|Persian Constitutional Revolution|
|Part of Attempts at Constitutionalization in Iran|
The royal proclamation of Mozaffar ad-Din Shah that agree the Constitutional monarchy on August 5, 1906.
The Persian Constitutional Revolution (Persian: مشروطیت Mashrūtiyyat, or انقلاب مشروطه Enghelāb-e Mashrūteh), also known as the Constitutional Revolution of Iran, took place between 1905 and 1911. The revolution led to the establishment of a parliament in Persia (Iran) during the Qajar dynasty.
The Revolution opened the way for cataclysmic change in Persia, heralding the modern era. It saw a period of unprecedented debate in a burgeoning press, and new economic opportunities. Many different groups fought to shape the course of the Revolution, and all sections of society were ultimately to be in some way changed by it. The old order, which King Nassereddin Shah Qajar had struggled for so long to sustain, finally died, to be replaced by new institutions, new forms of expression, and a new social and political order.
The monarch Mozaffar ad-Din Shah Qajar signed the constitution in 1906, but he died shortly after and was replaced by Mohammad Ali Shah. The latter abolished the constitution and bombarded the parliament with Russian and British support in 1908. This led to another pro-constitutional movement. The constitutionalist forces marched to Tehran, forced Muhammad Ali Shah's abdication in favor of his young son Ahmad Shah Qajar and then re-established the constitution in 1909. The "1921 Persian Coup" (Persian: کودتای ۳ اسفند ۱۲۹۹) refers to several major events in Iran (Persia) in 1921, which eventually led to the establishment of the Pahlavi dynasty as the ruling house of the country in 1925. On December 12, 1925, Iran's parliament amended Iran's constitution of 1906–1907 to replace the Qajar dynasty (1797–1925) with the Pahlavi dynasty as the legitimate sovereigns of Iran.
The movement did not end with the Revolution being put down in 1911 by the Russians, but was followed by the Jungle Movement of Gilan (1914-1921).
With the first provision (the fundamental law) signed by Muzzafir al-Din just days before his death, Iran saw legislative reform vital to their goal of independence from British and Russian imperialism. The three main groups of the coalition seeking a constitution were the bazaar merchants, ulama, and a small faction of radical reformers. These groups shared the goal of ending royal corruption and stopping the dominance of foreign powers. Revolutionaries argued that role of the shah was once again being used to keep the Shah, Qajar, and the other aristocrats wealthy at the expense of surrendering the country's resources and economy. They argued that whilst Iran's oil industry was sold to the British, tax advantages on import/export and manufactured textiles destroyed Iran's economy formerly supported by bazaar merchants. Muzzafir al-Din accumulated a fortune in foreign debt while selling off assets to repay the interest, instead of investing in Iran. This rift founded Iran's constitutional revolt. The fundamental law gave the elected legislature a final approval over all loans, concession, and budget. Further power was diverted from the shah with the supplementary fundamental law passed a few days later giving power over appointing ministers, and later a committee of mujtahids was introduced to confirm new laws abide by the shari'ah. Despite the ulama's best efforts towards independence from external dominance, in 1907 Britain and Russia capitalized on Iran's weak government and signed the entente which divided Iran among the two, leaving a neutral zone in the center of the country. The end of this constitutional period came when members of the Majlis in the remaining neutral zone of Tehran dissolved under the issue of equal rights for non-Muslims, Russia then invaded Tehran and captured the city. While Iran did gain a constitution, the goal of Iranian independence was not achieved by the revolts.
Weakness and extravagance continued during the brief reign of Mozaffar ad-Din Shah Qajar (1896–1907). He often relied on his chancellor to manage his decentralized state. His dire financial situation caused him to sign many concessions to foreign powers, on an expanding list of trade items ranging from weapons to tobacco. The established noble classes, religious authorities, and educated elite began to demand a curb on royal authority and the establishment of the rule of law as their concern over foreign, and especially Russian, influence grew.
He had also taken out several major loans from Russia and Britain to pay for his extravagant lifestyle and the costs of the central government. In 1900 the Shah financed a royal tour of Europe by borrowing 22 million rubles from Russia. Iranian customs receipts served as collateral.
In 1905 protests broke out over the collection of Persia tariffs to pay back the Russian loan for Mozaffar ad-Din Shah's royal tour. In December 1905, two Persian merchants were punished in Tehran for charging exorbitant prices. They were bastinadoed (a humiliating and very painful punishment where the soles of one's feet are caned) in public. An uprising of the merchant class in Tehran ensued, with merchants closing the bazaar. The clergy following suit as a result of the alliance formed in the 1892 Tobacco Rebellion.
The two protesting groups sought sanctuary in a mosque in Tehran, but the government violated this sanctuary and entered the mosque and dispersed the group. This violation of the sanctity of the mosque created an even larger movement which sought refuge in a shrine outside Tehran. On January 12, 1906 the Shah capitulated to the demonstrators agreeing to dismiss his prime minister and to surrender power to a new "house of justice," (the forerunner to the parliament). The Basti (protesters who take sanctuary in mosques) returned from the mosque in triumph, riding royal carriages and being hailed by a jubilant crowd.
In a scuffle in early 1906 the Government killed a seyyed (descendant of the prophet Muhhamed). A more deadly skirmish followed a short time later when Cossacks killed 22 protesters and injured 100. Bazaar again closed and the Ulama went on strike, a large number of them taking sanctuary in the holy city Qom. Many merchants went to the British embassy which agreed to offer protection to Basti in the grounds of their legation.
In the summer of 1906 approximately 12,000 men camped out in the gardens of the British Embassy. Many gave speeches, many more listened, in what has been called a `vast open-air school of political science` studying constitutionalism. It is here that the demand for a majles (parliament; also means gathering in Persian; pronounced "Madj-less") was born, the goal of which was to limit the power of the Shah. In August 1906, Mozaffar ad-Din Shah agreed to allow a parliament, and in the fall, the first elections were held. In all, 156 members were elected, with an overwhelming majority coming from Tehran and the merchant class.
October 1906 marked the first meeting of the majles, who immediately gave themselves the right to make a constitution, thereby becoming a Constitutional Assembly. The Shah was getting old and sick, and attending the inauguration of the parliament was one of his last acts as king. Mozaffar ad-Din Shah's son Muhammad Ali, however, was not privy to constitutionalism. Therefore, they had to work fast, and by December 31, 1906 the Shah signed the constitution, modeled primarily from the Belgian Constitution. The Shah was from there on "under the rule of law, and the crown became a divine gift given to the Shah by the people." Mozaffar ad-Din Shah died five days later.
Within the decade following the establishment of the new Majles a number of critical events took place. Many of these events can be viewed as a continuation of the struggle between the constitutionalists and the Shahs of Persia, many of whom were backed by foreign powers against the Majles.
The following January Shah Muhammad Ali, the 6th Qajar Shah, came to power. In August 1907, an Anglo-Russian agreement divided Iran into a Russian zone in the North and a British zone in the South, with a neutral band in-between. The British switched their support to the Shah, abandoning the Constitutionalists. In 1908, the Shah moved to "exploit the divisions within the ranks of the reformers" and eliminate the Majles.
ای٬ محترم مدافع حریت عباد- وی قائد شجیع و هوادارعدل و داد- کردی پی سعادت ایران فدای جان- پاینده باد نام تو٬ روح توباد شاد- Translation: You, the respected advocate of liberty sun- The brave chief of righteousness- You, who gave your life for Iran's bliss- Long live your name, may your soul rests in eternal peace-
Later Mr. Mahdavi had this poem inscribed on a tabular tombstone which was placed on Baskerville’s resting place in Tabriz. Howard Baskerville was and still remains a beloved hero in Iran. There is a photo of Mr. Mohammad Ali Mahdavi with the inscribed tabular tombstone for Mr. Baskerville in a book written in Persian entitled, “Baskerville and the Iranian Constitution” authored by Mr. Ali Kamalvand, 1957.
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