ʿALĪ-QOLĪ KHAN (d. 1240/1824-25), the youngest of nine sons of Moḥammad Ḥasan Khan Qāǰār and half brother of Āḡā (more correctly Āqā) Moḥammad Khan. Born in 1169/1755-56 in Astarābād (Nāseḵ-al-tawārīḵ I, p. 28), he was brought to Qazvīn by order of Karīm Khan after the defeat and death of his father (1172/1758-59). His childhood and early youth were spent under surveillance in Shiraz together with his other brothers. The confusion resulting from the death of Karīm Khan (1193/1779) allowed him to accompany his eldest brother Āḡā Moḥammad Khan in his flight to Astarābād (Rawżat al-ṣafā IX, p. 128). Except for brief intervals ʿAlī-qolī remained in the service of Āḡā Moḥammad Khan for the next two decades and took part in his efforts to establish control over the whole country. He seldom matched his elder brothers in military skill and never gained an independent position in the tribe. Āḡā Moḥammad reportedly nicknamed him Āḡā Bāǰī, a title which may allude to certain femininity in his behavior or to his lack of cruelty (Nāseḵ al-tawārīḵ I, p. 89); yet his support helped Āḡā Moḥammad in the early conflicts with his brothers (1193-96/1779-82). In 1196/1781 he and Āḡā Moḥammad succeeded in pushing the Kurdish and Arab tribal chiefs of northern Khorasan out of Semnān, which he was then given as a soyūrḡāl or “fiefdom” (Montaẓam-e Nāṣerī III, pp. 36-37). Shortly afterwards, ʿAlī-qolī played a major role in bringing Ḵᵛār and Varāmīn (thirty miles southeast of Tehran) under Āḡā Moḥammad’s control; this area was the seat of the rival Develū faction of the Qajar tribe, whose loyalty and support was essential for tribal unity, a fact which may explain the choice of Tehran as capital.
In 1198/1783 the continuing struggle between Zands and Qajars persuaded ʿAlī-qolī to make a bid for power. Abandoning Āḡā Moḥammad, he came to terms with the Zand chiefs, perhaps in the hope of gaining control over central Iran. Āḡā Moḥammad retreated to Astarābād, but the dwindling power of the Zands soon gave him a chance to restore his position. ʿAlī-qolī repented and benefited from Āḡā Moḥammad’s unusual policy of clemency and reconciliation towards his brothers. As the latter’s position became consolidated in the north, ʿAlī-qolī was commissioned to fight in a series of at least six campaigns which eventually liquidated the Zands and other petty states in the south. In 1200/1785-86 he subdued the remnants of the Faylī Lors of the extreme southwest (Rawżat al-ṣafā IX, p. 202). In 1202/1787-88 he accompanied Āḡā Moḥammad on his unsuccessful Fārs campaign. On the way back he was instructed to command a force of 2,000 stationed in Isfahan, but when outnumbered by the forces of Jaʿfar Khan Zand, he retreated to Kāšān; shortly afterward he returned with Āḡā Moḥammad and captured the city (Montaẓam-e Nāṣerī III, p. 37). In 1204/1789-90, during Āḡā Moḥammad’s second assault on Fārs, he led a contingent of 7,000 and subdued the Lor tribes of Kohgīlūya; his success was largely due to their willingness to give up their loyalty to the erratic Zands and recognize the Qajars. In the Kermān campaign of 1208/1793-94 he captured Šahr-e Bābak and Sīrǰān. He was later sent to assume control over the Lār region. During the invasion of the Caucasus, he was dispatched first to Šīrvān and then to Īravān (Erevan).
In the confusion that followed Āḡā Moḥammad Khan’s assassination (1211/1797) and the disintegration of his camp in Shusha ʿAlī-qolī moved the forces under his control towards Tehran. As the only surviving son of Moḥammad Ḥasan Khan, he considered it his right to ascend the throne (Nāseḵ al-tawārīḵ I, p. 89), despite the fact that his young nephew Bābā Khan (later Fatḥ-ʿAlī Shah) had for long been groomed by Āḡā Moḥammad for the succession. Upon his arrival at the city gates, ʿAlī-qolī was prevented from entering and obliged to remain in the fortress of ʿAlīšāh ʿEwaz, nineteen miles west of Tehran. When Fatḥ-ʿAlī Shah entered the city, he took the advice of Ḥāǰǰī Ebrāhīm Khan Eʿtemād-al-dawla Šīrāzī and dispatched his brother Ḥosayn-qolī Khan II to ʿAlī-qolī, who was persuaded to come to the capital for further negotiations. He was invited to attend a royal audience “to settle the terms of the [shah’s] rule.” Separated from his bodyguards, he was physically forced to bow before Fatḥ-ʿAlī Shah, all the while cursing him, and then led to an adjacent room and blinded. He was sent to exile in Bārforūš (modern Bābol), where he died in 1240/1824-25.
Aḥmad Mīrzā ʿAżod-al-dawla, Tārīḵ-eʿAżodī, ed.
K. Kermānī, 2nd ed., Tehran, 1328 Š./1949, pp. 76, 90.
Bāmdād, Reǰāl II, pp. 452-54.
ʿAbd-al-Razzāq Donbolī, Maʾāṯer-e solṭānīya, ed.
Ḡ. Ṣadrī Afšār, 2nd ed., Tehran, 1351 Š./1972, pp. 17, 26-28.
M. Ḥ. Eʿtemād-al-salṭana, Tārīḵ-emontaẓam-e Nāṣerī, 3 vols., Tehran, 1300/1882-83, III, pp. 32-65, 131.
Fasāʾī, pp. 288, 230-32, 242-43; tr. Busse, pp. 4, 29-38, 75-78.
Reża-qolī Khan Hedāyat, Rawżat al-ṣafā-ye Nāṣerī IX, Tehran, 1339 Š./1950, pp. 77, 149, 194, 222, 306-07.
Moḥammad-Taqī Sepehr, Nāseḵ al-tawārīḵ, ed.
M. Behbūdī, 4 vols., Tehran, 1358/1939, I, pp. 39, 46, 86-89.
Originally Published: December 15, 1985
Last Updated: August 2, 2011
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Vol. I, Fasc. 8, pp. 874-875