Matters came to a crisis in December, 1907, when the Shah attempted to overthrow the Medjliss (Parliament).
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.
Time: December, 1907
After a week had elapsed and their demands were still un-granted, the people begged the British Minister to go and see the Shah and personally give him a list of their demands. Mr. Grant Duff complied with the request, and immediately the Shah called him to his presence and gave him a dast-i-khat (autograph firman) granting all that was demanded. Mr. Grant Duff had only left the place for an hour when he was officially informed that both the Sadrazam and the Amir- Bahadur had been dismissed, and that an envoy had been appointed to go and bring back the mullahs. When the people at the Legation received the news they became wild with joy Edward, praying him always to protect them and their country by giving good advice and counsel to their own sovereign, and thanking him for all that had been done by Mr. Grant Duff on their behalf. King Edward sent them a very cordial telegram in reply, assuring them that he loved them all and would do all in his power to increase the welfare of the people of Persia. At this time Mr. Grant Duff requested the people to leave the Legation, but they refused to move until the mullahs had arrived. A few days later the latter made a magnificent entry into the city. The town and bazaars were illuminated and the people left the Legation, having obtained all they wanted.
The Parliament thus secured convened prior to the Shah’s death, but it was feared that the new Shah would prove a reactionary and would attempt to dissolve Parliament. There were several collisions between him and the Assembly, but the latter prevailed and for a time continued and strengthened its position.
The movement which issued in a representative assembly in Teheran found similar expression in many other cities, but in a very crude form. From Urumia a correspondent writes: “Some weeks ago, in emulation of the people of Tabriz and Teheran, various gatherings were held here, and as the result of them a council or committee of the people, an anju- man, as they call it, was formed, consisting of seven persons — one prominent mullah, one notorious sayid, two landlords, and three merchants. This body has assumed large authority, which has been used both for good and bad. One of the first acts of the anjuman was to draw up a proclamation to the people, stating on the whole in moderate terms what they expected to do — not to supplant the regular governmental officers, but to cooperate with them and strengthen them in order to secure liberty and justice. The members of the anjuman hinted to the missionaries through others who were desirous of helping on the cause of education that they felt that in the school for Moslem boys the teachings and rites of their own religion ought to be taught. In order to carry out this purpose, they suggested that a mullah be permitted to come into the school every day and teach these. These suggestions naturally were not entertained. Finally, they threatened, and so the missionaries went directly to the anju- man, saying that if they insisted on this, they would close the school; but that it should be known in Urumia and elsewhere that it was closed because of the anjuman. This brought assurances that they wished nothing of the kind and that the school should go on. The reasons for this rather contradictory state of things is that the movement is a mixed sort of thing. Those who really have been at the bottom of things in Persia are men with enlightened views and a real desire for enlarged liberty. But the element that has the most power in it in Urumia is the very opposite element — mullahs and sayids, who find in it the chance to assert themselves. These last masquerade under the banners of liberty and use the catchwords taught by others. The situation is a ticklish one and will demand the utmost care.”.
The movement seems, however, on the whole to be in the direction of liberty, and a new freedom of speech is already noticed, and the emergence of these frank convictions as to the inadequacy of Islam, which it has long been known would come to expression as soon as the day of free opinion should arise. Up to this time the situation was well described by one who said, “It is twilight of the day as yet, and there may be darker hours before dawn.”
Matters came to a crisis in December, 1907, when the Shah attempted to overthrow the Medjliss (Parliament), and with it the constitution for which it stands. Following the example of Russia, he proposed to prorogue the Medjliss, saying: “I stand for the constitution, but I am not satisfied with the present membership. I propose to dismiss this Medjliss and call a new election after a few months.” To this the Medjliss demurred and called to his Majesty’s attention the fact that before he ascended the throne he had promised not to prorogue it for two years. The members refused to be dismissed. Failing in this, his Majesty decided to try a coup d’etat. It began Sunday evening, December 15th. A crowd gathered in the Cannon Square, near the palace. Some patrolled the street in front of the palace, crying: “May the Shah live ! May the Medjliss die ! May the Koran live ! May that this spontaneous uprising of the people had been planned by the Shah himself, who had hired some of the mullahs and roughs of the city to make a demonstration against the Medjliss.
The Shah was, however, finally forced to yield to the Medjliss, and consented to the return of all whom he had ordered banished. As a result and accompanying the spirit of liberty there was an increased measure of religious toleration.
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