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Materials for the Study of the Babi Religion

compiled and translated by E. G. Browne.
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Chapter 5

[Note: The first part of Chapter 5, pages 265-268, appear to be missing.]     "Amongst the documents referring to the Bábís in my possession is a manuscript copy of an article in German published on October 17, 1852 in No. 291 of some German or Austrian newspaper of which, unhappily, the name is not noted. I think that I received it a good many years ago from the widow of the late Dr. Polak, an Austrian doctor, who was a physician to Násiri'd-Dín Sháh at the beginning of his reign, and who is the author of a valuable book and several smaller treatises on Persia and matters connected therewith. It is chiefly based on a letter written on August 29, 1852, by an Austrian officer, Captain von Goumoens, who was in the Sháh's service, but who was so disgusted, and horrified at the cruelties he was compelled to witness that he sent in his resignation1. The translation of this article is as follows.

(Number 291. October 17th, 1852.)

    "Some days ago we mentioned the attempt made on the life of the Sháh of Persia on the occasion of a hunting-party. The conspirators, as is well known, belonged to the Bábís, a religious sect. Concerning this sect and the repressive measures adopted against it, the letter of Austrian Captain von Goumoens lately published in the "Soldier's Friend" (Soldatenfreund) contains interesting disclosures, and

    1 Compare for details of this massacre Traveller's Narrative, ii, pp. 323—334.


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MATERIALS FOR THE STUDY OF THE BÁBÍ RELIGION

elucidates to some extent the attempt in question. This letter runs as follows:

"Tihran, August 29, 1852.

    "'Dear Friend, My last letter of the 20th inst. mentioned the attempt on the King. I will now communicate to you the result of the interrogation to which the two criminals were subjected. In spite of the terrible tortures inflicted, the examination extorted no comprehensive confession; the lips of the fanatics remained closed, even when by means of red- hot pincers and limb-rending screws they sought to discover the chief conspirator....


V.
AUSTRIAN OFFICER'S NARRATIVE
269

But follow me, my friend, you who lay claim to a heart and European ethics, follow me to the unhappy ones who, with gouged-out eyes, must eat, on the scene of the deed, without any sauce, their own amputated ears; or whose teeth are torn out with inhuman violence by the hand of the executioner; or whose bare skulls are simply crushed by blows from a hammer; or where the bázár is illuminated with unhappy victims, because on right and left the people dig deep holes in their breasts and shoulders and insert burning wicks in the wounds. I saw some dragged in chains through the bázár preceded by a military band, in whom these wicks had burned so deep that now the fat flickered convulsively in the wound like a newly-extinguished lamp.

    "'Not seldom it happens that the unwearying ingenuity


270
MATERIALS FOR THE STUDY OF THE BÁBÍ RELIGION

of the Orientals leads to fresh tortures. They will skin the soles of the Bábí's feet, soak the wounds in boiling oil, shoe the foot like the hoof of a horse, and compel the victim to run. No cry escaped from the victim's breast; the torment is endured in dark silence by the numbed sensation of the fanatic; now he must run; the body cannot endure what the soul has endured; he falls. Give him the coup de grâce! Put him out of his pain! No! The executioner swings the whip, and--I myself have had to witness it--the unhappy victim of hundredfold tortures and runs! This is the beginning of the end. As for the end itself, they hang the scorched and perforated bodies by their hands and feet to a tree head downwards, and now every Persian may try his marksmanship to heart's content from a fixed but not too proximate distance on the noble quarry placed at his disposal. I saw corpses torn by nearly 150 bullets....


V.
AUSTRIAN OFFICER'S NARRATIVE
271

    "'When I read over again what I have written I am overcome by the thought that those who are with you in our dearly beloved Austria may doubt the full truth of the picture, and accuse me of exaggeration. Would to God that I had not lived to see it! But by the duties of my profession I was unhappily often, only too often, a witness of these abominations. At present I never leave my house, in order not to meet with fresh scenes of horror. After their death the Bábís are hacked in two and either nailed to the city gate, or cast out into the plain as food for the dogs and jackals. Thus the punishment extends even beyond the limits which bound this bitter world, for Musulmáns who are not buried have no right to enter the Prophet's Paradise.

    "'Since my whole soul revolts against such infamy, against such abominations as recent times, according to the judgment of all, present, I will no longer maintain my connection with the scene of such crimes...1.'

    1He goes on to say that he has already asked for his discharge, but has not yet received an answer.

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