Colonel Mohammad Taqi-Khan Pessian Uprising

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Colonel Mohammad Taqi-Khan Pessian (1892 - 3 October 1921) born into an aristocratic family in Tabriz, was a popular military leader of Iran and became a national hero after his assassination. He is also famously known as being the first Iranian to successfully pilot an aircraft.

Pessian was born into a prominent Azerbaijani family originating in the Caucasus. Pessian's family possessed strong military traditions, his uncle General Hamzeh Khan Pessian was a commander in the Persian Cossack Brigade, his cousins Heydar Qoli Khan Pessian – father of Iranian author and journalist, Mahtalad Pessian – Ali Qoli Khan Pessian, Gholam Reza Khan Pessian and himself served in Gendarmerie.

In Tabriz Mohammad Taqi was educated in Sciences, Persian, Arabic and foreign languages. In 1907 he left for Tehran to continue his education and entered Military College in Germany where he became one of the first Iranians to learn to fly. After 5 years he took up the rank of Second Lieutenant in the Gendarmerie, within two years he was promoted to Captain.

After that he held a variety of posts such as Second Commander in a battalion in Qazvin, served in Hamedan and Yazd and also was an instructor and interpreter at Gendarmerie school in Yusef Abad, Tehran. He was promoted to Major when World War I broke out.

In November 1915 as commander of Gendarmerie in Hamedan he launched an attack on the pro-Russian Persian Cossack Brigade at the Battle of Musalla. His gendarmes managed to disarm the Persian Cossacks and Mohammad Taqi managed to win some of the cossacks to join his forces in a patriotic speech he made to them after their defeat.

Mohammad Taqi and Major Azizollah Khan Zarghami as Gendarmerie commanders could not defend Hamedan against an advancing Russian Caucasus Army which was superior in numbers and weapons. Gendarmes retreated to Kermanshah where again were defeated by the Russians, then many fled to Ottoman Empire.

August 1916 saw the return of gendarmes to Kermanshah but again were defeated and this time many went to live in exile in Istanbul while Mohammad Taqi went to live in exile in Berlin.

During his time in Berlin, he was trained as a pilot in the German Airforce and was rewarded with the Eisernes Kreuz Medal for shooting down more than 25 enemy aircraft during World War I.

He also translated many works from Persian to/from French,German and English, some of these included Alphone de Lamartine and Rabindranath Tagore. He also wrote two books in Persian, Sargozasht-e yek javan-e vatandoust and Jang-e Moqaddas az Baghdad ta Iran.

In 1920 Mohammad Taqi returned to Iran and joined the Gendarmerie. In June 1920 he was promoted to the rank of Colonel and in September 1920 he became commander of Gendarmerie of Khorasan. On 3 April 1921 in a military uprising with his small force of only 200 Gendarms, he had Ahmad Qavam the Governor-general of Khorasan arrested and send him to Tehran where he was imprisoned.

He then became head of the provincial Autonomous Government of Khorasan. In June, when Ahmad Qavam was released from prison and became Premier of Iran, he tried to take revenge on Pessian and together with Reza Khan who was Minister of War ordered that Pessian should be beheaded, this in fact happened in 3 October 1921 when Pessian and his small force of 150 gendarmes were circled by a force of strong 1,000 plus mounted Kurdish tribesmen in a battle fought near Quchan, his head was brought to Tehran to prove that he had been killed.

For five continuous years after his death, on 3 October people of Khorasan mourned his death. However, when Reza Shah came to power, any mourning for Pessian was banned. The Pessian family had been rivals to Reza Khan and had opposed the British plan to install him as Shah.

He is buried in Mashhad, Khorasan in the same garden that contains Nader Shah's tomb.

*Photo Credit: JamejJamOnline, Wikipedia, IICHS

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