E. G. Browne's
"A Traveller's Narrative:" Note T [page 323]
THE ATTEMPT ON THE SHÁH'S LIFE AND THE MASSACRE OF TEHERÁN.
The attempted assassination of Násiru'd-Din Sháh on Sunday August 15th, 1852, though very lightly touched on in the present work, is so fully described by the two Musulmán historians, Lady Sheil, Gobineau, Polak, Kazem-Beg and others, that I shall confine myself here to reproducing the substance of what was told me about this event by the nephew of one of the three Bábís actually engaged in the plot. This account naturally exhibits the Sháh's behaviour in a less heroic light than do the Musulmán chroniclers Sipihr and Rizá-Kulí Khán. I give it only for what it is worth, thinking that here, as elsewhere, the truth my lie between the two extremes.
According to this account, then, the Bábí conspirators were originally seven in number, but four of them drew back at the last moment from the projected enterprise. The three who actually made the attempt were Mullá Fathu'lláh of Kum, Sádik. of Zanján, and Mírzá Muhammad of Níríz1. These three approached the Sháh as he was riding out to the chase somewhat in advance of his retinue from the Palace of Niyávarán. The Sháh, supposing that they had some petition to prefer, allowed them to draw near without suspicion. When within a short distance of him one of the three Bábís (apparently the Nírízí) drew a pistol from his pocket and fired at the Sháh. Mullá
1 According to Násikhu't-Tawáríkh the conspirators were originally twelve in number. Of these, the names of four only - Sádik of Zanján, Mírzá 'Abdu'l-Wahháb of Shíráz, Mullá Fathu'-lláh of Kum, and Muhammad Bákir of Najafábád - are given. It is subsequently stated that all save three drew back at the last, and that of these three one was "a man of Níríz" (presumably the same Mírzá Muhammad mentioned above). Lady Sheil (op. cit., p. 274) says that four Bábís took part in the attack.
Fathu'-lláh of Kum then threw himself upon the King and dragged him from his horse on to the ground, meaning to cut his throat1. The Sháh, having almost fainted with terror, was already incapable of offering any further resistance, when a farrásh (still living, and, thanks to the service rendered by him on that day, in the enjoyment of a good pension) came up, struck the would-be assassin in the mouth, and cut down one of the other two conspirators. A moment after, one of the mustawfís arrived on the spot and threw himself as a shield on the Shah's body. The Sháh, imagining that it was another assassin, cried out, "Why do you wish to kill me? What harm have I done?" "It is I," answered the mustawfí, "all danger is past. Fear not." All danger was in fact over. As soon as it was evident that the attempt had failed and that the Sháh still lived, other retainers, who had at first hung back2, hastened forward to bear a part in the seizure of the two surviving assassins (for Sádik. of Zanján had already been killed). The two captives, on being interrogated, declared that they were Bábís, and that they had made the attempt with a view to avenging the blood of their Master. In spite of their frank confession, it was at first believed that the object of the attempt was political, and that it had been instigated by some rival claimant to the throne. Sádik. of Zanján, who was killed on the spot, was described by Subh-i-Ezel as a youth of short stature with very small eyes. He was the servant of Mullá Sheykh 'Alí ('Jenáb-i-'Azím') from whom he is said to have received the pistol with which he was armed. According to Subh-i-Ezel he alone fired at and wounded the Sháh, but the Násikhu't-Tawáríkh states that each of the three assassins discharged his pistol.
With regard to the Sháh's behaviour, it may not be altogether uninstructive to compare with the above account the following passage from the Násikhu't-Tawáríkh:- "The dust of perturbation settled not on the skirt of the
1 According to Gobineau (p. 282) the conspirators did not succeed in unhorsing the King. See also p. 289 of the same work. Lady Sheil, however, (op. cit., p. 274) says that the Sháh was dragged to the ground. 2 Cf. Polak's Persien, vol. i. p. 352.
patience and self-control of the King, whose elemental material God the Creator had leavened with the liver of the lion, the heart of Ardashír, the ardour of Shápúr, and the majesty of Tímúr; nor did the pellucid stream of his mind become troubled by the foulness and filth of these events. Neither did he urge his horse to leap aside, nor did he utter a word indicative of alarm or consternation. He kept his place on his poplar-wood saddle like some mountain of massive rocks, and, notwithstanding that wound, turned not aside in any direction, and carried not his hand to his hurt, so that those present in his escort knew not that any hurt had befallen the king or that he had suffered any wound."
Ká'ání of Shíráz, the most famous and the most talented of modern Persian poets, has two kasídas in celebration of the Sháh's escape from this danger. These will be found respectively at p. 26 and p. 254 of the edition of his works published at Teherán in A. H. 1302 (A.D. 1884). Although they add no new facts to the sum of our knowledge, they agree with the authorities already cited in stating that the attempt took place at the end of the month of Shawwál, and that those actually concerned therein were three in number. Thus in the first kasídaKá'ání says:-
[four lines of Persian/Arabic text]
"At the end of Shawwál the King rode forth to hunt,
Heaven by his reins and the sun beside his stirrup,
When suddenly three persons sprang forth from ambush, and swiftly hurled
Fiery darts towards the King, the Lord of [men's] necks."
So in the second kasída he says:-
[six lines of Persian/Arabic text]
"Henceforth keep the end of Shawwál as a festival every year;
Invite the servants of the King from every quarter.
Ho, say, 'Come, O beloved! Go, O anchorite! Give, O treasurer!'
Ho, say, 'Give, O cup-bearer! Play, O harper! Sing, O minstrel!'
Name it 'the Feast of Sacrifice of the King,' and, like sheep1
Cut off the heads of enemies in the path of the victorious King."
Between the attempt on the Sháh's life and the fearful vengeance wherewith it was visited on the Bábís a whole month appears to have elapsed, for the executions are stated by the Násikhu't-Tawáríkh to have taken place on Wednesday the salkh (i.e. the last day) of Zi'l-Ka'da A.H. 1268 (September 15th, A.D. 1852). It must not be supposed, however, that this month was idly spent by the government officials. Messengers were at once despatched
1 The custom of shewing honour to a great man returning home from a journey by decapitating a sheep and throwing the bleeding head across his path is still maintained in Persia.
to all parts of the kingdom to publish the failure of the plot and the safety of the Sháh. The police of Teherán, instructed to make a diligent search for members of the obnoxious sect1, succeeded in surprising a gathering of a dozen Bábís in the house of Hájí Suleymán Khán2 the son of Yahyá Khán of Tabríz, and other arrests soon raised the total number of captives to nearly forty. Some few of these were able to prove their innocence in a manner which satisfied even their judges, little disposed as they were towards acquittals. Amongst these the Násikhu't-Tawáríkhmentions five, to wit:- Mírzá Huseyn 'Alí of Núr [Behá'u'lláh]; Mírzá Suleymán-Kulí; Mírzá Mahmúd, nephew of the above; Áká 'Abdu'lláh, the son of Áká Muhammad Ja'far; and Mírzá Jawád of Khurásán; all of whom were committed to prison pending further investigations.
The majority of those arrested, however, were condemned to death; and, according to the list given in the Násikhu't-Tawáríkh, twenty-eight of them expiated their faith with their lives. I say 'their faith' advisedly, for some of those doomed to death, such as Kurratu'l-'Ayn and Áká Seyyid Huseyn of Yezd, had long been in strict confinement, and could not by any possibility have been concerned in the conspiracy. Others, such as Mullá Huseyn of Khurásán, were convicted solely on the evidence of Bábí writings found on their persons or in their houses. When a verdict of 'Not Guilty' bids fair to jeopardize the judge's reputation for loyalty, if not to place him in actual peril, acquittals in such a country as Persia are hard to win.
Weak as the evidence of criminality was in many cases, there could be little hope of averting the impending butchery; for so audacious an attempt demanded a commensurate revenge calculated to strike terror into the hearts of all. Efforts were nevertheless made by some of the European representatives at the Persian court to induce the Sháh to content himself with the execution of the condemned without subjecting them to the tortures which there was but too much reason to apprehend would be
1 Cf. Gobineau, p. 284 et seq. 2Násikhu't-Tawáríkh
superadded to the death-penalty1. These efforts were fruitless. The Sháh's alarm and anger, far from diminishing, were constantly stimulated by the representations of his ministers, who succeeded in convincing him of the existence of a wide-spread disaffection which could only be checked by the most stringent measures2. Nor was this sense of dread confined to the King: it reacted on those who had inspired it, until, in Gobineau's words, "On ne savait plus sur quel terrain on se trouvait, et, faute de réalités qu'on ne saisissait pas, qui fuyaient devant toutes les recherches, on voyait errer autour de soi une multitude de fantômes. L'épouvante devint générale au camp du roi....En face, on avait une quarantaine de captifs muets; mais par derrière, savait-on ce qui s'agitait?"3
Then, because of this great fear, was devised that devilish scheme whereby all classes of society should be made to share in the bloodshed of that fatal day. It was suggested that if the responsibility for the doom of the captives rested solely on the Sháh, the Prime Minister, or the ordinary administrators of the law, these would become thereafter targets for the vengeance of the Bábís. If, on the other hand, a partition of the prisoners were made amongst the different classes; if a representative body of each of these classes were made responsible for the execution of one or more Bábís; and if it were further signified to the persons thus forced to act the part of executioners that the Sháh would be able to estimate their loyalty to himself by the manner in which they disposed of their victims4, then all classes, being equally partakers in the blood of the slain, would be equally exposed to the retaliation of the survivors, from whom they would be therefore effectually and permanently alienated, while at the same time the Sháh himself would avoid incurring the odium of the massacre. Such were the "Machiavellian means"5 adopted for the extirpation of the supposed conspirators.
Of the victims of that day the Násikhu't-Tawáríkh
1 Lady Sheil's Glimpses of Life and Manners in Persia, p. 276. 2 Polak's Persien, vol. I. p. 352. 3 Gobineau, p. 290. 4 Gobineau, p. 292 5 Polak's Persien, vol. I. p. 352.
gives a complete list, which I here append. This list I read over to Subh-i-Ezel. The comments thereon made by him are added in square brackets.
(1) Mullá Sheykh 'Alí ("Jenáb-i-'Azím") was killed by the 'Ulamá.
(2) Seyyid Hasan Khurásání was hacked in pieces by the Princes.
(3) Mullá Zeynu'l-'Ábidín of Yezd was killed by the Mustawfís. [The Mustawfí'ul-memálik (Secretary of State), unwilling to shed blood, shut his eyes and fired his gun in the air, while another Mustawfí named Ibrahím of Núr only touched the prisoner with his penknife, leaving the bloody work to others less scrupulous. Mullá Zeynu'l-'Ábidín had succeeded once in escaping from his pursuers at Kum by throwing a handful of dust in their eyes]
(4) Mullá Huseyn of Khurásán was killed by the Nizámu'l-Mulk, Mírzá Sa'íd Khán, and the employés of the Foreign Office. [He had held no communication with Hájí Suleymán Khán or the other chief Bábís at Teherán, where he had but recently rented a house. A fragment of Bábí writing found in his house was the sole ground whereon he was convicted.]
(5) Mírzá 'Abdu 'l-Wahháb of Shíráz ['a youth of good understanding'] was killed by Ja'far-Kuli Khán the Prime Minister's brother, and his sons Mírzá 'Alí Khán, Músá Khán, and Zú'l-Fikár Khán.
(6) Mullá Fathu'lláh of Kum, the son of Mullá 'Alí Sahháf, who had fired the shot which wounded the King, was killed by Hájí 'Alí Khán the Hájibu'd-Dawla and his farráshes. Several incisions were made in his body, and in these lighted candles were inserted. After he had been tortured in this fashion for some time, the Hájibu'd-Dawla shot him in the back, and he was then hacked in pieces by the farráshes with knives. His execution took place at Niyávarán. [Subh-i-Ezel confirmed the fact that he suffered torture by lighted candles inserted in wounds inflicted on his body, but asserted that he, together with Hájí Suleymán Khán, was sawn in two.]
(7) Sheykh 'Abbás of Teherán was killed by the Kháns and nobles. [According to Subh-i-Ezel, however, he was suffered to escape privily.]
(8) Muhammad Bákir of Najafábád (near Isfahán), who had, on his own confession, taken an active part in the insurrections of Mázandarán and Zanján, was killed by the písh-khidmats (pages in waiting).
(9) Muhammad Takí of Shíráz was delivered over to the Mír-ákhúr (Master of the Horse) and the attendants of the Royal Stables. These first nailed iron horse-shoes on his feet, and then, in the words of the Musulmán historian, "broke up his head and body with clubs and nails."
(10) Muhammad of Najafábád was killed by the Eshik-ákásí-báshí, the Járchí-báshí, the Nasakchí-báshí, and their attendants.
(11) Mírzá Muhammad of Níríz, who had fought for the Bábí cause at Níríz, Sheykh Tabarsí, and Zanján1, was killed by Mírzá Muhammad Khán the Sar-kishík (captain of the guard) and the Yúz-báshís (centurions).
(12) Muhammad 'Alí of Najafábád was delivered over to the artillerymen. They first plucked out his eyes, and then blew him from the mouth of a gun.
(13) Áká Seyyid Huseyn of Yezd (see preceding note, pp. 319-322) was killed by 'Azíz Khán Ajúdán-báshí, and the brigadier-generals, colonels, captains, and other officers.
(14) Áká Mahdí of Káshán (see note 1 on p. 46 supra) was slain by the farráshes.
(15) Mírzá Nabí of Damávand [a youth about twenty-one years of age] was sent to the College (Dáru'l-funún) of Teherán, by the professors and students of which he was torn to pieces.
(16) Mírzá Rafí' of Núr [a relation of Subh-i-Ezel's, aged about fifty years, and noted for his skill in calligraphy] was killed by the cavalry.
(17) Mírzá Mahmúd of Kazvín was hewn in pieces with daggers and knives by the men of the camel-artillery (zambúrakchíyán).
(18) Huseyn of Mílán, called by the Bábís "Abú 'Abdi'lláh," was slain by the soldiers with spears. [According
1 As the risings at Zanján and Níríz were almost simultaneous, though the former was not suppressed for two months after the termination of the latter, it would appear very improbable that any one person could have taken an active part in both.
to Subh-i-Ezel, Huseyn of Mílán acted most discreditably, being at once the most turbulent and eager for mischief and the most pusillanimous of those who professed to follow the Báb. When he came to Teherán from Tabríz, he took up his abode in the house of Hájí Suleymán Khán. While resident there, he began to advance various claims to spiritual authority, first declaring himself to be a reincarnation of the Imám Huseyn, and then "He Whom God shall manifest," whose coming the Báb had foretold. A considerable number of persons became his disciples, and, encouraged by this success, he seems to have meditated some act of violence, which was, however, discovered and frustrated by Subh-i-Ezel. He had a brother named Ja'far, who gave himself out as "King of Baghdad." Huseyn of Mílán, when arrested, would have saved himself by recanting and disclaiming all fellowship with the Bábís, but, while he was under examination, a child came in, and mockingly greeted him with the words "Es-selámu 'aleykum, yá Imám Huseyn" ("Peace be upon you, O Imám Huseyn!"). This sufficed to secure his conviction. It is worth noting that three other persons1 besides Huseyn of Mílán advanced vain claims to supreme authority in the Bábí church, to wit, Mírzá Asadu'llah of Tabríz surnamed Deyyan (see Gobineau, pp. 277-278); Seyyid Huseyn of Hindiyán near Muhammara, who gathered round him about forty disciples, and who, though not recognised or accredited by the Bábí chiefs, continued to send greetings to them while they were in exile at Baghdad; and Sheykh Isma'íl, believed to be still alive, who subsequently withdrew the claim which he had advanced.]
(19) Mullá 'Abdu'l-Karím of Kazvín (called by the Bábís "Mírzá Ahmad-i-Kátib"; see note 2 on p. 41 supra) was killed by the artillerymen.
(20) Lutf-'Alí of Shíráz was put to death by the royal footmen.
(21) Najaf of Khamsa was delivered over to the people of the city, who "with sticks and stones crimsoned the earth with his blood."
1 But see Note W infra, where, on the authority of the Ezelí controversial work called Hasht Bihisht, other pretenders are mentioned.
(22) Hájí Mírzá Jání of Káshán, the merchant, was delivered over to Áká Mahdí the chief of the merchants (Maliku't-tujjár), and the other merchants and shop-keepers of the city, "each of whom inflicted a wound on him until he perished." [According to Subh-i-Ezel, Hájí Mírzá Jání took refuge in the sanctuary of Sháh 'Abdu'l-'Azím, which is situated about four miles south of Teherán. The sanctuary was, however, not respected in his case, and he was dragged forth. In compensation for this violation of the holy place the Sháh plated or replated the roof of the shrine with gold. Of Hájí Mírzá Jání's death Subh-i-Ezel gave a different version, according to which he was strangled with the bowstring. After he was let down, being supposed to be dead, he half raised himself, opened his eyes, gazed at his executioners, and then fell back dead. He had three brothers, two of whom were also Bábís. Of these two, one, Hájí Mírzá Ismá'íl, died in Teherán. The other, Hájí Mírzá Ahmad, was killed in Baghdad by certain Behá'ís1, he being one of those who refused to transfer their allegiance from Subh-i-Ezel to Behá. The Táríkh-i-Jadíd makes frequent mention of Hájí Mírzá Jání, and repeatedly quotes from a history of the Bábí movement which he wrote.]
(23) Hasan of Khamsa was slain by Nasru'lláh Khán the superintendent of the royal kitchen and his myrmidons.
(24) Muhammad Bákir of Kuhpáyé was slain by the Kájár chiefs with their swords.
(25) The body of Sádik. of Zanján, who was slain, as above narrated, while attacking the Sháh, was cut into several pieces, which were suspended from the different gates of Teherán.
(26) Hájí Suleymán Khán, the son of Yahyá Khán of Tabríz, and -
(27) Kásim of Níríz, who regarded himself as the successor of Seyyid Yahyá of Dáráb, were, by command of Áká Hasan the deputy-chief of the farráshes, wounded in many parts of their bodies, and in these wounds lighted candles were inserted. The two unfortunate men were thus paraded through the streets and bazaars of the city to
1 See Note W infra.
the sound of minstrelsy, while dust and ashes were hurled upon them by the spectators. After being made to traverse a great distance in this fashion, they were led out of the city, and sawn asunder into four quarters outside the Sháh 'Abdu'l-'Azím gate by the farráshes of the gaol. Their mangled remains were then attached to the city gates. [Vámbéry (Wanderungen und Erlebnisse in Persien, Pest, 1867, p. 299) gives a quite different account of Suleymán Khán's martyrdom, which runs as follows:- "Suleiman Chan, ein wohl-beleibter Mann, hatte zuerst vier Schnitte in die Brust bekommen, in welche brennende Kerzen gesteckt wurden und man führte ihn so lange im Bazar herum, bis das Wachs der Kerzen von den Flammen verzehrt war und der Docht sich später am herausfliessenden Fett des Delinquenten nähren musste. Darauf wurde ihm glühende schwere Hufeisen auf die nackten Fusssohlen angeschlagen und aufs Neue wurde er herum geführt, bis man ihm endlich alle Zähne vom Munde herausriss und in der Form eines Halbmondes auf den Schädel einschlug. Da starb er erst." The extraordinary heroism with which Suleymán Khán bore these frightful tortures is notorious, and I have repeatedly heard it related how he ceased not during the long agony which he endured to testify his joy that he should be accounted worthy to suffer martyrdom for his Master's cause. He even sang and recited verses of poetry, amongst them the following:-
[two lines of Persian/Arabic text]
"I have returned! I have returned! I have come by the way of Shíráz!
I have come with winsome airs and graces! Such is the lover's madness!"
"Why do you not dance," asked the executioners mockingly, "since you find death so pleasant?" "Dance!" cried Suleymán Khán-
[two lines of Persian/Arabic text]
"'In one hand the wine-cup, in one hand the tresses of the Friend -
Such a dance in the midst of the market-place is my desire!'"]
(28) Last by not least amongst the victims of that fatal day was the beautiful and accomplished Kurratu'l-'Ayn, who had been imprisoned for two or three years previously in the house of Mahmúd Khán the Kalántar. Concerning her life and death, see Note Q, supra.
Gobineau (pp. 301-302) and Vámbéry (op cit., pp. 299-300) both assert that amongst the martyrs of that day were women and children, who rivalled the men in the fortitude wherewith they met death; but of this assertion (except as regards Kurratu'l-'Ayn) I have been unable to obtain any corroborative evidence from Musulmán or Bábí tradition. The crimes and cruelties which that day beheld are black enough without going beyond even the Muhammadan chronicles, and one would be reluctant to add to them, unless compelled to do so by convincing evidence. The wife of Hájí Suleymán Khán would appear from Subh-i-Ezel's account to have been in imminent peril, but by eating flies she induced so violent an attack of vomiting that her gaolers, believing her to be stricken with a mortal sickness, released her. Two women related to Subh-i-Ezel were arrested and imprisoned for a while in the house of Mahmúd Khán the Kalántar, but were subsequently sent back to their homes at Núr. A large reward was offered for the apprehension of Subh-i-Ezel (then residing at Núr), who actually conversed for some time with one of those sent out to arrest him without being recognized.