ʿAZĪZ KHAN MOKRĪ, SARDĀR-E KOLL (1207-87/1792-1871), an army chief and dignitary of Qajar Iran who occupied high-ranking positions from early in Nāṣer-al-dīn Shah’s reign (1204-1313/1848-96).
ʿAzīz Khan was the son of Moḥammad Khan (also called Moḥammad Solṭān). He was sardār of the Bābā Mīrī family of the Mokrīs (Nikitine, Les Kurdes, p. 166; further genealogical information in Ḵormūjī, Ḥaqāyeq, pp. 293f.). He was born at Sardašt, southwest of Mahābād, in 1207/1792-93. Little is known about his youth. He married one of Amīr(-e) Kabīr’s daughters, born from Amīr Kabīr’s first wife (Eqbāl, “ʿAzīz Ḵān,” p. 61 ), with whom he had three sons. His son Sayf-al-dīn Khan (d. 1308/1891-92) governed Sāvojbolāḡ several times and was succeeded as head of the Mokrīs by his son Ḥosayn Khan, who was killed when the Ottomans invaded Sāvojbolāḡ in 1332/1914 (ibid., pp. 61f.). ʿAzīz Khan went to Tabrīz in the attendance of his elder brother. As he was literate and had a good handwriting, he went into service in the sixth regiment (fawj-e šešom) of Azerbaijan at Tabrīz. He was in command of this regiment as sarhang at the protracted siege of Herat in 1253-54/1837-39. On behalf of Moḥammad Shah, he spent two days in vain negotiations with the besieged Yār Moḥammad Khan and Kāmrān Mīrzā. Left without any important political function after his Herat mission, he took an interest in Sufism (faqr o darvīšī), but at the same time began cultivating several influential personalities at the court (see Eqbāl, art. cit., p. 40; Bāmdād, loc. cit.). In 1256/1840-41, the people of Fārs rebelled against Ferīdūn Mīrzā Farmānfarmā, and Moḥammad Shah sent Mīrzā Nabī (Nabīy) Khan Qazvīnī to Shiraz. Upon Mīrzā Naẓar-ʿAlī Ḥakīm-bāšī’s recommendation, Nabī Khan brought ʿAzīz Khan with him as a consultant (rīš-safīd) and took over the administration of Fārs. Again in 1259/1843 Nabī Khan took with him ʿAzīz Khan to Fārs. Nabī Khan was succeeded the next year by Ḥosayn Khan Moqaddam Marāḡaʾī Ājūdānbāšī who was appointed governor of Fārs and granted the title of ṣāḥeb eḵtīār. Through Ḥakīm-bāšī’s support, ʿAzīz Khan remained in office and Ḥosayn Khan, whom he knew from Tabrīz, made him first his consultant, then taḥwīldār, and finally sarhang of the fourth regiment of Tabrīz, located in Fārs. Ḥosayn Khan Ṣāḥeb Eḵtīār (later Neẓām-al-dawla) remained governor of Fārs until Moḥammad Shah’s death in September, 1264/1848 and ʿAzīz Khan remained at his service there (see Fasāʾī, I, p. 299; Bāmdād, op. cit., p. 328).
After Nāṣer-al-dīn Shah ascended the throne and made Mīrzā Taqī Khan Amīr Neẓām (Amīr Kabīr) his grand vizier (atābak-e aʿẓam) in October, 1848, the people of Shiraz rebelled against Ḥosayn Khan Neẓām-al-dawla. ʿAzīz Khan played an important role as negotiator between the opposing parties (Fasāʾī, I, pp. 30ff.). This lead Amīr Kabīr to recognize his value and name him ājūdān-bāšī-e koll-e ʿasāker (see ĀJŪDĀN-BĀŠĪ), in spite of his hostility towards ʿAzīz Khan’s protectors, Neẓām-al-dawla and Ḥakīm-bāšī. On the occasion of the Babi uprising of Zanjān led by Mollā Moḥammad-ʿAlī Zanjānī (begun in Rajab, 1266/April, 1850), Amīr Kabīr dispatched ʿAzīz Khan to Zanjān to quell the revolt and, at the same time, to act as ambassador to Yerevan, where Prince Alexander Pavlovitch was putting down a local rebellion. After trying first to negotiate with the Babis and then to attack them, both in vain, ʿAzīz Khan left it to Moḥammad Khan Amīr Tūmān, head of the troops in Zanjān, to suppress them and went himself to Yerevan (Ḵormūjī, op. cit., pp. 74f.; Eqbāl, art. cit., pp. 46ff.; Bāmdād, op. cit., p. 329), where he was warmly welcomed. Returning to Tehran on 9 Jomādā I 1267/12 March 1851, he was granted a cordial audience by the shah (Eqbāl, art. cit., pp. 47f.).
During the shah’s journey to ʿErāq-e ʿAjam accompanied by Amīr Kabīr (Rajab to Ḏu’l-ḥejja, 1267/May to October, 1851), ʿAzīz Khan was in command of the army and the citadel (Arg) at Tehran. The newly created police force of Tehran was entrusted to his son ʿAlī Khan, who had Kurdish and other tribal forces under his command (Nikitine, op. cit., p. 166). After Amīr Kabīr’s dismissal in Moḥarram, 1268/November, 1851, ʿAzīz Khan remained in service. Having by now mastered the art of political survival, despite the enmity of the new ṣadr-e aʿẓam, Mīrzā Āqā Khan Nūrī, he was promoted to sardār-e koll-e ʿasāker (commander in chief of the army) in an official ceremony on 3 Ḏu’l-qaʿda 1269/8 August 1853. In the same month, he organized for the shah an impressive military parade at Solṭānīya (Eqbāl, art. cit., pp. 49f.). In 1268/1852 ʿAzīz Khan personally organized the execution of the Babi Fāṭema Barajānī Qorrat-al-ʿayn in Tehran. Among other important functions, he was then entrusted with the administration of the Dar al-Fonūn at Tehran.
In 1270/1853-54, the Russian ambassador Prince Dolgorouky convinced Nāṣer-al-dīn Shah in a private interview to side with the Russians against the Ottomans and their allies in the coming Crimean war. Neither the shah nor Mīrzā Āqā Khan (who discovered this secret arrangement only later) was able, or willing, to adopt a clear pro-Russian policy. Two armies were sent to the Ottoman border—one to Kermānšāh and one, under ʿAzīz Khan’s command, to Azerbaijan—but had no military success. In the same year, ʿAzīz Khan was put in charge of the administration of Azerbaijan until the new governor arrived (see Eqbāl, art. cit., pp. 50f.). In his absence, Mīrzā Āqā Khan kept intriguing with courtiers and the shah’s favorite Jeyrān Ḵānom against ʿAzīz Khan, which led to ʿAzīz Khan’s dismissal by the shah on 20 Šawwāl 1273/13 June 1857. His complete disgrace was announced in a court ceremony by ʿAlī Khan Ḥājeb-al-dawla, the murderer of Amīr Kabīr (ibid., pp. 52f.). No precise charges, however, were leveled against him. ʿAzīz Khan was cashiered, jailed, and asked to justify his accounts for four year’s administration in Tabrīz (Gobineau, Les dépêches, pp. 107ff., no. 35). In Moḥarram, 1274/August-September, 1857, he was ordered to retire to Sardašt, but even there Mīrzā Āqā Khan did not leave him in peace. He dispatched Mīrzā Fażlallāh Nūrī to Azerbaijan to summon the ailing ʿAzīz Khan to Tabrīz to prosecute and harass him (see Nāder Mīrzā, Tārīḵo joḡrāfī, pp. 208f.).
After Mīrzā Āqā Khan was removed from office on 20 Moḥarram 1275/30 August 1858, Nāṣer-al-dīn Shah entrusted the newly-created ministry of war (wezārat-e jang; sepahsālārī-e qošūn) to Mīrzā Moḥammad Khan Kešīkčī-bāšī. As soon as he was informed of ʿAzīz Khan’s recovery from illness, the shah reinstated him in his former dignities and conferred upon him increasing responsibilities in Azerbaijan, where he became general manager (pīškār) for the wālī (governor-general) Bahrām Mīrzā, and in Tehran, where he was member of the cabinet in 1276/1859-60. When the governorship of Azerbaijan was transferred to the crown prince Moẓaffer-al-dīn Mīrzā in 1277/1860-61, ʿAzīz Khan replaced him as minister of war and head of the armed forces, but lost his pīškārī of Azerbaijan. He then aspired towards high responsibilities in the retinue of the crown prince at Tabrīz, where he had accumulated considerable wealth and influence: pīškārs who did not follow his advice did not remain in office for long. In 1285/1868-69, the shah sent Ṭahmāsb Mīrzā Moʾayyed-al-dawla to Tabrīz with full powers to jail Mīrzā Qahramān Amīn-e Laškar, who was ʿAzīz Khan’s collaborator. He sent a detailed report on the two men to Tehran and demanded that Amīn-e Laškar should pay back 70,000 tūmāns. ʿAzīz Khan interceded, accepting responsibility for the money. After further checking, the accountants found the money owed to be 150,000 tūmāns, which ʿAzīz Khan was unable to pay. His properties were then confiscated and he was exiled for about one year to Solṭānābād (present-day Arāk), receiving only a small gratuity (Eqbāl, art. cit., pp. 55ff., quoting Nāder Mīrzā).
In 1286/1869-70, Nāṣer-al-dīn Shah restored his properties to him and entrusted ʿAzīz Khan with the governorship of Māzandarān, the command of the fourth army of Tabrīz, and the governorship of Sāvojbolāḡ (Eqbāl, art. cit., pp. 54ff.).
ʿAzīz Khan was for the last time given the pīškārī of Azerbaijan in 1287/1870-71. But he was old and had no strength to cope with the courtiers surrounding the young crown prince, Moẓaffer-al-dīn. He died at Tabrīz on 18 Šawwāl 1287/11 January 1871. Nāṣer-al-dīn Shah, who was on a pilgrimage to Karbalāʾ, is said to have been upset by the news of ʿAzīz Khan’s death (ibid., pp. 58f.). ʿAzīz Khan’s tomb lies near the Emāmzāda-ye Ḥamza in Tabrīz (see Qorrāʾī, “Maḥall-e qabr-e ʿAzīz Ḵān,” pp. 69f.).
Ḵormūjī praises ʿAzīz Khan’s sense of justice and chivalrous qualities (op. cit., pp. 294ff.; see also Eqbāl, art. cit., p. 59, and Bāmdād, op. cit., pp. 333f.). According to Gobineau (op. cit., pp. 108ff., 112), on the other hand, ʿAzīz Khan reached his position as head of the army only through his incompetence. Eastwick saw him at Tabrīz in September, 1860, and described him as “a large brawny man, with bloodshot eyes, and inflamed features . . . he had lately walled up fourteen robbers, two of them with their heads downward, and so left them to perish.” Since he was Sunnite and of humble origin Amīr Kabīr’s support was decisive for his future ascendancy (Eqbāl, art. cit., pp. 59f., quoting Eastwick).
For portraits and photographs of ʿAzīz Khan see, e.g., Eqbāl, art. cit. and Bāmdād, op. cit. A square at Tehran which used to be part of ʿAzīz Khan’s living quarters bears his name: the Čahār-rāh-e ʿAzīz Khan in the neighborhood of the Arg (Nikitine, op. cit., p. 166).
F. Ādamīyat, Amīr-e Kabīr wa Īrān, Tehran, 4th ed., 1354 Š./1975-76, pp. 23, 45, 207, 363, 453. Bāmdād, Rejāl II, pp. 326-36.
E. B. Eastwick, Journal of a Diplomate’s Three Years’ Residence in Persia, London, 1864, I, pp. 185-87.
ʿA. Eqbāl, “ʿAzīz Ḵān Mokrī sardār-e koll,” Yādgār 4, 12, 1326 Š./1947-48, pp. 37-62.
Gobineau, Les dépêches diplomatiques du Comte de Gobineau en Perse, ed. A. D. Hytier, Paris and Geneva, 1959.
R. K. Hedāyat, Rawżat al-ṣafā-ye nāṣerī, Tehran, 1339 Š./1960-61, pp. 562ff., 773ff.
Ḵormūjī, Ḥaqāyeq al-aḵbār-e nāṣerī, ed. H. Ḵadīvjam, Tehran, 1344 Š./1965-66, index.
Nāder Mīrzā, Tārīḵ o joḡrāfī-e Dār al-Salṭana-ye Tabrīz, ed. Sepehr, Tehran, 1323/1905.
B. Nikitine, Les kurdes, Paris, 1956.
J. Solṭān al-Qorrāʾī, “Maḥall-e qabr-e ʿAzīz Ḵān sardār-e koll,” Yādgār 4, 4, 1326 Š./1947-48, pp. 68-70.
Originally Published: December 15, 1988
Last Updated: August 18, 2011
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Vol. III, Fasc. 3, pp. 261-263