Assassination of Nasser-al-Din Shah

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Nasser al-Din Shah Qajar‎ was the King of Persia from 17 September 1848 to 1 May 1896 when he was assassinated. He was the son of Mohammad Shah Qajar and Malek Jahān Khānom and the third longest reigning monarch in Iranian history after Shapur II of the Sassanid dynasty and Tahmasp I of the Safavid Dynasty.

Nasser al-Din Shah had sovereign power for close to 50 years and was also the first Iranian monarch to ever write and publish his diaries.

Naser al-Din was in Tabriz from Qajars tribe when he heard of his father's death in 1848, and he ascended to the Sun Throne with the help of Amir Kabir. Naser al-Din had early reformist tendencies, but was dictatorial in his style of government.

Naser al-Din was the first modern Persian monarch to visit Europe in 1873 and then again in 1878 (when he saw a Royal Navy Fleet Review), and finally in 1889 and was reportedly amazed with the technology he saw. During his visit to the United Kingdom in 1873, Naser al-Din Shah was appointed by Queen Victoria a Knight of the Order of the Garter, the highest English order of chivalry.

He was the first Persian monarch to be so honoured. His travel diary of his 1873 trip has been published in several languages as Persian, German, French, and Dutch.

In 1890 Naser al-Din met British Major Gerald F. Talbot and signed a contract with him giving him the ownership of the Persian tobacco industry, but he later was forced to cancel the contract after Ayatollah Mirza Hassan Shirazi issued a fatwa that made farming, trading, and consuming tobacco haram (forbidden).

Consuming tobacco from the newly monopolized 'Talbot' company represented foreign exploitation, so for that reason it was deemed immoral. It even affected the Shah's personal life as his wives did not allow him to smoke.

This was not the end of Naser al-Din's attempts to give concessions to Europeans; he later gave the ownership of Persian customs incomes to Paul Julius Reuter.

Naser al-Din was effective in introducing several different western influences to Persia. He curbed the secular power of the clergy, introduced telegraphy and postal services, built roads, opened the first school offering education along Western lines, and launched Persia's first newspaper.

He was the first Persian to be photographed and was a patron of photography who had himself photographed hundreds of times. His final prime minister was Ali Asghar Khan, who after the shah's assassination aided in securing the transfer of the throne to Mozaffar al-Din.

In 1852 Naser al-Din dismissed and executed Amir Kabir, the famous Persian reformer. With him, many believe, died the prospect of an independent Persia led by meritocracy rather than nepotism.

In the later years of his rule, however, Naser al-Din steadfastly refused to deal with the growing pressures for reforms. He also granted a series of concessionary rights to foreigners in return for large payments that went into his own pockets.

In 1872, popular pressure forced him to withdraw one concession involving permission to construct such complexes as railways and irrigation works throughout Persia. In 1890, he made an even greater error in granting a 50-year concession on the purchase, sale, and processing of all tobacco in the country, which led to a national boycott of tobacco and the withdrawal of the concession. This last incident is considered by many authorities to be the origin of modern Iranian nationalism.

On April 30, 1896, Mirza Reza Kermani assassinated Nasser-al-Din Shah in the Shah Abdol Azim shrine. Mirza Reza Kermani born in Kerman, Iran and died on August 10, 1896 in Tehran, was an adherent of Jamal al-Din Asad Abadi.

He and other followers of Jamal al-Din Asad Abadi were demanding that the Qajar dynasty rule Iran justly. After Asad Abadi was expelled from Iran by the Qajars, Kermani began to openly and publicly criticize Qajar officials. Eventually Kermani was imprisoned, his wife divorced him, and his son was made into a servant.

It is said that the revolver used to assassinate him was old and rusty, and had he worn a thicker overcoat, or been shot from a longer range, he would have survived the attempt on his life.

Shortly before dying the Shah is reported to have said "I will rule you differently if I survive!"

After killing the Shah, Mirza Reza Kermani escaped towards the border of the Ottoman Empire. Nasser-al-Din successor Mozaffar-al-din Shah sent a detachment of troops on camels to find Mirza Reza Kermani to avenge his father's death.

He was captured at on the Ottoman border. After months of interrogation, Kermani was executed on August 10, 1896 in order to be used as an example.

Kermani's assassination of Nasser-al-Din Shah and the subsequent execution marked a turning point in Iranian political thought that would ultimately lead to the Iranian Constitutional Revolution during Mozzafar-al-Din Shah's turbulent reign; the Constitutional Revolution was the first major democratic movement in the modern Middle East.

*Photo Credit: Fararu.Com, Wikipedia