1. ^ Hambly 1991, p. 114.
  2. ^ a b c d Perry, J. R. (1987), "Āzād Khan Afḡān", in: Encyclopædia Iranica, Vol. III, Fasc. 2, pp. 173-174. Online (Accessed February 20, 2012).

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