Thursday, May 25, 2006

07. Kurds in Modern Iran-Mashrootiat-Reza Shah

07. Kurds in Modern Iran-Mashrootiat-Reza Shah

In contrast to Azerbaijan, there was no mass participation by Kurds in the Constitutional Revolution. The reason for this lack of participation should be obvious. The modernist aims of the revolution and its goal of power-sharing could not touch a region that had lived in isolation from the rest of Iran for centuries, a region where feudalism and tribalism held complete sway.

Following the end of Ardalan rule, the elements of modern capitalism were just starting to form in connection to the rest of the Iranian market, but these elements were very weak and vulnerable by fiefdom and tribal relations. And still the general direction of Kurdestan was determined by the feudal and tribal chiefs who were still dreaming to return to the days of isolation and semi-independence. They were far from understanding the strength of the Constitutional Movement and thus did not even recognize their own self-interest to work for power-sharing in the Central Iranian State, the self-interest that some other tribal chiefs of Iran such as Bakhtiari had realized correctly .

It is interesting that the Bakhtiari tribe was mobilized and brought to Tehran after the defeat of the despotic Mohammad Ali-Shah. No doubt, the intention of the Bakhtiari chiefs was not to extend democracy and defend constitutionalism, but to gain a place in the new government that was forming and would be partly pro-capitalist. They knew that it is important to be part of the formation of the new central state and recognized the winning power of democratic capitalism, although they themselves were only interested to be part of the power and not harbinger of the new ways of life.

The feudals of most parts of Iran had learned that to further their own interest, they had to participate in the elite of the central government rather than to buy isolationism from the central government. Unfortunately, an opposite stand of Kurdish feudal, clergy, and tribal chiefs is why, the Kurdish tribesmen were used against the Constitutional fighters of Azerbaijan. Their feudal lords were hoping to regain their lost isolation and semi-independence.

In the first part of Mashrootiat, there was no movement in Kurdestan. Most of the landlords and their dignitaries received the Mashrootiat as though it were no more than a mere shift in the upper echelons of Iran's central government.

Before Mohammad Ali-Shah openly declared Estebdad (Despotism) by bombarding the Parliament, a pro-Constitutional Governor was sent to Kurdestan from Tehran. He was Mirza Ismaiil Khan Seghatol-Molk who contacted Kurdish influential religious and feudal dignitaries in Sanandaj for the purpose of promoting Constitutionalism. Accordingly, popular councils, which had originally sprung up in Tabriz, Tehran, Rasht, etc, were set up. Here is the story as narrated by Sheikh Mardookh himself.

Ayatolah Mardokh, the author of Tarikh-e Kurd va Kurdestan, cooperates with Constitutionalists at first and even participates in Anjoman-e Sedaghat (1425 Zighadeh). With the start of Estebdad-e Saghir (Despotism), the previous pro-Mashrooteh governor (i.e. Seghat-ol Molk) is called back and Prince Zafar-ol Saltaneh is assigned as the governor of Kurdestan.

This new governor (i.e. Zafar-ol-Saltaneh) was pro-Estebdad (pro-Despotism) and shut down the Sedaghat, Kargaran, Haghighat, Salahat, Okhovvat, and other associations. At this time, Ayatolah Mardookh who was seemingly pro-Mashrootiat, signs a secret agreement with Moshir Divan( pro-Despotism). This is his agreement in his own words:

"The night of 16th of Ramazan 1326 met secretly with Moshir Divan and agreed that if dolat (government) wins, he protects us and if mellat (Constitutionalists) win, we protect him" [Tarikh-e Kurd va Kurdestan, Sheikh Mardookh, P. 248]

Mardookh is a symbol of the right wing Kurdish landlord and clergy who signed pacts with Sheikh Fazlullah-Nuri and Mohammad Ali-Shah at one time, became Constitutionalist at another time, then cooperated with Salared-dolleh and the Russians, compromised with Germans and Ottomans, and finally became subservient to Reza Shah and the British. His book is a good example of how the vacillations of fiefdom is reflected in the politics of Kurdestan.

But there were also democratic forces. Seyyed Yunis and Sheikh Ebrahim who had a group called "Social Democrat" [Darbareh Mobarezat-e Kurdestan, Hamid Moomeni, P.24].? But these forces were very weak. The undeveloped state of Kurdestan' s market economy, its isolation from the mainstream of Iranian history and its tribalism and fiefdom were the reasons why, contrary to Azerbaijan, such democratic forces (e.g. the social-democratic group) did not gain support in Kurdestan. The weakness of Kurdestan's Bazar, as I said, was due to persistence of feudalism and fiefdom in Kurdestan and the isolationism and seclusion of that region from the rest of Iran. Thus Salared Doleh and Mohammad Ali-Shah considered Kurdestan as their stronghold.

A notable expression of retrogressive role of tribal chiefs in Kurdestan is the rebellion of the Shakkak Tribe, led by Ismaiil Agha Simku, with the massacre of Assyrians and Armenians in Khoi and Salmas in North-Western Azerbaijan. Of the "banner of Kurdestan Liberation" which Ismaiil Agha had presumably raised, Ahmad Kasravi, the prominent historian of the Constitutional Movement writes:

"Now Simku is prepared for and hoisted the banner of 'Kurdestan liberation'. And what has he been doing? Has he assembled the Kurds to prepare them for a free life and self-government? Is he writing a constitution for Kurdestan? Is he making an effort to do away the divisions among the Kurds? ... No, he does not consider such things as 'liberation of Kurdestan'...He plunders villages, tramples upon sown land, demands money of the robbed and destitute people in Lackestan... that is what the 'liberation of Kurdestan' means, and that is the result the European politicians desire."[Tarikh-e Hejdah Saleh-e Azarbayjan, Vol2 P. 831]

This was the nomadic state of tribal life at the time of decaying of feudalism in Iran exerting a severer pressure than elsewhere on the development of industrialism in Kurdestan. Actually Sheikh Mardookh in his aforementioned book gives a good picture of the anarchy created by the tribal chiefs and tells how hazardous they had made the business of commerce and transportation in Kurdestan. The emergence of Reza Shah's dictatorship in 1925 meant the unfolding of a new period in Iranian history which is written in the next part.