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Riza Shah and the Disintegration of Bakhtiyari Power in Iran, 1921–1934

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022

Stephanie Cronin*
Affiliation:
University College, Northampton, School of Oriental and African Studies

Extract

During the years of the constitutional revolution and the Great War, Iran experienced a widespread and general reassertion of tribal power and by 1921 much of the country was under tribal control. Riza Khan's seizure of power, however, inaugurated a transformation in the relationship between the center and periphery in Iran. For the new regime and for the nationalist elite which supported it, the suppression of the tribes was an indispensable element of their larger project: the construction of a modern, centralized state, with a culturally homogeneous population. Their agenda was clear: the destruction of the autonomy and feudal authority of the tribal leaderships was to be closely followed by the subjection of the tribal populations to the unmediated power of the modernized state and their integration into settled society. From the very moment of seizing power in Tehran, the new regime embarked on a sustained effort to establish its military and administrative hegemony over the tribes.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Association For Iranian Studies, Inc 2000

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References

1. There is some discussion of the first Pahlavi regime's tribal policies in Tapper, Richard, Frontier Nomads of Iran: a Political and Social History of the Shahsevan (Cambridge, 1997)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Beck, Lois, The Qashqa˒i of Iran (New Haven and London, 1986)Google Scholar; and Oberling, Pierre, The Qashqa˒i Nomads of Fars (The Hague, 1974)Google Scholar.

2. For the Bakhtiyari prior to the rise of Khan, Riza, Garthwaite, Gene, Khans and Shahs: A Documentary Analysis of the Bakhtiyari in Iran (Cambridge, 1983)Google Scholar is invaluable. Some historical information and attempts at constructing theoretical frameworks for the study of the Bakhtiyari, although from an anthropological perspective, may be found in David Brooks, “The Enemy Within: Limitations on Leadership in the Bakhtiari” and Digard, Jean-Pierre, “On the Bakhtiari: Comments on ‘Tribes, Confederation and the State’” in Tapper, Richard (ed), The Conflict of Tribe and State in Iran and Afghanistan (London, 1983)Google Scholar.

3. The memoirs of Jaafar Quli Khan Sardar Asad have been edited and published but although they are mostly concerned with the 1920s and early 1930s when Sardar Asad occupied a succession of high government positions, they provide little insight into the inner workings of the regime. Jaafar Quli Khan Amir Bahadur (ed), Khāṭirāt-i Sardār Asad Bakhtiyārī (Tehran, 1372)Google Scholar.

4. For some Iranian army views of tribal campaigning see, inter alia, Kavih Bayat, Ashā˒ir az dīdgāh-i manābi-i niẓāmī-yi muāṣir 1300-1350,” Tārīkh-i Muāṣir-i Īrān, 1 (1372/1993): 121–39Google Scholar; Amirahmadi, Ahmad, Khāṭirāt-i nakhustīn sipahbud-i Īrān (Tehran, 1373/1994)Google Scholar; Bayat, Kavih (ed), Amaliyyāt-i Luristān: Asnād-i Sartīp Muḥammad Shāhbakhtī, 1303 va 1306 shamsī (Tehran, n.d.)Google Scholar.

5. For a discussion of the army's operational difficulties in this period see Cronin, Stephanie, The Army and the Creation of the Pahlavi State in Iran (London and New York, 1997)Google Scholar.

6. Stephanie Cronin, The Army, 131-133.

7. For the Bakhtiyari in the nineteenth century see Garthwaite, Khans and Shahs, 62-95.

8. Garthwaite, Khans and Shahs, 112-20.

9. The Qashqa˒i seem, paradoxically, to have stabilized in opposition to the British. For the Qashqa˒i confederation, see Beck, The Qashqa˒i of Iran.

10. Strunk, W. T., The Reign of Shaykh Khaz'al ibn Jabir and the Suppression of the Principality of ‘Arabistan: a study in British imperialism in south-western Iran, 1897-1925, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Indiana, 1977.Google Scholar

11. See Garthwaite, Khans and Shahs.

12. Loraine to FO, 30 December 1921, FO371/7802/E6/6/34.

13. Loraine to FO, 13 August 1922, FO371/7807/E8043/6/34.

14. Loraine to FO, 22 August 1922, FO371/7808/E8385/6/34.

15. Fitzpatrick, Isfahan, to Minister, Tehran, 3 August 1922, FO371/7809/E9337/6/34; Loraine to FO, 13 August 1922, FO371/7807/E8043/6/34.

16. Intelligence Summary no. 33, 19 August 1922, FO371/7828/E10849/285/34; Loraine to FO, 22 August 1922, FO371/7808/E8403/6/34; IS no. 35, 2 September 1922, FO371/7828/E10188/285/34.

17. Loraine to FO, 9 August 1922, FO371/7807/E7956/6/34.

18. For the general political background see Sabahi, Houshang, British Policy in Persia, 1918-1925 (London, 1990)Google Scholar; Ghani, Cyrus, Iran and the Rise of Reza Shah: From Qajar Collapse to Pahlavi Power (London and New York, 1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

19. Annual Report 1923, Loraine to MacDonald, 4 March 1924, FO371/10153/E3362/2635/34; Crow, Isfahan, to Minister, Tehran, 19 November 1922, FO371/9043/E6343/1416/34.

20. An account of Sardar Jang's mission of enquiry may be found in Loraine to Curzon, 10 May 1923, FO371/9043/E6343/1416/34.

21. Annual Report 1923. According to Muhammad Taqi Bahar, for example, Riza Khan served under the command of Sardar Asad in an operation against the tribal forces of Rahim Khan Chalabianlu in the Ardabil region during the constitutional wars. Bahar, Muhammad Taqi, Malik al-Shuara, Tārīkh-i mukhtaṣar-i aḥzab-i siyāsī-yi Īrān (Tehran, 1323), 1: 71Google Scholar.

22. Loraine to Curzon, 10 May 1923, FO371/9043/E6343/1416/34.

23. Annual Report 1923.

24. IS no. 16, 21 April 1923, FO371/9019/E5824/69/34.

25. Loraine to FO, 2 April 1923, FO371/9042/E3431/1416/34; Loraine to FO, 6 May 1923, FO371/9043/E4580/1416/34; Consul, Ahwaz, to Loraine, 15 July 1923, FO371/9043/E8161/1416/34.

26. Loraine to Curzon, May 10 1923, FO371/9043/E6343/1416/34

27. Riza Khan set out his demand for compensation “commensurate with the honour of the Army” in two letters to Loraine, dated 1 and 3 May. FO371/9043/E6343/1416/34.

28. Loraine to FO, 30 April 1923, FO371/9043/E4392/1416/34.

29. Loraine to FO, 30 April 1923, FO371/9043/E4392/1416/34.

30. Loraine to Curzon, 6 September 1923, FO371/9043/E10191/1416/34.

31. For an appreciation of the size of this sum, it may be noted, for example, that the budget for the year 1924-5 only provided for revenue of nearly 23 million tumans. IS no. 42, 18 October 1924, FO371/10132/E10388/255/34.

32. Millspaugh, A. C., The American Task in Persia (New York, 1925), 185–8Google Scholar.

33. Loraine to Curzon, 6 September 1923, FO371/9043/E10191/1416/34.

34. Loraine to Curzon, 6 September 1923, FO371/9043/E10191/1416/34.

35. Annual Report 1923.

36. Loraine to Curzon, 6 September 1923, FO371/9043/E10191/1416/34.

37. Loraine to Curzon, 6 September 1923, FO371/9043/E10191/1416/34.

38. Annual Report 1922, Loraine to Curzon, 16 July 1923, FO371/9051/E8057/8057/34.

39. The program may be found in Bridgeman to Curzon, 5 October 1921, FO371/6407/E13435/2/34. A very slightly amended version of this program, produced in response to the severe criticism which had greeted its first appearance, may be found in Consul-General, Isfahan, to Loraine, 17 February 1922, FO371/7805/E4742/6/34. The programme is also reproduced in Bakhtiyar, Rawshanak, “Zindigi va marg-i Khān Bābā Khān Asad,Kitāb-i Anzan, vīzhah-i farhang, hunar, tārīkh va tamaddun-i Bakhtiyārī, 1: 7698Google Scholar.

40. Bakhtiyar, Rawshanak, “Zindigī va marg-i Khān Bābā Khān Asad,86Google Scholar.

41. Bridgeman to Curzon, 5 October 1921, FO371/6407/E13435/2/34; Consul-General, Isfahan, to Loraine, 17 February 1922, FO371/7805/E4742/6/34. The Kumitah-i Ahan was an association of moderate reformers once headed by Sayyid Ziya, see Makki, Husayn, Tārīkh-i bīst-sālah-i Īrān, 8 vols. (Tehran, 1323), 1: 188–89Google Scholar.

42. The Soviet consulate in Isfahan opened in June 1922.

43. Consul-General, Isfahan, to Loraine, 17 February 1922, FO371/7805/E4742/6/34; Annual Report 1922.

44. Fitzpatrick, Consul, Ahwaz, to Minister, Tehran, 20 July 1922, FO371/7809/E9958/6/34.

45. Major Noel's report, Isfahan, 12 May 1921, FO371/6405/E9256/2/34.

46. Major Noel's report, Isfahan, 12 May 1921.

47. Major Noel's report, Isfahan, 12 May 1921.

48. Major Noel's report, Isfahan, 12 May 1921.

49. Major Noel's report, Isfahan, 12 May 1921.

50. Loraine to Curzon, 13 November 1923; FO371/9043/E11754/1416/34.

51. IS no. 21, 8 August 1925, FO371/10842/E5218/82/34.

52. The Bakhtiari Tribe, C. A. Gault, Consul, Isfahan, 1944, IOL/P&S/12/3546.

53. The Bakhtiyari governor of Chahar Mahal, Sardar Muazzam, was especially instrumental in the implementation of the policy. Amiri, Bahram, “Zindigīnāmah: ḥamāsa-i Alī Mardān Khān Bakhtiyārī,Kitāab-i Anzan. 2: 7390Google Scholar.

54. The Bakhtiari Tribe, C. A. Gault, Consul, Isfahan, 1944, IOL/P&S/12/3546.

55. Loraine to Curzon, 20 September 1923, FO371/9043/E10202/1416/34. For Bibi Maryam see Oehler, Julie, “Bibi Maryam: A Bakhtiyari Tribal Woman,” in Burke, Edmund III (ed.), Struggle and Survival in the Modern Middle East (London and New York, 1993), 129–42Google Scholar.

56. Consul-General, Isfahan, to Consul, Ahwaz, 10 October 1923; Consul-General, Isfahan, to Consul, Ahwaz, 11 October 1923; Peel, Ahwaz, to Tehran, 13 October, 1923; Consul-General, Isfahan, to Consul, Ahwaz, 14 October 1923; Consul-General, Isfahan, to Consul, Ahwaz, 15 October 1923; Monson, Tehran, to Peel, Ahwaz, 16 October 1923; Peel, Ahwaz, to Loraine, 21 October 1923, FO371/9043/E11815/1416/34.

57. Loraine to Curzon, 13 November 1923, FO371/9043/E11754/1416/34; Annual Report 1924, Loraine to Chamberlain, 22 May 1925, FO371/10848/E3401/3401/34

58. Report on the Situation in Bakhtiari, 22 September 1928, R. G. Monypenny, Consul, Ahwaz, FO416/83/141-6.

59. There is a brief description of the general character of relations betwen landowners as a class and the peasantry in Lambton, Ann K. S., Landlord and Peasant in Persia (London, 1953), 263Google Scholar. For a discussion of peasant movements in modern Iran, see Afary, Janet, The Iranian Constitutional Revolution, 1906-1911: Grassroots Democracy, Social Democracy, and the Origins of Feminism (New York, 1996), 145–76Google Scholar.

60. The modern secular courts established through the reorganization of the judicial system by Ali Akbar Davar, minister of justice, in 1927.

61. Their last in the sense of a post as a Bakhtiyari right or possession. Although Sardar Asad remained minister of war this was because of his own personal standing with the shah, not because the Bakhtiyari had any special customary rights in relation to the post.

62. Report on the Situation in Bakhtiari, 22 September 1928, R. G. Monypenny, Consul, Ahwaz, FO416/83/141-6.

63. Report on the Situation in Bakhtiari, 22 September 1928, R. G. Monypenny.

64. See Cronin, Stephanie, “Conscription and Popular Resistance in Iran, 1925-1941,International Review of Social History, 43 (1998): 451–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

65. This policy appears to have been first considered concretely in relation to the Lurs. See Annual Report 1927, Clive to Chamberlain, 21 May 1928, FO371/13069/E2897/2897/34. By 1928 the government was already building walled villages for the settlement of the nomadic Lurs. Annual Report 1928, Clive to Henderson, 14 July 1929, FO371/13799/E3676/3676/34. For the shah's intention, by 1928, to apply this policy to the Bakhtiyari see Report on the Situation in Bakhtiari, 22 September 1928, R. G. Monypenny, Consul, Ahwaz, FO416/83/141-6.

66. Annual Report 1929, Clive to Henderson, 30 April 1930, FO371/14543/E2445/522/34. An account of the Qashqa˒i rising may be found in Bayat, Kavih, Shūrish-i Ashā˒ir-i Fārs (Tehran, 1372/1993)Google Scholar.

67. Clive to Henderson, 27 July 1929, FO371/13782/E3918/95/34.

68. IS no. 15, 27 July 1929, FO371/13785/E3919/104/34; Jaafar Quli Khan Amir Bahadur (ed.), Khāṭirāt, 232-33; Bahram Amiri, “Zindigināmah,” 78-79.

69. Clive to Henderson, 27 July 1929, FO371/13782/E3918/95/34.

70. Knatchbull-Hugessen to Simon, 1 December 1934, FO371/17889/E7530/40/34.

71. Consul-General Bristow, Isfahan, to Clive, Tehran, 11 July 1929, FO371/13781/E3668/95/34; Ja'afar Quli Khan Amir Bahadur (ed), Khatirat-i Sardar As'ad Bakhtiyari (Tehran, 1372), 232233Google Scholar.

72. Clive to Henderson, 10 August 1929, FO371/13782/E4084/95/34.

73. Clive to Henderson, 10 August 1929, FO371/13782/E4084/95/34. Isfahan had been the center of the anti-conscription movement two years before, see Stephanie Cronin, “Conscription and Popular Resistance.”

74. Hoare to Simon, 16 December 1933, FO371/17889/E41/40/34.

75. Knatchbull-Hugessen to Simon, 1 December 1934, FO371/17889/E7530/40/34. See also Rawshanak Bakhtiyar, “Zindigi va Marg-i Khan Baba Khan As'ad.”

76. Annual Report 1933, Hoare to Simon, 24 February 1934, FO371/17090/E1620/1620/34.

77. Memorandum respecting the Bakhtiari Tribes, A. E. Watkinson, Consul, Ahwaz, October 1933, Mallet to Simon, 20 October 1933, FO371/16970/E6755/5362/34.

78. Despite the hardships of the 1930s and the elimination of the confederational leadership, Garthwaite stresses the general durability and adaptability of the lower levels of the tribal structures and the survival and persistence of Bakhtiyari roles and identity under both the Pahlavi monarchy and the Islamic republic. Garthwaite, Gene, “Reimagined Internal Frontiers: Tribes and Nationalism— Bakhtiyari and Kurds,” in Eickelman, Dale F. (ed.), Russia's Muslim Frontiers: New Directions in Cross-Cultural Analysis (Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1993), 130–45Google Scholar.

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