Nothing is harder on people than the disappearance of the social and family fabric that once held them together in a tightly woven tapestry they called their patrimony and birthright. So long as the Qajars (Kadjars, Ghajars) were in power, and even before when they were rulers over a vast area and already a large tribe and, the question of consciously gathering them together under the banner of one organization was never germane. By the sheer fact of their presence, the Qajars managed to keep the family fabric intact.
Internal squabbles and disputes among various branches of the Qajars were not uncommon. They sometimes even resulted in protracted blood feuds, the story of which is part of the saga of the Qajars. Once in power, however, as the unchallenged rulers of Persia, the Qajars managed to maintain close contact with the members of the family, the Court being the natural magnet and centre of Qajar consciousness.
Early in the 19th century, a substantial number of Qajars had emigrated from Persia, for political reasons, to Azarbaijan, once their tribal lands for a time, and now their political refuge. Those Qajars today form the Azeri branches of the family, but even during their time of exile, their presence was a matter of record at the court, and their members welcomed in later years as elder cousins and descendants of Bahman Mirza, son of Abbas Mirza Nayeb-Saltaneh.
Two events early in the 20th century, further tore apart the fabric that was the Qajar family. The first was the exile, in 1909, of Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar and the members of the
Imperial Family who went with him, Malekeh Jahan and her sons and other close members of the Imperial Family. As a result, for the first time, an important segment of the core of the Qajar family lived permanently outside Persia. The second event was the self-imposed exile of Soltan Ahmad Shah in 1923, and following that, the overthrow of the dynasty in 1925. With that, all the members of the Imperial family were now in exile in France and England. The heart and head of the Qajar family had gone abroad .
The next fifty years were a time of reflection but also a time of dispersion for the family. While it managed to thrive in Iran, the centrifugal forces at work drew the family ever farther apart. While cores of elders remained and acted vigorously to counteract these centrifugal forces, the political climate and its exigencies did not allow for strong and concerted action on behalf of the remaining Qajars to maintain family cohesion. Any attempt by the elders to convene family gatherings was considered suspicious and potentially detrimental to the regime of the time and thus banned. The family therefore relied on the time tested traditions of “deed va baaz deed” (“visiting”) to maintain contacts, and each branch of the larger family kept as close a tie as possible within its own confines. Younger generations could still learn, if they were interested, from their parents and grand-parents, the “who is whos” and “what was whats” of the family, but fewer and fewer members of the younger generations were now interested in these stories of the “old ones”. The formal structure of the Qajar court having disappeared, there was no more natural focus for such complicated genealogy, protocol and relationship.
With the revolution of 1979 more family members went abroad, not because of political considerations, but as part of the logic of the ever expanding centrifugal forces that were amplified by the revolution and its aftermath. Iran had joined the world with the openings of trade routes and mutual visits in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the twentieth century the world was now beckoning more and more, and as with Iranians in general so also with the Qajars, more and more of them went abroad and stayed. The world has become an amalgam of peoples and nations, and the Qajars have become part of that amalgam as well, raising many generations of young Qajars abroad who remember less and less what their early roots were and what their family connections to the larger whole are. Diaspora, imposed or chosen, has this effect on people, but it also has the effect in some to heighten their sense of urgency and the awareness of the impending and ongoing loss.
It is this heightened sense of urgency that brings us to our immediate story, the creation of this Qajar Family Association (QFA). The idea of an association dedicated to the Qajar Family for the renewal of its mutual ties is not original to the present group of founders. It has been tried several times with various degrees of success, both inside and outside Iran, in the last sixty years or so. As was mentioned before, in Iran it had met with political opposition. Outside Iran, aside from the limited circles of the Imperial Family in exile and some individual families, who set a glorious example of family unity for the rest of us to follow, very little was done in terms of the larger Qajar family. Following the lead of these two examples, however, some of us decided to try what had not been done in a very long time: to unite and bring together, even though only in name at first, all of the Qajars under one banner .
A few considerations were made by us, to distinguish our efforts from what had been done before. One, the association was going to be and remain strictly non-political. It would never have a political agenda for the restoration of the Qajars to the throne nor would it have a political agenda to meddle in the affairs of the government of Iran, whatever government that be at whatever time. Two, this was going to be a Family Association and family meant male
and female lines of Qajars. In the days of the Qajar court, kings and princes acknowledged their “dai’s” as much as they did their “amous” and their “khalehs” as much as their “ammehs,” and so on with “pessar-” and “dokhtar-khalehs” and “pessar” and “dokhtar-dai’s.” Our mothers and sisters and wives were and are as much part of the Qajar family, if not more(!), as were our fathers and brothers and paternal uncles. This is a Qajar tradition par excellence, that the women of the family are honoured and this continues with the family association.
Armed with these two premises we decided to venture out and simply say, “Here we are, come and let us celebrate each other again!” Needless to say, our efforts have borne fruit ten thousand fold. We have gathered in virtual space and in physical space hundreds of Qajars so far from the four corners of the world. We have found relatives we did not know existed and relatives have found us who had no knowledge of our efforts before. This all has been a wonderful boon particularly for the younger generation of Qajars who have become all but assimilated into the new surroundings they now find themselves in, and hopefully for the future will serve for them as a vehicle to remember who they are and where they came from.
In the dedication he penned for us in his wonderful book Les Rois oublies: L’epopee de la dynastie Kadjare, Soltan Ali Mirza wrote: “To my dear cousin Manoutchehr, this history of a family, mine and also his, in order for us to never forget where we come from and for us to try to find where we need to go from here.” That dedication and that wonderful book, and above all its exceptional author became the inspiration for us to form this association, reconstituted in the hopes that it would answer both aspects of his sincere dedication.
And so, this Association first and foremost wishes to acknowledge and thank Soltan Ali Mirza Kadjar for his inimitable example and inspiration. Next we wish to thank all those of our cousins who rose to the task like titans once they heard the call to gather the family together. Their contributions will forever earn our gratitude and that of the entire Qajar family. What they have done for us and for the family at large will become apparent in generations from now. It is today, however, that we wish to thank them for it from the bottom of our hearts.
Finally we wish to thank all those members of the greater Qajar (Kadjar, Ghajar) family, who through the years, with their words and deeds, have encouraged us, supported us, and goaded us on to create this Association and begin its important work. To all these individuals we say, it is for you that we have created this association, and it will be through your efforts and support that it will continue to exist.