Khan Ahmad Khan

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Khan Ahmad Khan
King of the Kia'i dynasty
Reign 1538-1592
Predecessor Kar-Kiya Hasan II
Successor Safavid conquest
Born 1537
Lahijan, Gilan
Died 1596
Burial Najaf, Iraq
Spouse Maryam Begum
Issue Yakhan Begum
Father Kar-Kiya Hasan II
Religion Zaydi, later Twelver Shia

Khan Ahmad Khan (Persian: خان احمد خان‎‎, Gilaki: خان احمدخان) was the last king of the Kia'i dynasty in Gilan, ruling from 1538 to 1592. In 1591, the Safavid shah Shah Abbas (r. 1588–1629) asked Khan Ahmad Khan's daughter Yakhan Begum to marry his son Mohammad Baqer Mirza, since Khan Ahmad Khan had no male successor. Khan Ahmad Khan disagreed due to the age of his daughter. This and some other economic factors caused a Safavid raid in 1591 and Khan Ahmad Khan escaped to Ottoman territories, and spent the rest of his life in Constantinople and Baghdad, spending fruitless attempts to return to power. He died in 1596 and was buried in Najaf, one of the holiest cities of Shia Islam.


First reign[edit]

Khan Ahmad Khan's father, Kar-Kiya Hasan II, died in 1538 because of plague. Khan Ahmad Khan, who was only a infant at the time of his father's death, was thereafter crowned as the new king of the Kia'i dynasty of Bia-pish (eastern Gilan). He was shortly given Bia-pas (western Gilan), thus becoming the ruler of whole Gilan.[1] However, the brutality of the Kia'i army in Bia-pas made its inhabitants invite a certain Amira Shahrok to become the ruler of Bia-pas. This Amira Shahrok was a distant relative of Muzaffar Sultan, who was the former ruler of Bia-pas, but had been burned alive by the Safavids two years earlier.[1]

Map of northern Iran.

Amira Shahrok first arrived to Bia-pas a few years later (January 1544), where he began minting coins in the name of the Safavid shah Tahmasp I (r. 1524–1576). Seven years later, Khan Ahmad Khan managed to persuade Tahmasp I to have Amira Shahrok executed, who was unable to meet the demands of the Qizilbash chieftains. A certain Sultan Mahmud, who was a son of Muzaffar Sultan, was then appointed as the new ruler of Bia-pas. However, Khan Ahmad Khan once again complained to the court, stating that Sultan Mahmud was not unable to rule. Sultan Mahmud was shortly exiled to Shiraz, where he was shortly poisoned under the orders of Khan Ahmad Khan. He thus became the sole ruler of Gilan once again.[1]

Tahmasp I, in order to reduce the power of Khan Ahmad Khan, who had shown signs of misbehaviour and had not been at the court for 20 years, appointed a son of Sultan Mahmud and a relative of his, Jamshid Khan, as the new ruler of Bia-pas.[1] Furthermore, he also ordered Khan Ahmad Khan to give Kuchesfahan back to its former ruler Amira Sasan. Although Khan Ahmad Khan had accepted to cede Bia-pas, he refused to cede Kuchesfahan, which he claimed had always been a part of Bia-pish. This resulted in the latter rebelling. Tahmasp I then sent a envoy under Yulqoli Beg Zu'l-Qadr to Gilan in order to make peace.[1] In June 1567, Khan Ahmad Khan's commander Shah Mansur Lahiji inflicted a heavy defeat on Amira Sasan near Siah-rudbar. Around the same time, Yulqoli Beg Zu'l-Qadr, who was at Rasht, was killed and beheaded—his head was sent to Khan Ahmad Khan, who shortly entered Rasht in celebration.[1]

Tahmasp I, still hoping to be able to make peace, sent a aggressive letter to Khan Ahmad Khan, reciting his crimes and rebellious behaviour, but promising to pardon him if he would visit the court.[1] The latter shortly sent a letter back, making excuses for not visiting the court for 20 years, but stated he still refused to visit the court. Tahmasp I, already enraged at Khan Ahmad Khan for having Sultan Mahmud poisoned, and hiding the wanted Ghiyat al-Din Mansur from the Safavids, sent a group of troops under several Qizilbash chieftains to Gilan to capture him. Khan Ahmad Khan quickly assembled his men and prepared for battle, but his army under Kiya Rostam, the military governor of Rasht, was shortly defeated, forcing him to flee.[1]


The Safavid army in Gilan brought horror to its inhabitants by looting and destroying estates and killing people while searching for Khan Ahmad Khan, who was in the end captured and imprisoned in the Qahqaheh Castle in Azerbaijan. During his time there, he befriended Tahmasp's son Ismail. Tahmasp, worrying that a rebellion would occur in the castle, sent Khan Ahmad Khan to a fortress in Estakhr in Fars, where he would remain for 10 years.[1]

When Tahmasp died in 1576, Ismail was freed by his Qizilbash supporters, who shortly killed his brother Haydar Mirza Safavi, due to his claim to the throne. They thereafter crowned him as the new shah. After his accession, he ordered Khan Ahmad Khan to be released, a order, which, however, was not executed by his men. Ismail II was assassinated the following year, and was succeeded by his older but weaker brother Mohammad Khodabanda, who, at the proposal of his queen Khayr al-Nisa Begum (who was a close relative of Khan Ahmad Khan) had Khan Ahmad Khan released.[1] He was thereafter taken to Qazvin, where Mohammad Khodabanda gave him one of his sisters (Maryam Begum) in marriage and restored him as the ruler of Bia-pish.[1]

Second reign[edit]

Khan Ahmad Khan's return to Gilan was the start of a new period of fierce conflicts that would last for 15 years and would even involve the governor of Shirvan. Right when Khan Ahmad Khan arrived in Gilan, he invaded Bia-pas, but was routed by Jamshid Khan, who had the captives slaughtered and their heads put together so it looked like a minaret. This, however, did not stop Khan Ahmad Khan's hopes of conquering Bia-pas, which he would invade several more times.[1]

Shah Abbas arrived in Lahijan a few days later, where he had Khan Ahmad Khan's palace totally destroyed, and appointed Mahdi Quli Khan Shamlu as the governor of Bia-pish, while Ali Beg Sultan was appointed as the governor of Bia-pas.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Kasheff 2001, pp. 635–642.


Preceded by
Kar-Kiya Hasan II
Kia'i ruler
Succeeded by
Safavid rule