By Arian Kazem Zarrinkafsch-Bahman
What some say about Nasser Ed Din Shah
The Pahlavi Time: In"Iran"(publishedby Horst Erdman Verlag, Tübingen - Basel, 1975) a complete book about the country edited by the Institut fuer Auslandsbeziehungen (Institute for Foreign Relations), Stuttgart, in commemoration of Amir Abbas Howeida's visit in Germany 1974, p. 155/156: "Nasir ad-Din and his weak successor Muzaffar ad-Din (1896-1906) have resist all further attempts to reform the country seriously, but prefer a lavish dandy lifestyle in their harems and expensive trips to Europe than any interests in matters of state; as well as they opened the door for English and Russian economical and political influence only to fill their private purses.(...) Reza Shah's march on Tehran, his following career as minister of war (1921), prime minister (1923) and superior commander-in-chief (1925) and the abolishing of the Qajar dynasty (1925) were very welcomed by all Iranians after years of desolate conditions, the war and non-taxation under Ahmad Shah (1909-1925), who was not interested in matters of state."
What others say about Nasser Ed Din Shah
The Qajar Time: In his memoirs "Ruznameh-ye Khatirat" Mohammad Hassan Khan Maragha'iEtimad os-Saltaneh speaks about a royal working day of Nasser od-Din Shah in the time from 1875-1896, p. 18 ff.: "His Majesty prefer to spend his days in the tent or horseback. He works mainly around lunch- and dinner-time reading petitions and afflictions from his subjects. As well he checks reports from his ministers, governors, generals and courtiers. Later he reads the newspapers or foreign books." (The shah was fluent in French and very interested in foreign languages.) On p. 22 he reports that "on his several trips throughout the whole country, towns and villages the shah cares about maintenance and renovation of bridges, mosques and streets. He receives inhabitants and listens to their requests, and a special royal attendant gives them the shah's answer." Dust Ali Khan Moayyerol-Mamalek confirms this fact in his own memories "Yadashtha'i az zendegani-ye khussussi-ye Nasser od-din Shah"(published in Tehran by ‘Nashr-e Tarikh-e Iran: Majmu'a-ye motunvaesnad-e tarikhi. Ketab-e dahom’ in 1982).
Etimad os-Saltaneh also reports about audiences and official receptions for foreign envoys and ambassadors as well as he received his notables, courtiers, ministers and governors. Especially during the time when he reigns on his own without a prime minister. The "Majles-e Shora-ye Dowlati" (the crown council, founded after 1865) was the first step to political reforms, and, according to Abdollah Mostowfi in "Sharh-e Zendegani-ye man" (published 1943), vol I, p. 58/80, the base of a modern legislative body where the government is divided into several resorts and ministries. On p. 85 Mostowfi reports about the Shah's first trip to Europe. This was not a pleasure trip but intended in 1873 to show "the effects of financial and cultural advancement (...) that would help him realize the progress of the people and the country (...) and to see the progress of Europe and be a part of the future plans of Iran."
What Some say about Fath Ali Shah
The vain and narcissistic Fath Ali Shah devoted his attention to some eight hundred wives and concubines and the trim of his long beard and left the handling of the war [against Russia]in the hands of crown prince Abbas Mirza." (Abdollah Soudavar: "Arts of the Persian Court. Selection from the Art and History Trust Collection", published by Rizzoli in 1992 p. 386.)
What others say about Fath Ali Shah
AbdollahMostowfi, a trustworthy chronicler of the Qajars, wrote about Fath Ali Shah, in the book ‘Sharh-e zendegani-ye man published in 1943
"Fath Ali Shah...to form alliances with the chiefs of the tribes and the leaders of the country, married often and had many children. He appointed his sons as governors of different provinces or regions. Among these princes, Abbas Mirza, the Crown Prince and governor of Azerbaijan, Mohammad Vali Mirza, the governor of Khorassan, and Mohammad Ali Mirza, the governor of Kermanshah, were very capable. (...) It was customary for the Shah to send with any worthless prince a man capable of guiding him, called a vizier. (...) Fath Ali Shah had more than 90 direct descendants....." (Vol I, p. 21).
Fasa'i reports how the shah managed to conquer the province of Khorassan, arrested and executed the last Afshar pretender and subdued his own brother to secure his rule and went in fruitful negotiations with the emirs of Afghanistan, Marv and Bukhara. ("Farsnameh-ye nasseri, p. 78 ff,published April 1895 and printed in two volumes in July 1896; later translated into English by: HeribertBusse: "History of Persia under Qajar Rule", Culombia University Press, London & New York, 1972)
Fasa’i continues: "The Shah spent most of his time pleasurably with his wives, and riding and hunting. Sometimes, he went as far as Isfahan and Shiraz, occasionally camping on the prairies of Soltaniyeh. During the Iranian-Russian Wars, Fath Ali Shah established and remained at an army camp on the prairies of Soltaniyeh. In this camp, he engaged in war games and called forth the military power that would be sent to Azerbaijan..." (Vol I, p. 23.)
Both authors report that Fath Ali Shah, despite from his life of comfort and pleasure-seeking in the harem quarters of his several palaces, reorganized the administrative apparatus into a well-running central system; how he supported local trade and craftsmanship and revived the arts. He got in contact with the European powers - and at least was trapped by diplomatic maneuvers of France and Britain and his own lack of diplomacy!
What some say about Ahmad Shah
Donald N. Wilber, "Four Hundred Forty-six Kings of Iran", published by Offset, Tehran 1972, p. 98, writes: "The last of the Qajars was not a bad man, merely an ineffectual one who found unwelcome the fate that brought him to the throne."
"On the 4 Aban (26 October) Soltan Ahmad Shah signed two decrees. One was for the appointment of Sardar Sepah as Prime Minister, and the other one about his own departure for Europe." In the opinion of Mostowfi, "..,in a way his abdication from the throne," (p. 1098).
Because the shah took with him all money in cash and gold as well as the private family jewels on his trip to Europe, at least, Mostowfi considered him negativley a coward that "a firecracker in the next room" made him left the country as a fugitive lounging around the hotels in Europe. (p. 1099). "Sharh-e zendegani-ye man", transl. by Nayer Glenn Mostowfi , Mazda, Costa Mesa, 1997
According to Abdollah Mostowfi's opinion to solve the crisis, Ahmad Shah - who was tired of political intrigues at court - should be succeed by his younger brother - who was without any critical political background and studied in Europe - assisted by a capable regent. This man could be found in the person of Mirza Hassan Ashtiyani, the Mostowfiol-Mamalek. Mostowfi supported the idea a Qajar prince succeeded Ahmad Shah rather than Reza Khan, who he judged inappropriate.
When Reza Khan noticed that Ahmad Shah left Iran once again, Mostowfi continues, Reza Shah came to the solution to depose the shah and to get rid of the Qajars at all."There and then, he [Reza Khan] resolved that there would be no reconciliation between him and the...king.
Sardar Sepah anticipated that Soltan Ahmad Shah could return to Iran whenever he gathered enough willpower to do so, which would then cause a major handicap for him. He could loose the position of primeminister...(and) would end up among the disfavored..." (p. 1111).
• When Ahmad Shah had just left Iran
The papers now that Ahmad had left Iran, started to attack the Qajars reporting about the cruelties of Agha Mohammad Shah, the ignorance of Fath Ali Shah and the execution of such brilliant prime ministers like Qa'em Maqqam and Amir Kabir, the pleasure lifestyle of Nasser od-Din Shah, the incompetence of Mozaffar od-Din Shah, the autocratic Mohammad Ali Shah and the indifference of Soltan Ahmad Shah. (p. 1163)Abdollah Mostowfi in"Sharh-e zendegani-ye man", transl. by Nayer Glenn Mostowfi , Mazda, Costa Mesa, 1997. Here, the bad image of the Qajars was created artificially by post-Pahlavi medias in Iran, shortly before Majles voted for their deposing! Indeed, on 9 Aban (31 October) Ahmad Shah was deposed and the Qajar dynasty was abolished. The move was clearly unconstitutional. The constituent assembly had no legal authority to do so. Reza Khan knew that Soltan Ahmad Shah's resignation was necessary. He thus was still the shah and the coup government illegitimate.
• Ahmad Shah depicted after 1979
Nevertheless there are some new past-Pahlavi books that still gave a negative view on Ahmad Shah like "A Portrait of Ahmad Shah Qajar", by Mohammad Javad Sheikholesslami, 1989, and "Iran and the Rise of Reza Shah: From Qajar Collapse to Pahlavi Power", by Cyrus Ghani, 1999. They based on older sources mainly from Pahlavi time and additional reports or misinterpreted sources like Mostowfi. Here we found the traditional image of Soltan Ahmad Shah as a weak king not interested in matters of state, corrupt and only interested in money.
But the above mentioned facts, reports and sources nowadays give us a completely different new view on the person and fate of His Imperial Majesty Soltan Ahmad Shah Qajar!
What others say about Ahmad Shah
So let us have a closer look to Soltan Ahmad Shah. Abdollah Mostowfi writes in his memories "Sharh-e zendegani-ye man", transl. by Nayer Glenn Mostowfi , Mazda, Costa Mesa, 1997: "On 4 Bahman 1300 (24 January 1921), His Majesty Soltan Ahmad Shah left for Europe with a few of his companions and members of the Royal Court. (...) The minister of war, Sardar Sepah [Reza Khan], accompanied the Shah to the frontier of Iran and Iraq. At this point, while taking leave, the commander-in-chief fell at the Shah's feet expressing his absolute loyalty to his sovereign and promised to protect the country until His Majesty's return. This could be a clear manifestation that up to this point, it had not occurred to Sardar Sepah to even think about becoming king himself," (p. 1027). "The Shah announced his return to Iran by the middle of Mehr (October 1922) in a telegram about a month prior to that date. (...) Sardar Sepah went to the port of Bushehr to prepare the reception for the Shah's arrival. Soltan Ahmad Shah stepped on the soil of Iran on the 8th day of Azar (29 November). He proceeded to Shiraz and Isfahan and arrived in Tehran on the 23rd. Along the way, everywhere and in every city, the people gave the Shah a tremendous welcome. (...) This expression of sincerity and affection to the Shah by the public was intended for Sardar Sepah to understand that they loved democracy and a Constitutional monarch," (p. 1082).Here His Majesty's speech shows how he once had handle things before leaving the country. He put the affairs of state in his crown prince's hands taking care for the welfare of the nation and people.
Abdollah Mostowfi also reports in his memories "Sharh-e zendegani-ye man", transl. by Nayer Glenn Mostowfi , Mazda, Costa Mesa, 1997that one said Ahmad Shah had read some 300 volumes of selected works of the recents years and was very well versed in modern knowledge. His ideas were based on the concept of Sufism and kind of idealistic. Maybe he hoped that his crown prince "Hassan Joon" (i.e. Mohammad Hassan Mirza) were on better terms with Reza Khan. (p. 1099).
In fact, Soltan Ahmad Shah was not very happy with Reza Khan's politics.
Manoutchehr M. Eskandari-Qajar mentioned on the Qajar Dynasty Pages with references to Soltan Ali Mirza Kadjar's book "Les Rois Oubliés":"Upon hearing of the coup government's action, Soltan Ahmad Shah, from Paris, makes the following proclamation: At this tragic moment when the future of my country is at risk, all my thoughts are with my people,to whom I address this declaration: The coup d'etat just committed by Reza Khan against the constitution and my dynasty, was committed through the force of bayonets. It contravenes the most sacred laws and fatally leads my people into great calamities and undeserved sufferance. I strongly raise my voice in protest against this coup d'etat. Now and in the future, I consider null and void all acts emanating from such a government and committed under its rule. I am and remain the legitimate and constitutional sovereign of Persia, and I await the hour of my return to my country to continue serving my people. (Soltan Ali Kadjar, p. 322-333)."
Eskandari-Qajar continues that, the originals of these notes are in the family archives of the descendants of Soltan Ahmad Shah. A copy of these notes was given by Princess Mahin Dowlatshah Firouz, wife of the late Prince Mozaffar Firouz to Dr.Nasrollah Seifpour Fatemi who published them in his political memoirs "Reflection on a Time of Illusion", Nashr-e Ketab, London, 1985. Princess Firouz since published her husband's memoirs entitled "The Social and Political Life of Prince Mozaffar-ed-Din Firouz", Paris 1990, in which these documents are found as well.
• ‘To scare Soltan Ahmad Shah from returning to Iran’ (p.1162):
On the 11 Mehr (3 October 1925) -Mostowfi writes-Soltan Ahmad Shah made intentions to return back to Iran with the Queen Mother and her entourage. The crown prince tried to made efforts to reestablish relations between the shah and his prime minister. At this time the country suffered from famine and shortage of bread, and in a telegram Soltan Ahmad Shah inquired about the situation, expressing his regrets over this problem. "There are those who believe that the bread shortage situation was intentional, arranged by secret agents of the police. It was meant to scare Soltan Ahmad Shah from returning to Iran." (p. 1162).
This maybe was Reza Khan Pahlavi's final political overthrow. The imperial family already departed changed plans when arriving in Bombay and went on a visit to Baghdad not Tehran and then to Beirut, where the young princes went to school.
• About the political situation after the Majles deposed Soltan Ahmad Shah
Eskandari-Qajar states again at the Qajar Pages, www.qajarpages.org, the internet, July 2014: "To remedy this situation promptly, Reza Khan sent Zoka'-ol-Molk Foroughi, his trusted advisor, to Paris with the order to convince Soltan Ahmad Shah that a resignation is necessary, and, to sweeten the deal, Reza Khan ordered Foroughi to offer one million pound sterling to Soltan Ahmad Shah in return for his resignation. Soltan Ahmad did not sign and dispatched Zoka'-ol-Molk back to his new master with the following message, but otherwise empty handed. Being presented with the offer by his former courtier, Soltan Ahmad Shah replies:
"I am not willing to sell [my resignation] for a thousand fold the amount you offer. Tell your master from me that this is wishful thinking on his part. I can hold my head high before future generations of Iran and before my own conscience, that I have even been willing to be deposed rather than to betray, and that I have done nothing but to carry out the duties that had been bestowed upon me, and that history will judge that I have been deposed against the will of the people of Iran. My resignation would be interpreted as an act of assent and an agreement on my part that rulership was not mine by right. For these reason if you had offered me the whole world I would not resign."
• Hossein Makki, in his political biography of Ahmad Shah, "Mokhtassariaz Zendegani-ye Siassi-ye Soltan Ahmad Shah", 1983, reports p. 245-246, the very same.
Furthermore, Makki gave an accurate account what really happened in those crucial days. Kemal Atatürk offered help and troops for the shah to regain the throne. He summoned Ambassador Anoushirvan Sepahbody to the presidential palace and instructed him to immediately intervene on his behalf with Soltan Ahmad Shah in Paris with the following offer of assistance: "The Turkish government, in pursuance of its own national interest and for reasons of friendship, goodwill, and a desire to assist Your Majesty, is willing to extend a formal invitation to Your Majesty, to travel to Turkey and hence, to offer the help of a sufficient number of Turkish troops for Your Majesty to be able to enter Persia from the West and regain his throne." (Makki, pp. 243-244). Makki states that Soltan Ahmad Shah, upon hearing of this offer from Ambassador Sepahbody, answered "Please offer my thanks." Ambassador Sepahbody replied: "Your Majesty, your reply does not constitute an answer, does Your Majesty accept the offer or not?" So Soltan Ahmad Shah said:
"None of my ancestors in our dynasty gained their throne through the help of a foreign power to then pass on that shameful legacy and habit to us! Simply extend our gratitude for the offer, and say that we did not accept." It was only when Mustafa Kemal received this negative answer that he turned toReza Khan to establish cordial relations with him.
This again was another time, the shah denied any ungrateful help or money, as he did it once in London with the British for ratifying the Anglo-Persian Treaty in 1921, with Foroughi with his resignation in 1925, and finally here. These facts might show the true nature of this gallant last shah of our dynasty.
• About the Anglo-Persian Agreement
Once in 1919 Britain had tried to arrange with Iran under former premier Vossoughod. Dowleh and the minister Nosrat od-Dowleh a treaty which made Iran de facto a British colony or at least a protectorate. Often it is said Ahmad Shah was a silent witness to this treaty and had accepted it secretly. In fact, Ahmad Shah's speech and attitude concerning the Anglo-Persian Agreement on a banquet at London, 31 October 1919, shows how he really thought about it. Manoutchehr Eskandari-Qajar in his interesting article "Persia's honor: Remembering Soltan Ahmad Shah", October 24, 2003, The Iranian, reports about the political maneuvers around the ill-fated Anglo-Persian Treaty:
"At a banquet in Ahmad Shah's honor at Buckingham Palace on October 31 1919, George V reminded the Shah of the Anglo-Persian Treaty as a fait accompli: Great Britain and Persia had now "become closer than they [had] ever been." The two countries were about "to embark upon a collaboration in the field of material and administrative progress which should ensure [for Persia] a future not unworthy of its famous past." Ahmad Shah just answered politely, fully ignoring the proposal put to him and his nation, that the reason for his desire to visit England and Europe was: "my admiration for the solid liberal institutions of England. The establishment of new principles and new ideas in international relations with the formation of the League of Nations. Given the fact that my country, benefiting from a liberal constitution, had already assumed its rightful place among the free nations of the world, one of the
principal reasons for my journey is to study personally the democratic institutions of this country, which has been the first to give to other nations an example of parliamentary government, and this in order to make it more possible for myself to better steer my own country on the road to progress." In other words he was not here as a vassal of the King of England, but as the constitutional monarch of a free nation which he intended to keep free by appealing to the very principles that guided England's own government and the institutions England was championing internationally: rule of law, self-determination, sovereignty, mutual recognition, non-interference in domestic affairs, etc... All principles the British needed no reminder of except for the fact that they were quite willing to forget them when it came to countries they did not judge worthy of such consideration when such consideration would interfere with their imperial plans.
He further remarked that he was fully aware that "because of her geographic position, and because of her secular traditions, Persia [was] called upon to help in the establishment of order and progress in the Middle East, a condition so essential to the overall peace in Asia." He knew this was a difficult task but, "with the aid of Western democracies and particularly that of Great Britain, whose friendly relations with Persia go back far in time, it could be accomplished in a manner commensurate with the honor of Persia." And, closing with a reminder to his host that Britain has always stood for the highest and noblest goals of humanity, he wished his hosts well and raised his glass to their health.
• About being proposed by the UK to develop Iran’s resources
On November 1 1919, at a function given in honor of Soltan Ahmad Shah at the Guildhall in London by the Lord Mayor, the real architect of the Persia policy of Britain, Lord Nathanial Curzon, reminded Soltan Ahmad Shah again what this was all about: "We wished to assist his Majesty and his Government in the restoration of peace and order to his country, sadly vexed and agitated by the disturbance of the recent war. We wished to assist him indeveloping the resources of his native land. Those resources were indeed considerable: resources both above and below the soil. They were the resources of trade and the resources of a naturally industrious and capable population. What Persia wanted at the present time was security of her frontiers to prevent them from being crossed by any foe; and internally, order and law, the authority of his Majesty to be felt in every quarter of his country; pacification of the trade routes along which she carries goods in exchange for produce with foreign lands. In this respect land transport and communication was lamentably difficult. Then there was the administration of justice for her people, and, above all (which was the secret of all successful administration), a sound and economic finance."
Once again Soltan Ahmad Shah replied by evoking the same themes he had evoked the night before at the dinner in honor of the Anglo-Persian Treaty at Buckingham Palace: Thanking his hosts, he reminded them that while he was not the first monarch of Persia to enjoy the hospitality of the city of London, he could lay claim to the honor of being the first constitutional monarch of Persia received there. He said he was representing " a new and liberal regime from which [his] people expected the regeneration of the country, a regeneration that had been hampered until now by unfavorable influences. (...) The present moment was particularly well chosen for the attainment of the object of closer unity between the two peoples. There was a new spirit of co-operation and fraternity between them, and this spirit was consecrated by the League of Nations, which guaranteed the free development of States in the full enjoyment of their independence and integrity. ..."
This speech stood in opposition to the common view of Ahmad Shah and his role as king on behalf of the British government only interested in gold.