By this time the cities in Persia were in a ferment with the new political ideas, and the movement toward freedom had assumed genuineness and proportion.
Continuing Persia’s 1907 Revolution,
with a selection from by Stanley White. This selection is presented in 2.5 easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in Persia’s 1907 Revolution.
A crop of newspapers sprang up in the capital of Persia. Newsboys ran up- town with bundles of papers fresh from the press. Some of them were issued daily, except on Friday (the Moslem Sabbath). The names were indicative of the movement. There were The Assembly, Civilization, The Cry of the Country, Justice, Progress, Knowledge, The True Dawn. Border-line disturbances were in the meantime taking place and complicated the international side of the problem. During the summer the Persians sent a military expedition against the Kurds, who for the last three or four years had been making life uneasy for everyone in the Urumia region, and would have brought them to terms, but Turkish troops crossed the border and supported the Kurds, and the Persian expedition fled. For some weeks the plains between Urumia Lake and the mountains were subject to constant depredations from the Kurds, the Turkish troops meanwhile having settled on the Persian side of the boundary. Later some of the Turkish troops moved to the southwest of Urumia, and Turkey is now claiming sovereignty over territory which for generations has been acknowledged to belong to Persia. The Turkish troops later took their Kurdish allies in hand, and conditions have been somewhat better. Provision was made for a joint Turko-Persian Commission to discuss the boundary question.
When the expedition against the Kurds failed, the Persians were disposed to lay the blame on the missionaries, charging that the expedition would not have taken place if it had not been for the insistence of the American Government on the punishment of the murderers of Mr. Labaree, although the missionaries had requested that nothing further should be done. In defending their own course, the Turks charge that the Persians were invading Turkey. Through the kindness of the British Minister in Teheran, correct representations were made in Constantinople as well as in Teheran.
By this time the cities in Persia were in a ferment with the new political ideas, and the movement toward freedom had assumed genuineness and proportion. The people did not know the meaning of the words they used. The popular Government was weak and often corrupt. There was ignorance as to how to use rights they had extorted from their rulers. There was danger that the political movement would meet only with disaster. Nevertheless, Persia had begun to learn the meaning of liberty. Not a few were preaching it because a wo was laid on them if they preached it not. The new youth of freedom was being born in their hearts, and a new Persia was destined to be born.
As showing the relation of the new movement to the Mohammedan religion the following statement is significant: “This young Persia has not cast off all the teachings or all the errors of the past. Most of the dreamers see the vision of a Mohammedan state, strong in freedom and true to the faith of the fathers. Yet if freedom often has found a foe in the Christian Church, how much more certainly must battles be fought with the Mohammedan hierarchy? Proof-texts for representative government are still drawn from the Koran, yet there are both friends and foes who point out that Islam is a fixed and infallible law, and that a code of law subject to change by a popular assembly is contrary to the very foundation of the faith. The struggle has already begun and the Shah is setting mullah against people, refusing to sign constitutional charges unless they have the indorsement of the chief clergy.” This young Persia is very ignorant, and is asking to be taught. It believes that science has given the West its preeminence, and so it asks for modern science. It is inclined to believe that science is all, and so some are becoming materialists. When the conflict between faith and science comes, as come it must, many will reject faith.
Besides parliaments and assemblies, young Persia is establishing printing-presses and schools, and is buying books and newspapers. The new schools are not in the mosques, and are different from the old ones, even in the method used for teaching the alphabet. The newspapers are crude, but they are outspoken for the people, and no one dares as yet to stop them. Young Persia is going West to school. Young Persia has some ugly, dangerous traits. It is buying arms and is drilling. Some are learning methods of assassination and terrorism. Anarchistic teaching begins to be heard, and there is danger of much irreligion. Said one of the leaders, a man wearing a mullah’s turban: “The people will cast off Islam, but do not imagine that they will accept Christianity in its stead.” The new spirit may bring a curse rather than a blessing.
The correctness of this estimate has been shown by subsequent events. During the last twelve months, no country in the world, except perhaps Turkey, has been more disturbed by the play of new forces than Persia. On Tuesday, June 23, 1908, troops bombarded the Parliament buildings. A number of the leaders of the Constitutional party were killed and the constitution itself was withdrawn. From that time until May 5, 1909, the Shah remained master of the situation in Teheran, and, in spite of the pressure brought to bear upon him, refused to restore the constitution or to reconvene the Parliament.
Distant sections of the land have been in open revolt. The city of Tabriz, the most important city in the country except the capital, refused to acquiesce in the destruction of the constitutional regime and civil war ensued, the Popular party being led by Satar Khan. After fighting which lasted through the summer of 1908, the Royalists were driven out of the city of Tabriz, and a good part of the province of Azerbaijan was held by the Constitutionalists.
In the midst of all the confusion, whither is Persia drifting? One answer can be given, and perhaps only one. It is drifting away from the past. Anarchy or foreign occupation may ensue. It may be under Russian or under Turkish rule. In any case, the old order has gone forever. Disappointment in the new regime has not increased the longing for the old autocracy. The Revolutionary party in Tabriz has also shown more force and more self-control than was expected.
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