E. G. Browne's "A Traveller's Narrative:" Note H


        Gobineau makes no mention of the Níríz insurrection. Kazem-Beg gives a long account of it, occupying fifteen pages (ii, pp. 224- 239), which contains neither much more nor much less than the Násikhu't- Tawáríkh. His error as to the date of the Zanján siege (see supra, p. 187) has led him to give a wrong date for this event likewise. Áká Seyyid Yahyá's death - the closing catastrophe of the Níríz insurrection - occurred, not, as he implies, early in A.D. 1850, but on Sha'bán 28th A.H. 1266 (July 9th, A.d.

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1850, see supra, p. 45, note 1). The Rawzatu's-Safá contains a much briefer account of the matter, which agrees in the main with those above alluded to. The Táríkh-i-Jadíd, on the other hand, differs considerably from the Musulmán histories, and supplies us with much new matter. As the versions embodied in the latter are rendered sufficiently accessible to the European reader by Kazem-Beg's narrative, I shall confine myself here to giving a brief presentation of the account according to the Bábí tradition.

        Seyyid Yahyá's father Seyyid Ja'far, surnamed Kashfí or Kashsháf ('the Discloser') because of his skill in the exegesis of the Kur'án and the visions which he claimed to have, seems, according to all accounts, to have been universally respected and revered. Before the events with which we are concerned took place he left his native town of Dáráb and settled in Burújird. His son Seyyid Yahyá would seem to have resided at Teherán for some time previously to the Báb's appearance, but for how long does not appear. At all events, shortly after this took place he (at the command of Muhammad Sháh as stated at p. 7 of the present work, at the request of his disciples and followers according to the Táríkh-i- Jadíd) proceeded to Shíráz with the express object of enquiring into the Báb's claims; and was present, according to the Násikhu't- Tawáríkh, at the Báb's examination before Huseyn Khán on Ramazán 21st A.H. 1261 (Sept. 23rd, A.D. 1845). Although, if we are to give credence to the Musulmán historian's assertions, the Báb scarcely emerged from this ordeal with flying colours, Seyyid Yahyá was sufficiently impressed by what he saw of the young reformer to desire fuller opportunities of conversing with him. The usual result followed. After a brief period of hesitation and doubt, Seyyid Yahyá eagerly embraced the new faith. A long account of his conversion is given in the Táríkh-i-Jadíd, which, interesting as it is, lack of space compels me to omit.

        Seyyid Yahyá does not seem to have remained in Shíráz long after his conversion. The present history (p. 8) states that he "hastened to Burújird to his father Seyyid Ja'far"; the Táríkh-i- Jadíd describes him as "setting out for Yezd";

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while the Násikhu't-Tawáríkh asserts that after the Báb's flight to Isfahán he was informed by Huseyn Khán that "his further sojourn in Fárs was undesirable," and that accordingly he betook himself to Yezd. Whatever his immediate movements on quitting Shíráz may have been (and it is not improbable that he may have visited many towns besides those mentioned to preach the new faith, being, as would appear, commissioned by the Báb so to do) he would seem to have again visited Teherán, and there to have remained for some considerable time. Subh-i-Ezel, in reply to a question which I addressed to him as to the character of Áká Seyyid Yahyá and the truth or falsity of the charge of perfidy brought against him by a certain writer (Kazem-Beg, ii, p. 239), wrote thus:- "The virtue and perfections of His Excellency Áká Seyyid Yahyá were beyond all limits and bounds. He was not such as that historian has described. I bear witness by God and His Spirit that this [historian] has written downright falsehood. Most of the people of Persia admitted his virtue and perfections. I myself in the days of my youth met him several times at night in my own house and elsewhere, and witnessed the perfection of his virtues and endowments"

        The information at our disposal is insufficient to enable us to trace Seyyid Yahyá's movements from the period of his conversion in the autumn of A.D. 1845 till we find him involved in the troubles at Yezd in May 1850. If the reiterated assertions of the Táríkh-i-Jadíd to the effect that he proceeded directly from Shíráz to Yezd, returned directly from Yezd to Shíráz and Níríz, and also visited Teherán, are to be credited, we must suppose that he visited Yezd twice at least during this period. At all events in May 1850 we find him in that city, busily engaged in preaching the Bábí doctrines, and surrounded by a considerable number of followers. The governor of Yezd, Áká Khán, at length considered it advisable to interfere, and sent men to arrest Seyyid Yahyá, who retired with some of his followers to the citadel and prepared to defend himself. An unsuccessful attack on the insurgents' position resulted in a loss of thirty lives to the besiegers and seven to the Bábís.

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        Seyyid Yahyá, however, does not seem to have been altogether satisfied with his position. One night he said, "If anyone could lead out my horse so that I could go forth to put an end to this matter and convey myself to some other place, it would not be a bad thing." A youth named Hasan, distinguished by a singular devotion to Seyyid Yahyá, at once volunteered to make the attempt, and persisted in his purpose in spite of his master's warning that he would be taken and slain. This actually befel. Hasan was captured by the enemy and brought before the governor, who ordered him to be blown from the mouth of gun. So little did this terrible sentence affect the brave youth that he requested that he might be bound with his face towards the cannon so that he might see the match applied. In spite of this untoward event Seyyid Yahyá succeeded in effecting his escape from Yezd in company with one of his disciples. He first made his way to Shíráz, whence he proceeded to Níríz. After his departure, the Bábís at Yezd were soon subdued by the governor, who punished some with death, some with imprisonment, and some with fines.

        No sooner had Seyyid Yahyá reached Níríz than he again began his propaganda, undeterred by the remonstrances and threats of the governor Zeynu'l-'Ábidín Khán. The latter finally called upon the people of Níríz to assist him in forcibly expelling the disturber. Seyyid Yahyá, being apprised of this, repaired to the mosque where his father had been wont to preach, and addressed to the people there assembled an affecting discourse, wherein he reminded them of their former love for himself, declared that his only object was to make him partakers in that faith which had been to him a source of such great happiness, and concluded by conjuring them by the veneration in which they held his father's memory not to suffer themselves to be made the instruments of the governor's malice. Having finished his discourse he left the town accompanied by seventeen of his followers, and took up his abode at an old ruined castle in the neighbourhood.

        Seyyid Yahyá was not suffered to remain long undisturbed. His foes soon discovered his retreat and proceeded to lay siege to it. At first they were unsuccessful, Seyyid

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Yahyá having apparently been joined by a large number of supporters (three hundred according to the Musulmán historian); and indeed the Bábís gained at least one decided victory over their foes. But in a short while the besiegers were re-inforced by troops sent from Shíráz at the command of Fírúz Mírzá, the new governor of Fárs, and commanded by Mihr 'Alí Khán Shujá'u'l-Mulk of Núr and Mustafá-Kulí Khán Kára- gúzlú. The arrival of these troops greatly dispirited the besieged; many of the less ardent deserted, and in a short time the occupants of the castle were reduced to seventy.

        In spite of the defections from their ranks, the Bábís (according to the Táríkh-i-Jadíd) continued to defend themselves with such vigour that the besiegers were fain to have recourse to treachery similar in character to that whereby Sheykh Tabarsí and Zanján were finally subdued. They sent a message to Seyyid Yahyá asking him to come to their camp and hold a peaceful consultation with the royalist leaders, and assuring him with oaths registered on the Kur'án that no harm should befal him at their hands. Seyyid Yahyá, in spite of the remonstrances and warnings of his followers, acquiesced in the proposed arrangement, and forthwith betook himself to the besiegers' camp. He was at first received with courtesy and treated with all respect, but when, on the following morning, he attempted to leave the tent which had been assigned to him, he was prevented by the sentinels from so doing. The Bábís, becoming aware in some way of the insult offered to their chief, made a sudden sortie and succeeded in greatly discomfiting their foes. Thereupon the officers of the besieging army hastened to Seyyid Yahyá's tent and remonstrated with him on the action of his followers, reminding him that he had agreed to co-operate with them in striving to bring about a peaceful settlement. Seyyid Yahyá in turn reproached them with wanton violation of good faith in confining him to his tent, which conduct on their part, he assured them, was the sole cause of what had now occurred. The royalist officers apologised for the insult offered, which, they declared, they had in no wise sanctioned, and finally prevailed on Seyyid Yahyá to write to his followers instructing them to lay down their arms, evacuate their

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fortress, and return to their homes. The Bábís faithfully obeyed the commands of their chief, but no sooner were they disbanded and scattered than they were seized by the soldiers and brought in chains to the camp, while their houses were given over to plunderers.

        The besiegers, having now gained their object, readily forgot their oaths and plighted troth. Seyyid Yahyá was strangled with this own girdle by one of whose two brothers had been killed during the siege, and the other Bábís likewise died by the hands of the executioner. The heads of the victims were stuffed with straw1, and, bearing with them these grim trophies of their prowess, together with some forty or fifty Bábí women and one child of tender age as captives, the victorious army returned to Shíráz. Their entry into that city was made the occasion of general rejoicings; the captives were paraded through the streets and bazaars and finally brought before Prince Fírúz Mírzá, who was feasting in a summer-house called Kuláh-i-Firangí. In his presence Mihr 'Alí Khán, Mírzá Na'ím, and the other officers recounted the details of their victory, and received congratulations and marks of favour. The captive women were finally imprisoned in an old caravansaray outside the Isfahán gate. What treatment they experienced at the hands of their captors is left to our conjecture. Twelve Bábís who had escaped from Níríz to Isfahán were there captured and sent to Shíráz where they were executed. Thus ended the first Níríz insurrection.

        The second insurrection occurred about two years later. A number of Bábís took refuge with their wives and children in the mountains about Níríz, and for a long while offered a vigorous and successful resistance to those who strove to dislodge them. They even attacked the town and killed the governor Zeynu'l-'Ábidín Khán - the chief author of their sufferings - while he was at the bath. Finally troops were sent from Shíráz by the governor Tahmásp Mírzá, and these, aided by the tribesmen of Dáráb and Sábúnát, succeeded at length in stamping out the insurrec-

        1 Concerning this disgusting practice compare Eastwick's Diplomate's Residence in Persia, vol. ii, pp. 55-56.

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tion. The fate of the captives was in every respect similar to that which had befallen their predecessors.

        The author of the Táríkh-i- Jadíd in concluding this narrative takes occasion to point out how literally was fulfilled in these events the prophecy contained in a tradition referring to the signs which shall mark the appearance of Imám Mahdí:-

[five lines of Persian/Arabic text]

        "In him [shall be] the perfection of Moses, the preciousness of Jesus, and the patience of Job; his saints shall be abased in his time, and their heads shall be exchanged as presents, even as the heads of the Turk and the Deylamite are exchanged as presents; they shall be slain and burned, and shall be afraid, fearful, and dismayed; the earth shall be dyed with their blood, and lamentation and wailing shall prevail amongst their women; these are my saints indeed"1

        When I was at Yezd in the early summer of 1888, I became acquainted with a Bábí holding a position of some importance under government, two of whose ancestors had taken a prominent part in the suppression of the Níríz insurrection. Of what he told me concerning this the following is a summary taken from my diary for May 18th, 1888:-

        "My maternal grandfather Mihr 'Alí Khán Shujá'u'l-Mulk and my great-uncle Mírzá Na'ím both took an active

        1 This tradition, called [~~~] is also quoted from the Káfí (one of the principal compilations of Shi'ite traditions) in the Ikán.

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part in the Níríz war - but on the wrong side. When orders came to Shíráz to quell the insurrection, my grandfather was instructed to take command of the expedition sent for that purpose. He did not like the task committed to him and communicated his reluctance to two of the 'Ulamá, who, however, re- assured him, declaring that the war on which he was about to engage was a holy enterprise sanctioned by Religion, and that he would receive reward therefor in Paradise. So he went, and what happened happened. After they had killed 750 men, they took the women and children, stripped them almost naked, mounted them on donkeys, mules, and camels, and led them through rows of heads hewn from the lifeless bodies of their fathers, brothers, sons, and husbands towards Shíráz. On their arrival there, they were placed in a ruined caravansaray just outside the Isfahán gate and opposite to an Imám- zádé, their captors taking up their quarters under some trees hard by. Here they remained for a long while, subjected to many insults and hardships, and many of them died.

        "Now see the judgement of God on the oppressors; for of those chiefly responsible for these cruelties not one but came to a bad end and died overwhelmed with calamity.

        "My grandfather Mihr 'Alí Khán presently fell ill and was dumb till the day of his death. Just as he was about to expire, those who stood round him saw from the movement of his lips that he was whispering something. They leant down to catch his last words and heard him murmur faintly 'Bábí! Bábí! Bábí!' three times. Then he fell back dead.

        "My great-uncle Mírzá Na'ím fell into disgrace with the government and was twice fined, 10,000 túmáns the first time, 15,000 the second. But his punishment did not cease here, for he was made to suffer diverse tortures. His hands were put in the el- chek1 and his feet in the tang-i- Kájár2; he was made to stand bare-headed in the sun

        1 The torture called el-chek consists in placing pieces of wood between the victim's fingers, binding them round tightly with cord. Cold water is then thrown over the cord to cause its further contraction.
        2 The tang-i- Kájár or 'Kájár squeeze' is an instrument of torture resembling the 'boot' once used in England, for the introduction of which (as its name implies) Persia is indebted to the dynasty which at present occupies the throne.

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with treacle smeared over his head to attract the flies; and, after suffering these and other torments yet more painful and humiliating, he was dismissed a disgraced and ruined man."1

        Áká Seyyid Yahyá was, as Subh-i-Ezel informed me, not more than forty years old at the time of his death. A certain Bábí named Biyúk Áká used to say jestingly, "I like a handsome 'Commander of the Faithful' like Seyyid Yahyá, not an ugly old man bent double with age like Mullá Sheykh 'Alí."

        Major-General Sir Frederick Goldsmith was kind enough to call my attention to the following passage in Lovett's Surveys on the road from Shíráz to Bam (Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, 1872):-

        "It (i.e. Níríz) is divided into three parishes or mahallas; that to the South, termed the 'Mahalla-i- Bábí' is well known to be peopled almost entirely by Bábís, who, though they do not openly profess their faith in the teachings of Seyyid 'Alí Muhammad the Báb, still practise the principles of communism he inculcated. It is certain, moreover, that the tolerance which was one of the precepts inculcated by the Báb is here shewed, for not only was I invited to make use of the public hammám, if I required it, but quarters were assigned to me in a madrasa."

        Is it in the least degree probable that, if Seyyid Yahyá's conduct had been such as Kazem-Beg describes it, Níríz should have continued so long one of the strongholds of that faith whereof he was the apostle?

        1 Another yet more striking instance of Divine vengeance was related to me in the same connection, but I omit it as not bearing on the present subject. The belief prevalent amongst the Bábís, that signal punishment befalls those who are most active in persecuting them, is strangely supported not only by the above instances but by the fates of the Amír-Nizám (Gobineau, pp. 253-254), of Mahmúd Khán the Kalántar (Gobineau, p. 295), of Sheykh Bákir, and others (B. i, pp. 491-492).
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