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Constitution House of Tabriz

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Compiled By: Firouzeh Mirrazavi
Deputy Editor of Iran Review

Active ImageTabriz is the capital of one of the most famous provinces of Iran, the Azarbaijan or Aturpatgan. It is the land of Azargoshnasp temple; the fire temple of the Kings and the Nobles of Iran. It is perhaps the birth place of Zaratushtra.

Tabriz, being the provincial capital of East Azarbaijan , was the second largest city in Iran until the early 1970's. Tabriz has been the capital city of Iran on numerous times throughout the old history of this country. Tabriz is located in a valley to the north of the beautiful Mount Sahand. The valley opens out into a plain that slopes down gently to the northern end of Lake Orumieh, about 60 km to the west.

The city has a long and turbulent history although the early history of Tabriz is shrouded in legend and mystery, the town's origin is believed to date back to distant antiquity, perhaps even before the Sassanian era (224 - 651 A.D.). The oldest stone tablet with a reference to Tabriz is that of Sargon the second, the Assyrian King. The tablet refers to a place called Tauri Castle and Tarmkis. The historians believe this castle was situated on the site of the present day Tabriz. It was the capital of Azarbaijan in the 3rd century A.D. and again under the Mongol Ilkhanid dynasty (1256 - 1353), although for some time Maragheh supplanted it.

During the reign of Aqa Khan of the Ilkhanids, as well as under the reign of Ghazan Khan, Tabriz reached the peak of glory and importance. Many great artists and philosophers from all over the world traveled to Tabriz. In 1392, after the end of Mongol rule, the town was sacked by Tamerlane. It was soon restored under the Turkman tribe of the Qara Qoyunlu, who established a short-lived local dynasty. Under the Safavids it rose from regional to national capital for a short period, but the second of the Safavid kings, Shah Tahmasb, moved the capital to Qazvin because of the vulnerability of Tabriz to Ottoman attacks. The town then went into a period of decline, fought over by the Iranians, Ottomans and Russians and struck by earthquake.

Active ImageTabriz was the residence of the crown prince under the Qajar kings, but the town did not return to prosperity until the second half of the 19th century. The greatest boost to Tabriz came with the opening up of Iran to the West at the turn of this century, when it became the main staging post between the interior of Iran and the Black Sea and, for a short time, the economic capital. In 1908 it was the center of a revolt against Mohammad Ali Shah, which was only put down with the brutal intervention of the Russians. In the second Irano-Russian War the city was occupied by the Czar troops. However, it was returned to Iran following the signing of Turkmanchai Treaty, a peace and trade settlement that ended the Irano-Russian War of 1826-1828.

The Iranian Constitutional Revolution originated in Tabriz and culminated during the reign of Mohammad Ali Shah of Qajar dynasty (1779-1925). Sattar Khan and Baqer Khan were the two most prominent leading figures behind the movement. Tabriz was occupied by Russians several times in the first half of 20th century, including most of both world wars. A railway line to the border at Jolfa, built by the expansionist Russians, was of little importance until recently, but it has increased in significance in the '90s as a result of Iran's friendlier relations with its northern neighbors.

Active ImageWith a very rich history, Tabriz used to house many historical monuments. Unfortunately, many of them were destroyed in repeated invasions and attacks of foreign forces, negligence of the ruling governments, as well natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods. What remains now mostly dates back to the Ilkhanids, the Safavids, and the Qajars. Some of the monuments are unrivaled masterpieces of architecture, such as the Constitution House.

Tabriz Constitution House is a symbol of fighting despotism and reminiscent of struggles by Sattar Khan and Baqer Khan, the two key figures in the Iranian Constitutional Movement.

During the years which led to Constitutional Revolution and afterwards the house was used as a gathering place of the leaders, activists and sympathizers of the movement. Among them, the most famous people were Sattar khan, Bagher Khan, Seqat-ol-Eslam Tabrizi and Haji Mirza Aqa Farshi.

Located in Rasteh Koucheh District in the vicinity of the city's historical bazaar, the two story building was constructed in 1868 by Haj Vali Me'mar-e Tabrizi. It has numerous rooms and halls. The most beautiful part of the house is a skylight and corridor decorated with colorful glass and mirrors.

Active ImageThe house is constructed by order of Haj Mehdi Koozekanani on 1868. It includes a two floor building with internal and external part, with Qadjar period architecture. Haj Mehdi Koozekanani was a merchant in the Bazaar of Tabriz. With initiating of Constitution revolution and rising up in Tabriz city, Haj Mehdi joined the revolution and became one of the major financier of the revolution. At the same time he used the house as a place for meeting of the revolution heads, and a place for publication of underground paper of the constitution movement. The house became important in the history once again just after World War II when it was used as a place for Azerbaijan's Democrat Party meeting center (1946-1947). On 1975 the house was registered by Cultural Heritage of Iran.

Statues of Sattar Khan and Baqer Khan, known as Sardar-e Melli (national commander) and Salar-e Melli (national leader) respectively, are standing at the entrance of the building, reminding the passion for fighting at that era.

Active ImageSattar Khan's revolver and examples of press from the Constitution movement era are among the items maintained at the museum.

The museum also features personal belongings of Seqat ol-Eslam Tabrizi, a Shia cleric who was hanged by Russian troops in Tabriz as well as photos of others who were campaigning presence of Russian troops in Tabriz. It includes sculptures of famous constitution revolutionaries, their personal belongings, their weapons, underground newspaper of the revolution, and numerous photos from the revolution. One of the rooms in the building is belongs to the woman's role in the revolution.

Watch the Video: http://www.jadidonline.com/images/stories/flash_multimedia/Mashrouteh_house_eng_test/mas_high.html

The Constitutional Revolution of Iran

The Persian Constitutional Revolution or Iranian Constitutional Revolution (Mashrutiyyat or Enghelab e Mashruteh) (also known as the Constitutional Revolution of Iran) took place between 1905 and 1911. The revolution led to the establishment of a parliament in Iran.

Active ImageThe Persian Constitutional Revolution was the first event of its kind in Asia. The Revolution opened the way for cataclysmic change in Persia, heralding the modern era. It saw a period of unprecedented debate in a burgeoning press. The revolution created new opportunities and opened up seemingly boundless possibilities for Persia’s future. Many different groups fought to shape the course of the Revolution, and all sections of society were ultimately to be in some way changed by it. The old order, which Nasser-al-Din Shah Qajar had struggled for so long to sustain, finally died, to be replaced by new institutions, new forms of expression, and a new social and political order.

The system of constitutional monarchy created by the decree of Mozzafar-al-Din Shah that was established in Persia as a result of the Revolution ultimately came to an end in 1925 with the dissolution of the Qajar dynasty and the ascension of Reza Shah Pahlavi to the throne.

The movement did not end with the Revolution but was followed by the Constitutionalist movement of Gilan.

Active ImageWeakness and extravagance continued during the brief reign of Mozaffar al-Din Shah Qajar(1896-1907). He often relied on his chancellor to manage his decentralized state. His dire financial situation caused him to sign many concessions to foreign powers, on an expanding list of trade items ranging from weapons to tobacco. The established noble classes, religious authorities, and educated elite began to demand a curb on royal authority and the establishment of the rule of law as their concern over foreign, and especially Russian, influence grew.

He had also taken out several major loans from Russia and Britain to pay for his extravagant lifestyle and the costs of the central government. In 1900 the Shah financed a royal tour of Europe by borrowing 22 million rubles from Russia. Iranian customs receipts served as collateral.

In 1905 protests broke out over the collection of Persia tariffs to pay back the Russian loan for Mozzafar-al-Din Shah's royal tour. In December 1905, two Persian merchants were punished in Tehran for charging exorbitant prices. They were bastinadoed (a humiliating and very painful punishment where the soles of one's feet are caned) in public. An uprising of the merchant class in Tehran ensued, with merchants closing the bazaar. The clergy following suit as a result of the alliance formed in the 1892 Tobacco Rebellion.

Active ImageThe two protesting groups sought sanctuary in a mosque in Tehran, but the government violated this sanctuary and entered the mosque and dispersed the group. This violation of the sanctity of the mosque created an even larger movement which sought refuge in a shrine outside Tehran. On January 12, 1906 the Shah capitulated to the demonstrators agreeing to dismiss his prime minister and to surrender power to a new "house of justice," (the forerunner to the parliament). The Basti (protesters who take sanctuary in mosques) returned from the mosque in triumph, riding royal carriages and being hailed by a jubilant crowd.

In a scuffle in early 1906 the Government killed a seyyed (descendant of the prophet Muhhamed). A more deadly skirmish followed a short time later when Cossaks killed 22 protesters and injured 100. Bazaar again closed and the Ulema went on strike, a large number of them taking sanctuary in the holy city Qom. Many merchants went to the British embassy which agreed to offer protection to Basti in the grounds of their legation.
 
In the summer of 1906 approximately 12,000 men camped out in the gardens of the British Embassy. Many gave speeches, many more listened, in what has been called a `vast open-air school of political science` studying constitutionalism. It is here that the demand for a parliament was born, the goal of which was to limit the power of the Shah. In August 1906, Mozaffareddin Shah agreed to allow a parliament, and in the fall, the first elections were held. In all, 156 members were elected, with an overwhelming majority coming from Tehran and the merchant class.

Active ImageOctober 1906 marked the first meeting of parliament, who immediately gave themselves the right to make a constitution, thereby becoming a Constitutional Assembly. The Shah was getting old and sick, and attending the inauguration of the parliament was one of his last acts as king. Muzaffar ed-Din Shah's son Muhammed Ali, however, was not privy to constitutionalism. Therefore they had to work fast, and by December 31, 1906 the Shah signed the constitution, modeled primarily from the Belgian Constitution. The Shah was from there on "under the rule of law, and the crown became a divine gift given to the Shah by the people." Mozafaredeen Shah died five days later.

Within the decade following the establishment of the new majles a number of critical events took place. Many of these events can be viewed as a continuation of the struggle between the constitutionalists and the Shahs of Persia, many of whom were backed by foreign powers against the majles.

The following January Shah Muhammad Ali, the 6th Qajar shah, came to power. He moved to "exploit the divisions within the ranks of the reformers" and eliminate the Majlis. In August 1907 an Anglo-Russian agreement divided Iran into a Russian zone in the North and a British zone in the South. The British switch their support to Shah, abandoning the Constitutionalists.

Active Image• Persia tried to keep free from Russian influence through resistance via the majles to the Shah's policies.
• Majles brought in Morgan Shuster to reform treasury against initial desires of Russia and the Shah. Russia expelled him.
• Russian and Bakhtiari troops landed and forced majles to temporarily cease when their plans did not come to fruition.
• Reza Shah seized power and curtailed the power of the majles. He effectively turned it into a rubber stamp organization.

Howard Conklin Baskerville

Active ImageHoward Conklin Baskerville (April 10, 1885 – April 20, 1909) was an American teacher in the Presbyterian mission school in Tabriz, Iran, who died fighting for Iranian democracy. He has been called the "American Lafayette in Iran." (J. Lorentz)

Baskerville was born in North Platte, Nebraska, and was raised in the Black Hills. Both his father and grandfather were Presbyterian ministers. He was graduated in 1907 from Princeton University, where in addition to studying religion and boxing, he took two courses with Woodrow Wilson (Jurisprudence and Constitutional Government).

In the fall of 1907 Baskerville came to Iran as a missionary. He took a position in the American Memorial School, a missionary school, in Tabriz. There he taught English, history, and geometry to mixed classes of boys and girls, and also served as tennis coach and riding instructor. He directed a student production of The Merchant of Venice.

In the spring of 1909, during the Constitutional Revolution of Iran, he decided to raise a volunteer force to defend constitutional democracy. Despite attempts to discourage him by the American consul in Tabriz, Edward Doty, he led about a hundred volunteers attempting to help defend the besieged city against Qajar royalist troops fighting for Mohammad Ali Shah. Baskerville was shot and killed by a sniper while leading a group of student soldiers to break the siege. He was 24 years old.

He has been quoted as saying, "The only difference between me and these people is my place of birth, and this is not a big difference." Baskerville's funeral was attended by thousands, where he was eulogized by Iranian patriots. He was buried in the Christian Armenian cemetery in Tabriz. Tabriz fell to the besiegers five days after Baskerville's death.

Many Iranian nationalists revere Baskerville. Schools and streets in Iran have been named for him. Tourists and ordinary people can visit his grave freely. A "mysterious admirer" is reported "regularly" to place "yellow roses" on his grave.

There is a bust of him in Tabriz's Constitution House bearing the legend "Howard C. Baskerville—Patriot and Maker of History."

A Persian carpet with his picture woven on it was made by the carpet weavers of Tabriz and sent to Baskerville's mother in America in recognition of his courage and Sacrifice.

Watch the Video: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Videos/An_American_Hero_in_Iran.htm                                         

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