BAZAR iii. Socioeconomic and Political Role



iii. Socioeconomic and Political Role of the Bāzār

1. The bāzār in the Islamic Iranian city.

The bāzār in the Islamic city has been (1) a central marketplace and craft center located in the old quarters of the town; (2) a primary arena, along with the mosque, of extrafamilial sociability; and (3) a sociocultural milieu of a traditional urban life-style. The bāzār in contemporary Iran has performed two more roles of great significance; (4) a socioeconomic and power base of the Shiʿite religious establishment; and (5) a bastion of political protest movements.

The mercantile context of Islam. Merchants and trade have enjoyed great esteem in Islamic civilization. The society of Mecca, the birthplace of Islam, was already a major center of trade in which local, regional and, at times, international markets were organized. The city of Mecca itself was dominated by the merchant patricians at the time of the rise of Islam (see “Mecca,” in EI2; M. Rodinson, Islam and Capitalism, New York, 1973, pp. 28-29; M. Watt, Islam and Integration of Society, London, 1970, pp. 5-7). Friday was chosen as the day of congregational prayer (one of the most important Islamic institutions articulating the religious com­munity and the state) because it was the day on which the weekly bāzār was mobilized and the people of the town and surrounding areas gathered in the marketplace for business transactions (see S. Goitein, Studies in Islamic History and Institutions, Leiden, 1966, pp. 111-25). The prophet Moḥammad’s first wife, Ḵadīja, and many members of his clan were among the city’s prosperous merchants; the prophet himself was, in the pre­-prophetic period of his life, engaged in trade on behalf of his wife (see “Khadīdja” and “Muḥammad” in EI2), which must have made him quite knowledgeable about business and trade and their social significance. Thus the reform of the world as envisaged by Moḥammad included the reform of the bāzār as the main arena of extrafamilial sociability and the main public center of the community of believers (omma). This concept was projected in Islam onto the ideal arrangements of the religious community, onto the order of the whole cosmos, and even onto the character of God. “The mutual relations between God and man are of a strictly commercial nature. Allah is the ideal merchant. He includes all the universe in his reckoning. All is counted, everything measured” (C. C. Torrey, Commercial-­Theological Terms in the Koran, Leiden, 1892, p. 51). The bāzār was recognized by Islamic law as a designated locus of sociability. The purpose of transactions in the bāzār was beyond a mere exchange of commodities; it was exchange in the context of religious norms and cultural values (see A. Udovitch, “The Constitution of the Traditional Islamic Marketplace: Islamic Law and the Social Context of Exchange,” in S. Eisenstadt, ed., Patterns of Modernity III: Beyond the West, New York, 1987, p. 163).

Big merchants (tojjār) were an identifiable group and often considered among the urban notables in the Islamic town (see, e.g., R. Mottahedeh, Loyalty and Leadership in an Early Islamic Society, Princeton, 1980, pp. 116-20, 126, and Fasāʾī, pp. 23-132 for the late Qajar period). Lambton observed that “the anti-ascetic atti­tude of Islam contributed to the growth of the merchant community and helped to raise the status of the merchant. Man’s salvation was, broadly speaking, to be ensured not by withdrawal from the worlḍ . . . but by integrity and moderation in the conduct of the affairs of this world” (“The Merchant in Medieval Islam,” in W. B. Henning and E. Yarshater, eds., A Locust’s Leg, London, 1962, p. 121). The bāzār was, hence, basically a religious and commercial whole. While commercial transaction “is the raison d’être for the existence of the bazaar,” as G. Thaiss pointed out in his observations on the bāzār of Tehran, “[t]he religious idiom is the basic common denominator in the bazaar and functions to create crosscutting ties and bonds among bazaris of different guilds and professions” (G. Thaiss, “The Bazaar as a Case Study of Religion and Social Change,” in E. Yar-Shater, ed., Iran Faces the Seventies, New York, 1971, pp. 193-94).

The bāzār’s internal hierarchy. The social hierarchy of the bāzār had the big merchants (tojjār) at the top of the pyramid, the headmen (kadḵodā) and the masters (ostād) of artisans and shopkeepers of well over 100 guild-like associations (aṣnāf) at the middle level, and the masses of apprentices (šāgerd) and footboys (pādow) at the bottom, with some marginal elements such as poor peddlers, dervishes, and beggars at the lowest level (see A. Ashraf, “The Roots of Emerging Dual Class Structure in Nineteenth Century Iran,” Iranian Studies 14, 1981, pp. 5-27). The census data of 1928 show the following composition of some 31,000 people working in the bāzār of Tehran: tojjār, over 2 percent; ostāds of aṣnāf about 40 percent (24 percent petty traders and 16 percent artisans); šāgerds, 45 percent; and pādows, 13 percent (Sāl-nāma-ye eḥṣāʾīya-ye šahr-e Tehrān, Tehran, 1310 Š./1931, pp. 72-83).

During the election of the first Majles, merchants and masters of aṣnāf were, along with the ʿolamāʾ and patrimonial agents (ʿommāl-e dīvānī ) granted the franchise, whereas the masses of bāzārīs were denied even the right to vote in the elections. The political leadership of the bāzār was at the disposal of merchants and aṣnāf leaders, with the former at the top of the bāzār status hierarchy. “This assembly is called the Majles, where all members are equal, not the bāzār where you, as a merchant, are allowed to humiliate and command a petty trader,” said Mīrzā Moḥammad-Ṣādeq Ṭabāṭabāʾī addressing a merchant in the midst of a bitter controversy among the bāzārī deputies in one of the early sessions of the first Majles (“Moḏākarāt-e Majles, dawra-ye awwal-e taqnīnīya,” in Rūz-nāma-ye kešvar-e šāhanšāhī-e Īrān, Tehran, 1 Ḵordād-30 Mor­dād 1325 Š./1946, p. 12).

The bāzār and the state. The bāzār served the state as the financial source of taxes, duties, custom dues, road tolls, credit, and corvee for the political and military notables. In return, the governing notables provided the bāzārīs with protection and overall administration of justice. Also supervised by the state were the daily activities of the bāzār concerning quality of products and merchandise as well as the fairness of prices and accuracy of weights. The state dealt with the bāzārīs collectively, i.e., through the chief of merchants (malek al-tojjār) and headmen and masters of aṣnāf. These leaders of the bāzār were in contact with the governor of the town through the office of the town’s mayor (kalāntar). These offices were all intermediary offices involving dual roles as trustees of the bāzār (and city quarters in the case of mayor) and appointees of the state (see W. Floor, “The Guilds in Iran, an Overview,” in ZDMG 125, 1975, pp. 99-116).

Bāzār-mosque interdependence. For many centuries, the bāzār and the mosque, as inseparable twins, have served as the primary arena of public life in urban Iran. In pre-modern Iran, they were foci of the two principal networks of sociability beyond the kinship relations. Combined, the bāzār and the mosque made a world in which the city dwellers organized their everyday communal life. Deriving from this communal network was an active alliance between the bāzār and the mosque with political consequences of utmost significance in Iran (on protest movements, see below).

The alliance of the ʿolamāʾ and the bāzārīs in Iran has developed in several areas and for a variety of reasons. The bāzārīs have been allied traditionally with the independent Shiʿite ʿolamāʾ in their mutually held belief that the patrimonial mode of administration though often recognized as legitimate on a de facto basis, was in fact only quasi-legitimate.

Further, the physical proximity and the interdependence of the mosque and the bāzār in the structure of the Islamic town were important factors. The bāzār as a closely knit community, in part owing to its enclosed physical space, increased the merchants’ awareness of each other’s public activities. Paying one’s religious taxes, contributing to charitable funds, and maintaining a generally good relationship with the ʿolamāʾ were all signs of piety and, as such, helpful to maintaining one’s respect and honor in the bāzār community. For their part, the ʿolamāʾ needed the mass adherence of the bāzārīs as a basis for their own political power. Encoun­tering the arbitrary and oppressive domination of the governing authority without countervailing powers of their own, the bāzārīs needed the canopy of the ʿolamāʾ’s protection. Furthermore, the religious sentiment and traditional orientation of the bāzārīs were reinforced by their ties with the ʿolamāʾ, by the physical setting of the bāzār, and by its communal character. These communal and ideological ties led the bāzārīs and the ʿolamāʾ to share certain similarities in their life-style and world view.

Above all else, it was the dependence of the Shiʿite establishment upon the bāzār’s financial support for mosque and religious schools (madrasas) that led to the articulation of the mosque-bāzār alliance. The power, prosperity, and popularity of the ʿolamāʾ were related to the size and values of religious endowments (awqāf) under their control and the amount of ḵoms (one-fifth of net profits) that they received from the bāzārīs and others.

The bāzār-mosque mobilization capability. The major vehicle for effecting social cohesion among various groups of the bāzārīs as well as the network for successful mobilization was small religious groups (hayʾat), sermons of preachers, and congregational prayers of noon and late afternoon/early evening. The prominent merchants and leaders of aṣnāf were expected to gather in the major mosque of the bāzār. The leading bāzārīs took this occasion to discuss matters of mutual interest in business and occasionally political realms.

The term hayʾat is, however, of recent usage. The religious groups, in the early 14th/20th century were called jalasa (session). The religious groups are multifaceted, informal, face-to-face groups which serve as occupational, neighborhood, religious, interpersonal, friendship, cooperative, self-help, or political networks in various sections of the bāzārs and neighborhoods of different communities. “Many of the functions that the guilds formerly fulfilled [were recently] being assumed by the heyʾats, such as helping the poor, organiz­ing cooperative relief efforts . . . , helping bankrupt merchants . . . and collecting funds . . . for building schools, contributing to hospitals, and the like” (Thaiss, p. 202).

There are three types of religious groups: guild (ṣenf) hayʾats, organized by members of each guild of the bāzār; neighborhood hayʾats, organized primarily by traders and artisans living in the neighborhood; and finally ethnic and special group hayʾats such as Hayʾat-e Zanjānīhā and Hayʾat-e Karbalāʾīhā. The role of merchants, shopkeepers, artisans, and apprentices in initiat­ing and mobilizing these religious groups is crucial. Thus, through the periodic meetings of the hayʾats (weekly, monthly, or bimonthly), a network of com­munication is developed throughout the city for which the bāzārīs constitute the articulating element. “It is through these interpersonal networks and the partici­pation of the same individuals in several different gatherings during the week that bazaar information, ideas, and rumors are passed on. Participants in these religious gatherings are not only merchants (tājer) but also smaller businessmen (kasabeh), [lower] religious leaders (ʿulama), workers and porters (kārgar and hammāl), and some government bureaucrats as well” (Thaiss, p. 202). Mobilizing the processions of mourners, feeding large groups, and arranging congregational prayers promote capability for mass mobili­zation, which can be channeled easily into collective protest movements (on protest movements, see below).

2. The impact of recent socioeconomic changes.

The recent socioeconomic changes, which began mainly in the 1920s and 1930s and continued at an accelerated pace in the 1960s and 1970s, affected the overall position of Iran’s bāzārs and the various bāzārī classes and strata. The response of the bāzārs to the challenges of new urban developments varied from city to city, depending on the role and function of each bāzār in the city’s economy and its place in market hierarchies. The size of population, the rate of population growth and urban development, the pattern of development of new avenues in relation to the bāzār, the distance of modem quarters from the bāzār areas, and the accessi­bility of the bāzār areas to motor transportation are among the main factors that have influenced the overall position of the bāzār in the processes of urban growth and socioeconomic development.

Functionally, three major types of bāzārs have developed in modern Iran: (1) the unique bāzār of Tehran, functioning as a strategic center for local, national, and international trade; (2) the provincial bāzārs engaged primarily in wholesale and retail trade for the central city and its hinterland; and (3) the local bāzārs of small towns and large villages in which retailers and peasant peddlers serve primarily the town and surrounding rural areas (see Ašraf, 1968, pp. 37-40; Bonine, 1980, pp. 78-148; English, pp. 65-97; Rotblat, 1972, pp. 6-18; Ehlers, pp. 38-52). Traditionally, the provincial bāzār served either a large province (ayālat) or a large district (welāyat). The more significant provincial bāzārs also played an important role in foreign trade. The bāzārs of Isfahan, Kermān, Kermānšāh, Mašhad, Shiraz, Tabrīz, and Yazd were included in this category in the late 13th/19th and early 14th/20th centuries. The bāzār of Tehran, however, monopolized most of the foreign trade in the last few decades and became the main center of import, export, collection, and distribution of agri­cultural cash crops, modern manufactured consumer items and Iran’s most important handicraft product, carpets (Seger, 1978, pp. 125-69). A gradual transition of the bāzār from its more traditional to its more modern form over the past century has been accom­panied by an increase in the total volume of trade and by extension of specialization among merchants, retailers, and various business agents. Along with this expansion, there has taken place a general shift from handicraft production to distributive activities as well as the emergence of further status differences and inequalities within the bāzār community as a whole.

Bāzār vs. modern avenues. The rapid growth in the population and physical size of Iranian cities in the present century has led to the creation or expansion of many new shopping areas. In such large and rapidly growing urban centers as Tehran, Tabrīz, Mašhad, Isfahan, Shiraz, Ahvāz, and Kermānšāh this growth and expansion could not be accommodated within the physical boundaries of the bāzār, and thus there was a shift of retail sales and a number of trades from the bāzār areas to the other parts of the old quarters or to the new avenues. In addition, the introduction of motorized transportation required that some of the new businesses be relocated outside of the bāzār. In Tehran, for example, food wholesalers moved from the bāzār to Ḵīābān-e Eʿdām, while wholesalers of building materials relocated themselves in the Ḵīābān-e Ḵayyām area.

In some cases the development of new avenues led to the relative decline of retailing in the bāzār itself. In Qazvīn, for example, many stores moved from the old bāzār to the modern main avenues largely as a result of the need to be close to their new, mostly middle-class clientele (Rotblat, 1972, p. 154). These developments led to the decline of sections of the bāzārs of some cities. In Kermānšāh (now Bāḵtarān), for example, even the central section of the bāzār, where the better quality goods, were offered, showed signs of physical deterio­ration (Clarke and Clark, p. 77). In many larger cities, the changes in the bāzārs were highly uneven. In Tehran, for example, the oldest sections of the bāzār became the shopping area for the urban poor and rural customers, whereas other sections geared themselves to the more middle-class clients and prospered especially in the 1960s and 1970s (Seger, 1978, pp. 163-67). In Malāyer, parts of the bāzār were converted to storage space, other parts to the lower-ranking crafts and trades, and still other parts (close to the modern areas of the city) experienced considerable prosperity (Momeni, p. 191).

A central feature of the type of urban design that was implemented in many Iranian cities in the 1920s and 1930s was the construction of a number of wide and long avenues serving as the east-west and north-south axes of the towns and suitable for motor transportation. In some cities, including Hamadān, Kermānšāh, Shiraz, and Yazd, the new avenues went through the bāzār areas, cut them into two or more enclaves, compromised their physical integrity, and, in many cases, led to the segmentation of the old city as a whole (Kano, pp. 309, 314; Bonine, 1981, p. 241; Clarke, p. 27; Wirth, 1968, p. 125). The bāzār of Kermānšāh, for example, was truncated by the major new avenue (Ḵiābān-e Šāhpūr) which was driven through the heart of the bāzār complex (Clarke and Clark, p. 77). The new avenues did not, however, truncate the bāzārs of such other cities as Isfahan, Kāšān, Kermān, Qazvīn, and Tabrīz (Wirth, 1968, pp. 108, 109, 113; Schweizer, p. 37; Costello, p. 139; Rotblat, 1972, pp. 45, 56).

The economic resilience of the bāzār. The survival of the bāzār has been at least partially due to the processes of overurbanization and underurbanism in Iran, i.e., the lagging rate of industrialization relative to the rapid growth of the urban population. On the other hand, overurbanization required a rapid expansion of a tertiary sector of the economy in general and intermediary trade activities in particular. As a result, a large segment of the urban population became engaged in retail sale of imported commodities as well as the products of local and national industries. A survey of social stratification and occupational mobility in Teh­ran and Shiraz in 1977 showed that over one-fourth of the economically active work force of these cities was employed in small trade and craft activities both inside and outside of the bāzār areas (Banū ʿAzīzī and A. Ašraf, p. 43). Having already established themselves as the main elements of social, religious, and economic activities, the bāzārs continued to grow even further with the increasing expansion of the tertiary sector and urbanization.

The shopping areas of the new avenues normally do not compete with the bāzār, but rather supplement it in many respects by tailoring the needs of different groups of customers (Wirth, 1968, p. 101). To some extent, the recent economic and urban developments have led to a division of labor between the shops in the bāzār and those in the new avenues, a manifestation of the

resilience of the bāzār. The provincial bāzārs have often maintained their specialization in such main traditional trades as textile, carpet, and metalwork. The bāzārs of Yazd, Qazvīn, Shiraz, and Kermānšāh have specialized mainly in textile-related retail sales, whereas the bāzārs of Tehran, Isfahan, Kāšān, Kermān, and Tabrīz have also specialized in the carpet trade (Seger, 1978, p. 140; Bonine, 1981, p. 243; Rotblat, 1972, p. 67; Clarke and Clark, p. 73; Clarke, p. 29; Schweizer, p. 40).

The large and well-established bāzār of Tabrīz, despite the city’s rapid urban growth, resisted pressures for relocation of its shops to the new shopping areas (Schweizer, pp. 32-33). The bāzār of Qazvīn, while challenged by the retail shops of the new avenues, maintained its relative dominance in the commercial life of the town and its hinterland (Rotblat, 1972, p. 67). The bāzār of Kāšān, which did not encounter any significant competition from the new shopping centers, maintained its commercial dominance, thanks to a relatively low rate of urban growth and the continuing vigor of the carpet trade (Costello, p. 149). The bāzārs of many middle-sized cities and of most small towns, in which the modern shopping areas have not yet been well developed, have maintained their commercial as well as morphological and even cultural dominance in their cities.

The bāzār of Tehran underwent a rapid expansion in area in the 1960s and 1970s as large portions of the residential sections within the bāzār and neighboring quarters were increasingly used for commercial and small-scale manufacturing establishments (Seger, 1978, pp. 126-33). The bāzār of Tehran managed to maintain its production function through a shift from some traditional handicrafts to small scale industrial produc­tion with light machinery. However, as shops became increasingly expensive for production space, the small scale manufactures moved out from the shops in the bāzār to houses within the bāzār quarter. These new industrial establishments have maintained many essen­tial characteristics of the traditional relations of the artisans and apprentices. One index of economic pros­perity of the bāzār during this period was a rapid increase in the “key money” (sarqoflī) of the bāzār shops and business offices. In many cases, the key money increased several times, reaching as high as $300,000 for some well-located shops in the late 1970s (Seger, 1978, p. 165).

The bāzār’s traditional life-style. The processes of modernization and urban development created a morphological, socioeconomic, and cultural duality in large urban areas of Iran, particularly in Tehran. A dual society, consisting of the religious and bāzārī strata with urban traditional life-styles living mainly in the bāzār area and the old quarters of the town, on the one hand, and the new middle strata living in the modern quarters on the other. Petty traders, shopkeepers, craftsmen, and peddlers have been the main carriers of traditional urban life-styles, both inside and outside of the bāzār (Seger, 1978, pp. 215-17; 1975, pp. 21-38; Ašraf, 1981, pp. 5-27). Many of the petty traders and craftsmen in the new areas of the cities outside of the bāzārs displayed attitudes and modes of behavior that were essentially the same as their counterparts in the bāzār. Some of the more pious members of the bāzār refrained from using such modern (state-controlled) means of communication as radio and television or the cinema. Their family recreation often included visits to the holy shrines at Ray or Qom. Their wives, daughters, and unmarried sisters would rarely be seen outside the home without the veil (čādor). There was also a higher rate of endogamous marriage among the petty traders and craftsmen within the bāzār than among other groups (Thaiss, 1971, pp, 199-200).

The bāzār and social mobility. Four surveys on the social origins of bāzārī proprietors in Tabrīz, Yazd, Hamadān, and Malāyer in the mid-1970s suggest that the larger and more established the bāzār of a city is the less likely it is that bāzārī proprietors will be of agrarian origin. In the large and prosperous bāzār of Tabrīz all of the 86 cases interviewed were born in the city, and only 7 cases had fathers who were born in the country­side (Kano, p. 325). In the old and active provincial bāzār of Yazd “non natives” were “not common” (Bonine, 1981, p. 247). In a medium-sized but well-­established bāzār of Hamadān, 10 respondents of 141 came from rural areas (Kano, p. 325). In the bāzār of Malāyer, which exemplifies the marketplace of a smaller but fast-growing town, however, 69 of 196 bāzārī proprietors, or over 35 percent of the total, came from rural areas (Momeni, p. 78). The high rate of influx of rural traders and craftsmen into the rapidly growing small town led to the ruralization of the bāzār, particularly in the middle and lower class sections where land was cheaper (Momeni, pp. 147, 190-91).

A survey of the changes in the bāzār of Hamadān the 1970s showed that the concentration of specific trades in different sections of the bāzār was giving way gradually to a more even distribution of trades throughout the bāzār. The same survey revealed considerable occupational mobility both between generations and within the new generation of bāzārīs (Kano, p. 324). In the bāzār of Yazd, according to the findings of another study, about one-fourth of the shops changed hands over a six-year period, while five percent of shopkeepers changed their lines of trade (Bonine, 1981, pp. 252-53).

The recent socioeconomic and morphological changes in urban Iran reduced the traditional importance of the bāzār as the sole urban marketplace, but did not lead to its decline. The new shopping centers in many respects supplemented, rather than replaced, the bāzār’s shops. Moreover, having projected itself into areas outside its former physical boundaries, the bāzār extended its life-style into other urban quarters as well. And finally, the bāzārs of Tehran and several other major cities underwent considerable spatial, demo­graphic, and commercial expansion during the 1960s and 1970s. Thus the bāzār remained a resilient commer­cial and sociocultural component of urban life in Iran with a significant political potential.

Bibliography : A comprehensive monograph on a provincial bāzār (Qazvīn) is H. Rotblat, “Stability and Change in an Iranian Provincial Bazaar,” Ph.D. dissertation, The University of Chicago, 1972. Two papers from this work have been published: “Structural Impediments to Change in the Qazvin Bazaar,” Iranian Studies 5/4, 1972, pp. 130-48; and “Social Organization and Development in an Iranian Pro­vincial Bazaar,” Economic Development and Cultural Change 23/2, 1975, pp. 292-305. A comprehensive monograph on a regional market system is M. Bonine, Yazd and Its Hinterland: A Central Place System of Dominance in the Central Iranian Plateau, Marburg/Lahn, 1980. Other monographs on Iranian bāzārs include M. Bonine, “Shops and Shop­keepers: Dynamics of an Iranian Provincial Bazaar,” in M. Bonine and N. Keddie, eds., Modern Iran, The Dialectics of Continuity and Change, Albany, 1981, pp. 233-58; idem, “Islam and Commerce: Waqf and the Bazaar of Yazd, Iran,” Erdkunde 41, 1987; P. English, City and Village in Iran: Settlement and Economy in the Kirman Basin, Madison, Wis., 1966; G. Schweizer, “Tabriz (Nordwest-Iran) und der Tabrizer Bazaar,” Erdkunde 26, 1972, pp. 32-46; E. Wirth, “Strukturwandlungen und Entwicklungsten­denzen der orientalischen Stadt,” ibid., 22, 1968, pp. 101-28; idem, “Zum Problem des Bazars (sūq, çaṛşı),” Der Islam 51, 1974, pp. 203-60; 52, 1975, pp. 6-46; H. Kano, “City Development and Occupational Change in Iran: A Case Study of Hamadan,” The Developing Economies 16/3, September, 1978, pp. 298-328; G. Thaiss, “The Bazaar as a Case Study of Religion and Social Change,” in E. Yar-Shater, ed., Iran Faces the Seventies, New York, 1971, pp. 189-216; A. Bakhtiar, “The Royal Bazaar of Isfahan,” Iranian Studies 7/1-2, 1974, pp. 320-47; P. Peberdy, “The Bazaar Economy,” in J. Connell, ed., Semnan, Persian City and Region, London, [1970]; idem, “Problems of the Bazaar,” Echo’s Economic Reports, no. 119, Tehran, 1965. A number of monographs on Iranian cities contain useful sections on the bāzār, including J. I. Clarke, The Iranian City of Shiraz, University of Durham, Department of Geography, Research Paper Series 7, 1963; J. I. Clarke and B. D. Clark, Kermanshah, An Iranian Provincial City, ibid., 10, 1969; V. Costello, Kashan: A City and Region in Iran, London, 1976; D. F. Darwent, Urban Growth in Re­lation to Socio-Economic Development and Western­ization: A Case Study of the City of Mashhad, Ph.D. thesis, University of Durham, 1965; M. Momeni, Malayer und sein Umland, Geographisches Institut der Universität, Marburg, 1976; M. Seger, Tehran, Eine stadtgeographische Studie, Vienna, 1978; idem, “Strukturelemente der Stadt Teheran and das Mo­dell der modernen orientalischen Stadt,” Erdkunde 29, 1975, pp. 21-38; E. Ehlers, “Die Stadt Bam und ihr Oasen-Umland/Zentraliran,” ibid., 29, 1975, pp. 38-52; A. Ašraf, Jāmeʿa wa eqteṣād dar sokūnatgāh-­e Ferdows, Tehran, Institute for Social Studies and Research, 1347 Š./1968. Census reports, manpower surveys, and socioeconomic studies of the urban centers contain some useful material concerning the social and demographic characteristics of the bāzārs; see, e.g., ʿA. Banū ʿAzīzī (Banuazizi) and A. Ašraf, Tarkīb-e qešrhā-ye ejtemāʿī wa taḥarrok-e šoḡlī dar Tehrān wa Šīrāz, Tehran, Bureau of Social Planning, 1359 Š./1980. On the issue of conflict between the traditional bāzārī life-style and that of the modern middle class see A. Ashraf, “The Roots of Emerg­ing Dual Class Structure in Nineteenth-Century Iran,” Iranian Studies 14/1-2, 1981, pp. 5-27; see also Seger, 1975 and 1978. For the impact of urban development on the physical integrity and relative economic importance of the bāzār and avenues of the major Iranian cities, see the historical sections of the reports of the city master plans available in the Archive of the Secretariat of the High Council of City Planning, affiliated with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, Tehran, Iran.

3. The bāzār and protest movements.

In pre-modern Iran, the political orientation of the bāzārīs was influenced mainly by their relationship with the ʿolamāʾ on the one hand and the governing notables on the other. In the course of the 13th/19th century, the traditional alliance between the bāzārīs and the ʿolamāʾ was further bolstered by the strains and antagonisms between their interests and those of the state. Deeply rooted in their common history the conflict between the state and the bāzārī-ʿolamāʾ alliance intensified considerably from the late 13th/19th century onward. The alliance served as the driving force or as a significant component of all the major political movements, starting with the Tobacco Rebellion of 1309/1891-92 and continuing with the Constitutional Revolution of 1324-29/1906-11, the anti-republican movement of 1303 Š./1924, the oil nationalization movement of 1329-32 Š./1950-53, the urban uprising of 1342 Š./1963, and finally the revolution of 1356-57 Š./1977-79.

Assembly of merchant deputies of 1301/1884. An early protest by the bāzārīs against the Qajar state took place in the mid-1880s when a number of leading merchants demanded the dismissal of the minister of commerce and the establishment of an assembly of merchant deputies (majles-e wokalā-ye tojjār).

The accelerated growth of foreign trade and increasing contact with the West in the late 13th/19th and early 14th/20th centuries led to the growth and prosperity of the bāzārs of the major cities. The balance of economic power, therefore, changed gradually from the govern­ment’s patrimonial agents (ʿommāl-e dīvānī) to the big merchants. There also emerged a group of successful and relatively enlightened merchants in the principal urban centers who began to articulate new economic and political demands (Ashraf and Hekmat, pp. 725-50; Gilbar, pp. 275-303). As a result of these shifts in the balance of power, in 1289/1872, in the course of an administrative reform, the Ministry of Commerce (Wezārat-e Tejārat) was formed to protect the interests of merchants from the rapacity of the court functionaries and to create an environment conducive to trade. ʿAbbās Mīrzā Molkārā, Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah’s brother, who headed the new ministry, complains in his memoirs about widespread corruption and the total lack of interest on the part of government leaders in the promotion of commerce (pp. 167-69). Dissatisfaction with the newly created ministry was later voiced by mer­chants in a petition to the shah in which they asked for the appointment of a patriotic official who was reli­gious, unbiased, and not avaricious and whose authority would extend to all places and ministries (Ādamīyat and Nāṭeq, p. 309). The merchants’ repeated appeals and protests caused the shah to remove the minister of commerce and to issue a proclamation in Šawwāl, 1301/July-August, 1884, calling for the formation of a merchants’ assembly (majles-e mašwarat). In response, the merchants of Tehran issued a manifesto of six recommendations that demanded, inter alia, the convening of an assembly of merchants’ deputies composed of ten representatives selected from the merchants of Tehran, which was to hold three sessions every week, and submitted it to the shah. The essential rationale of the recommendations was the argument that the mer­chants’ collective interests could be protected only by limiting domestic forces of oppression and external forces of colonialism: Protecting private property, preventing state functionaries from taking advantage of merchants, and empowering merchants to settle their own affairs in an assembly of their peers and liberating them from the traditional judicial system were all measures designed to reduce oppression from within. Protecting local merchants from European competition both in and out of the country, developing a network of modern industries to replace the declining handicrafts—which were increasingly incapable of competing with Western products—creating a national banking system that would reduce British and Russian control over the country’s money markets, and reduc­ing the control exercised by foreign powers and their entrepreneurs over customs houses were the measures directed against the semi-colonial control on the country’s economy (Ādamīyat and Nāṭeq, pp. 312-20). Although the efforts of these merchants to increase their political power were unsuccessful, their grievances and their opposition to the regime continued until, in alliance with the ʿolamāʾ, it received a forcible and successful expression.

The Tobacco Rebellion of 1309/1891-92. The first successful protest movement originating in the bāzārī-ʿolamāʾ alliance was the Tobacco Rebellion of 1309/1891-92. The tobacco concession granted to a British subject in Rajab, 1307/March, 1890, could seriously undermine the economic status of thousands of Iranian tobacco dealers, turning them in effect into salesmen working on commission for an English firm. In the major cities of Tehran, Tabrīz, Isfahan, Shiraz, and Mašhad protests and riots were set off in the bāzārs in opposition to the British concessionaire. The bāzārīs’ action included preventing the agents from entering the tobacco fields, burning the tobacco stock, writing petitions and sending delegations to the shah, taking sanctuary (bast) in the shrine of Shah ʿAbd-al-ʿAẓīm, and disseminating a religious edict (fatwā) issued apparently by Mīrzā Ḥasan Šīrāzī (the highest religious authority) forbidding the public to smoke. On 2 Jomādā II 1309/3 January 1892 Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah ordered Mīrzā Ḥasan Āštīānī, the leading jurisconsult of Tehran, either to smoke a water pipe on the pulpit or leave the town (Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, p. 785). The next day in a gathering to commemorate the death of Fāṭema (the daughter of the prophet), Āštīānī announced his decision to leave the town. Soon the bāzārs of Tehran were closed down and several thousand bāzārīs and theology students gathered around the citadel shouting slogans against the shah. In a confrontation between the royal troops and the crowd seven people were killed and a score of others injured. Under these mounting pressures from the bāzārī-ʿolamāʾ alliance, the shah eventually canceled the to­bacco concession. This movement served as a prelude to the Constitutional movement of 1324-29/1906-11 (Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, pp. 767-70, 780-91; Karbalāʾī; Nāẓem-al-Eslām, I, pp. 19-59; Dawlatābādī, pp. 105-­11; Molkārā, pp. 182-91; Saʿīdī Sīrjānī, pp. 374-98; Keddie, 1966a).

The Constitutional Revolution of 1324-29/1906-11. The Constitutional Revolution was set in motion by a coalition of a small segment of less conservative ʿolamāʾ, a large group of the bāzārīs, and a tiny group of the emerging Western-oriented intelligentsia, most of whom came from the ranks of the ʿolamāʾ, governing notables, and merchants. The merchants, who had made several unsuccessful pleas to the court for relief from the allegedly illicit and excessive demands of customs agents under Belgian command, took refuge in the shrine of Shah ʿAbd-al-ʿAẓīm on 19 Ṣafar 1323/25 April 1905 (Nāẓem-al-Eslām, I, pp. 295-96; Šarīf Kāšānī, pp. 19-21; Kasrawī, 1977, pp. 29-31, 51-­52). The dramatic detention and bastinado of two prominent sugar merchants (Sayyed Hāšem Qandī and Sayyed Esmāʿīl Khan) on 14 Šawwāl 1323/11 December 1905 aroused the Tehrani merchants and shopkeepers and resulted in a shutdown of the bāzārs. Accompanied by a number of prominent ʿolamāʾ and a few hundred students of religious schools (ṭollāb), hundreds of the bāzārīs took refuge again in Shah ʿAbd-al-ʿAẓīm (Šarīf Kāšānī, I, pp. 28-47; Nāẓem-al-Eslām, I, pp. 331-42; Dawlatābādī, II, pp. 10-33). Finally, in the course of a continuing dispute and struggle with the government, a group of prominent ʿolamāʾ left Tehran to take refuge in the shrine of Qom on 23 Jomādā 1324/16 July 1906, while some twelve to fourteen thousand bāzārīs, theology students, and others took refuge on the grounds of the British legation in Tehran. The bāzārs of a number of other major cities were also shut down. The protesters demanded, among other things, the dismissal of the grand vizier ʿAyn-al-Dawla and the es­tablishment of a “House of Justice” (ʿadālat-ḵāna). It was under these pressures that the shah permitted the establishment of a representative assembly on 14 Jomādā II 1324/6 August 1906 (Šarīf Kāšānī, I, pp. 49-­91; Nāẓem-al-Eslām, I, pp. 500-66; Kasrawī, pp. 58­-126; Tafrešī Ḥosaynī, pp. 27-33).

In the course of the revolution, merchants and guildsmen actively participated in and supported the various revolutionary and Constitutional organiza­tions, notably the Majles itself. The guilds of Tehran organized a number of active anjomans which in turn formed a central committee (Anjoman-e Markazī-e Aṣnāf). Merchants and bankers (ṣarrāfs) of Tehran also organized their own associations, which along with the one organized by the guildsmen, helped coordinate a variety of collective actions by the bāzārīs. Merchants and guildsmen also played leading roles in other anjomans (Hedāyat, p. 219; Dawlatābādī, II, pp. 116-77, 131, 136, 292-93, 297-98, 317-25; Ketāb-e ābī I, p. 36; Rabino, pp. 111-12). The merchants and bankers pro­vided financial support for the movement by providing food for the crowds who took refuge in sanctuaries, paying the salaries of apprentices and footboys during the bāzār strikes, and providing food and financial support for the needy during the civil war and its ensuing famine (Šarīf Kāšānī, I, pp. 33, 73; Dawlatābādī, II, pp. 72, 303; Nāẓem-al-Eslām, I, pp. 344-45, 514, 590-91; Kasrawī, 1977, pp. 65, 110; Ketāb-e ābī I, p. 10). Theology students were also active in the move­ment and founded the Anjoman-e Ṭollāb, which along with the Anjoman-e Aṣnāf participated in the revo­lution. Merchants and guild masters who resided in neighboring countries also contributed to the anjoman movement. Anjoman-e Saʿādat, for example, was formed in Istanbul by ten representatives of merchants and twenty representatives of guild masters. They were highly active in providing both financial and moral support for the Constitutionalists during the critical period of 1326-29/1908-11 (Rafīʿī, pp. 34-35; Dawlat­ābādī, III, pp. 33-37; Bahār, pp. alef-be; Kasrawī, 1977, pp. 724, 730-32).

In Rašt the provincial council and a number of anjomans in which the aṣnāf and some merchants were among the most active members made an important contribution to the Constitutional movement (Rabino, pp. 9-10, 12, 37, 93, 110-12). In Mašhad, Anjoman-e Saʿādat, in which merchants, theology students, and guild masters were especially active, served as the main organizer of the resistance movement. In many confrontations with the monarchist forces, the mosque and the bāzār of the city of Mašhad served as the bastion of resistance movement fighting against the government (Bahār, pp. alef-be; Rabino, pp. 117-45; Ketāb-e ābī I, p. 34).

Tojjār and aṣnāf, along with a small group of the ʿolamāʾ, supported the intelligentsia in Tehran and took measures to promote liberal ideas in the Constitutional movement. The organizational network and coordinated action of three major bāzārī anjomans of tojjār, aṣnāf, and ṣarrāfs were instrumental in securing the Constitution and establishing the first Majles. Inspired by the liberal intellectuals, the bāzārīs rejected the shah’s decree of 13 Jomādā II 1324 granting the establishment of the Majles but making it subservient to the shah; they argued that the shah should accede to the will of the Majles, and that not only Tehran but all provincial towns should be represented in the legislative body (Dawlatābādī, II, pp. 75-76; Nāẓem-al-Eslām, I, p. 548, Ṣafāʾī, pp. 92-93; Tafrešī Ḥosaynī, pp. 34, 36, 40-­41). The bāzārīs also supported, along with the Consti­tutionalist ʿolamāʾ and the intellectuals, the idea of a national assembly rather than an Islamic one (Nāẓem-­al-Eslām, I, p. 561; Ṣafāʾī, pp. 120-21; Ādamīyat, pp. 170-71). The bāzārīs also prevailed on the issue of an election bill. Hundreds of tojjār and aṣnāf actively participated in such protest actions as the shutdown of shops and a second refuge on the grounds of the British legation in defense of the interest of the bāzārīs of the major cities (Nāẓem-al-Eslām, I, pp. 594-608; Ādam­īyat, pp. 174-75; Ṣafāʾī, pp. 148-49; Dawlatābādī, II, pp. 86-89; Ketāb-e ābī I, pp. 11-12).

In many of these protest actions most of the big merchants and the majority of the ʿolamāʾ who were in the Constitutionalist camp often opted for more moderate and even conservative actions, whereas guild members showed a greater inclination toward more militant and radical actions. When the most radical movement of the lower bāzārīs took place in Rašt and guild members organized Anjoman-e ʿAbbāsī, which called for abolishing guild taxes (mālīāt-e aṣnāf) and rents from peasants, the leading Constitutionalist ʿolamāʾ of the city openly opposed their radical move (Rabino, pp. 30-40, 47-56; Ādamīyat, pp. 471-73).

When the first Majles met, the ʿolamāʾ and bāzārīs were well represented. Of the total number of deputies, 29 percent came from the ranks of the ʿolamāʾ, 17 percent from merchants, and 18 percent from guild masters, comprising a total of 64 percent. The leading ʿolamāʾ were not only well represented, but also assumed leadership in the Majles. The bāzārī representa­tives, too, played an active role in discussions and policy-making in the first Majles. The focus of the bāzārīs’ concern in the first Majles was on such issues as the rejection of foreign loans, establishment of a national bank, protection of people from arbitrary and repressive measures, rationalization of financial affairs (Ašraf, 1980, pp. 116-23; Ādamīyat, pp. 347-460; Majles-e Šūrā-ye Mellī). But in later sessions of the Majles, the role played by the bāzārī-ʿolamāʾ alliance declined. While the guilds were not represented in the Majles from the second session onward, the ʿolamāʾ continued to be well represented up to the 7th session (1347-49/1928-30), the tojjār’s representations and influence, however, did not decline significantly until the mid-1330s Š./1950s (Šajīʿī, p. 176).

In Tabrīz, a city which played a central role throughout the Constitutional movement, the Provincial Coun­cil of Azerbaijan (Anjoman-e Ayālatī-e Āḏarbāyjān) was instrumental in grass-roots mobilization. Merchants and guild masters in the city played a major role in the successful operation of the Council which conducted its business in two sets of separate sessions. First, there was the general session to receive and review complaints from the public. This session convened every working day, and three representatives of tojjār and two rep­resentatives of aṣnāf were present from dawn to dusk to assist in its operations. Second, there was the special session of the twelve representatives of the people of whom six represented the aṣnāf. This session met twice a week to discuss issues concerning the relationship between the government and the people. In addition twelve persons from the guilds were present in the Council every day to assist it in running city affairs (Rafīʿī, pp. 40-42). In Tabrīz, which later became the most active center of resistance, the vocal and active elements of the bāzār and mosque bore the brunt of the ruthless measures taken by the Russian soldiers during the 1329-30/1911-12 occupation of Azerbaijan. Of the thirty-five individuals reported slain by the Russians, eighteen were guild masters, six were merchants, and another six were ʿolamāʾ, making up about 86 percent of the casualties (Browne, 1972, pp. 200-48).

The role of the two components of the bāzārī-ʿolamāʾ alliance in the Constitutional Revolution differed sig­nificantly in the course of the movement. Whereas a large segment of the bāzārīs supported the Consti­tutional movement to the end, the ʿolamāʾ split in the midst of the movement. A large group of the leading ʿolamāʾ, including Shaikh Fażl-Allāh Nūrī of Tehran and Sayyed Kāẓem Yazdī of Najaf, supported the monarchists. To fight the Constitutionalists, reaction­ary forces were mobilized in major cities by some leading ʿolamāʾ, a group of their theology students, and some of the bāzārīs (Kasrawī, 1977, pp. 489-98, 628-29; 1971, pp. 402-408; Żamīrī, pp. 31-36; Jūrābčī, pp. 1-30; Hedāyat, pp. 223-31; Rabino, pp. 103-04, 120-29; Nāẓem-al-Eslām, II, p. 112; Bahār, pp. alef-be; Ketāb-e ābī I, p. 34).

On the whole, the overwhelming majority of the ʿolamāʾ, who were part of the traditional power structure, rose against the dominant ideology of the Consti­tutional Revolution. In this opposition they were joined by a segment of their bāzārī followers. A much larger segment of the bāzārīs, however, due to the elective affinity of their material and nonmaterial interests with the liberal ideas of national sovereignty and rational political authority, joined the intelligentsia and sup­ported Constitutional ideas. After all, if the Consti­tutional movement had not enjoyed the full support of at least a small number of the leading ʿolamāʾ, par­ticularly those of Aḵūnd Mollā Moḥammad-Kāẓem Ḵorāsānī and Ḥājj Shaikh ʿAbd-Allāh Māzandarānī, a large part of the bāzārīs would not have participated actively in the revolutionary coalition (see Qūčānī, p. 366; Nāẓem-al-Eslām, II, pp. 156-61, 193-95, 237, 241-43, 264-67, 272, 382-442; Dawlatābādī, II, pp. 129-32, 167-79, 297-334; Kasrawī, 1977, pp. 358-63, 505-15, 606, 614-18, 626-30, 729-32).

The bāzārī-ʿolamāʾ alliance and the republican move­ment of 1302-03 Š./1924. The bāzārī-ʿolamāʾ alliance once again gained momentum and led to collective action in the mid-1920s, when Prime Minister Reżā Khan (later Reżā Shah) first made an attempt to establish a republic and later to transfer the kingship from the Qajars to one of his own making. Following the lead of the ʿolamāʾ, in general, and Sayyed Ḥasan Modarres, a prominent religious leader and a leading Majles deputy, in particular, the bāzārīs mobilized demonstrations against Reżā Khan’s campaign to establish a republic in Iran. Reżā Khan tried to have the bāzārs closed in his own support, but the bāzārīs resisted police pressures. On 29 Esfand 1302 Š./20 March 1925, failing to gain the support of the bāzārīs, the police chief had the doors of the mosques locked and mobilized a group of demonstrators to shout pro-republic slogans and fire guns in the bāzār areas to force the bāzārīs to close down the shops and retreat to their homes. Hundreds of angry bāzārīs followed the lead of a militant religious leader, Ḵāleṣīzāda and attended congregational prayers in the alleys of the bāzār. The preachers took the opportunity to deliver political sermons and thousands of the agitated bāzārīs signed the petitions against the republican movement. The bāzārīs also sent a delegation consisting of some of their own leaders and a number of the ʿolamāʾ to meet Moʾtamen-al-Molk Mīrzā Ḥosayn Khan Pīrnīā, the speaker of the Majles, present their petitions, and express their discontent with the republican movement. On 2 Farvardīn 1303 Š./22 March 1924 several thousands of the bāzārīs accompanied by some of the ʿolamāʾ gathered in the Majles to await the response of the Majles to their earlier petitions. The prime minister with a group of his officers rushed to the Majles in order to disperse the crowd, only to be greeted with violence, which prompted Moʾtamen-al-Molk to threaten Reżā Khan with a vote of no confidence. Mounting pressures finally forced Reżā Khan to call off the campaign (Mostawfī, pp. 594-602; Makkī, II, pp. 486-502; Hedāyat, pp. 462-68; Dawlatābādī, IV, pp. 345-61; Bahār, II, pp. 43ff.).

Later in the fall of 1304 Š./1925, when Reżā Khan launched his campaign to establish a new dynasty, he organized a public ceremony in the Military Acad­emy, but the bāzārīs declined to participate. To attract some bāzārīs, a small group of leading merchants, who were apparently either the supporters of Reżā Khan or could be persuaded to collaborate with him, were invited to meet the prime minister at his residence on 7 Ābān 1304 Š./30 October 1925 for consultation. When a group of some thirty to forty merchants arrived, they were directed to the Military Academy to participate in the ceremony in honor of Reżā Khan, which was already in progress (Makkī, III, p. 395; Dawlatābādī, IV, p. 366).

The attitude of the bāzārīs during Reżā Shah’s reign (1304-20 Š./1925-41) was ambivalent. While welcoming the establishment of law and order and economic growth, the bāzārīs resented excessive state intervention in commercial activities, suppression of the bāzārīs by the state, new urban developments that undermined the physical integrity of the bāzār, and deviations from Islamic rules of conduct which were the results of the processes of westernization. However, prosperous merchants, who either managed to move out of the bāzār or were engaged in modern business activities and benefited more from the fruits of modernization, col­laborated with his regime.

The oil nationalization movement and the uprising of Tīr, 1331 Š./July, 1952. Following the abdication of Reżā Shah, the bāzār served as a social base for a new nationalistic movement. As early as 1323 Š./1944, during the election of the fourteenth Majles, the support of the bāzār gave Moḥammad Moṣaddeq the largest number of votes for any elected representa­tive. In March of 1945, when Moṣaddeq denounced the Majles as a den of thieves (dozdgāh), the entire bāzār closed and joined university students in a show of support for the rising nationalist leader (Key Ostovān, pp. 289-95). At the same time, Moṣaddeq enjoyed the support of some of the ʿolamāʾ who, from the mid-1940s to the uprising of Tīr, 1331 Š./July, 1952, recognized the possibility of alliance with him. Ayatollah Moḥammad-Taqī Ḵonsārī was the only one among the several “models of emulation” (marājeʿ-e taqlīd) who issued an edict (fatwā) in support of nationalizing the oil. Other prominent ayatollahs who supported the movement included Sayyed Abu’l-Qāsem Kāšānī, ʿAbbās-ʿAlī Šāhrūdī, and Shaikh Bahāʾ-al-Dīn Maḥallātī (Bāzargān, 1984, pp. 178-79; Resālat, 25 Bahman 1365 Š./14 February 1987, p. 7; Rāzī, I, pp. 149-50; Najātī, pp. 89-90, 115).

In Tīr, 1331 Š./July, 1952 the bāzārīs, the ʿolamāʾ, and the intelligentsia demonstrated their support of Moṣad­deq against the court and the ruling elite. On 19 Tīr/9 July, the Association of Merchants, Guilds, and Crafts­men (Jāmeʿa-ye Bāzargānān, Aṣnāf, wa Pīšavarān) held an emergency meeting, attended by some 500 of its members, to close the bāzār in protest against the Senate’s indecisiveness when asked to give Moṣaddeq a vote of confidence. The Association delegated 40 of its members to meet with Ayatollah Abu’l-Qāsem Kāšānī in order to ask him to issue a call for a general strike in the bāzār (Šāhed, 20 Tīr 1331 Š./10 July 1952). When Moṣaddeq resigned over differences with the shah on 26 Tīr/16 July, mass demonstrations and riots broke out in Tehran and other major cities with bāzārīs, ʿolamāʾ, and students playing a major role. During the three days of nation-wide uprising (28-30 Tīr/19-21 July) the bāzārs of Tehran and major cities were shut down. On 29 Tīr/19 July, some leading Majles deputies appeared in the bāzār of Tehran, delivered speeches and instigated the bāzārīs to rise up and support the ousted premier (Torkamān, pp. 186-87). On the 20th, the bāzār area in Tehran became the site of major clashes between demonstrators and security forces (Eṭṭelāʿāt, 30 Tīr 1331 Š./20 July 1952). The government’s main objec­tive was the prevention of another shutdown of the bāzārs. Therefore, on 30 Tīr/20 July, the military governor of Tehran instructed the police to “specially strengthen the police station of the bāzār and take all necessary measures in that area” (Torkamān, pp. 308, 649). Despite all these precautionary measures, the bāzārīs closed down their shops on the 31st/21st with a main group of demonstrators making their way from the bāzār to the Majles square and confronting the police along the way. The first casualty occurred in the bāzār area at 7:00 a.m. (Torkamān, p. 323; Najātī, pp. 221-22). At the same time, bāzārs of other major cities, including Ābādān, Arāk, Ḵorramšahr, Tabrīz, Mašhad, Hamadān, Ahvāz, Kermān, Kermānšāh, Qom, and Qazvīn, also closed down in support of Moṣaddeq (Torkamān, pp. 171-73, 183-84, 198-201, 348-50, 359; Najātī, pp. 220-22). In Isfahan, for example, the chief of police reported that “1,000 of petty traders and various guild members have closed down their shops and gathered in the Telegraph Office in a show of support for Moṣaddeq” (Torkamān, 1993, p. 199). Of a total of 35 demonstrators who were arrested in Tehran during the uprising, 25 were petty traders, craftsmen, apprentices, and footboys, 4 were drivers, 2 journalists, one was a white-collar worker, one a student, and one an unskilled worker (Torkamān, pp. 455-56). It is likely that of a total 235 people killed and injured (Torkamān, pp. 465-66) the majority were middle and lower bāzārī members.

Following the victory of 30 Tīr/21 July, the court, landowning classes, and prosperous businessmen, in collaboration with the CIA and British Intelligence, made a concerted effort to undermine support for the National Front (Jebha-ye Mellī). Hundreds of threatening and humiliating leaflets and letters with fabricated signs of the Tūda (Tudeh) party and communist groups were mailed to the leading ʿolamāʾ in major cities (Ṭālaqanī, pp. 47-49).

Frightened by the menace of a possible communist takeover during the last year of Moṣaddeq’s rule, the ʿolamāʾ either became indifferent or actively supported the monarchist camp. As a result of factional infighting and splits among the leadership of the National Front, and the abandonment of Moṣaddeq by the bulk of the religious establishment, a large segment of the bāzārīs became increasingly apolitical, and a small segment, following the lead of the ʿolamāʾ changed sides and supported the monarchists. Most of the latter were either such prosperous merchants as the Rašīdīān brothers or came from the lower echelons of the bāzār and thus were particularly receptive to exhortation by religious leaders. It was under these circumstances that hundreds of people from the vegetable market of Tehran (meydān) and their leaders (e.g., Ṭayyeb Reżāʾī, Ḥājj Ḵodādād) together with a group of ʿolamāʾ organized the mob riots which served as a warm-up phase for the coup d’état of 28 Mordād 1332 Š./19 August 1953 (Najātī, pp. 258, 264, 339, 365-67; Cottam, pp. 226-27).

A large number of the middle-level bāzārīs supported Moṣaddeq to the end of his rule by mobilizing dem­onstrations, participating in elections and a national referendum, and by purchasing bonds issued by his government. In spite of factional differences among the ʿolamāʾ and the bāzārīs in the final hours of the government, a segment of the bāzārīs kept their al­legiance to Moṣaddeq and later closed down their shops again as a protest against the coup d’état regime. The popularity of Moṣaddeq in the bāzār had political as well as economic bases. His nationalist economic policies helped promote certain local industries and expanded the export of local products. As a result of these policies, the value of non-oil exports was almost doubled from 4.4 billion rials in 1330 Š./1951 to 8.4 in 1332 Š./1953 (PBO, p. 232). Moreover, not only the inflationary trends, but also better access for mer­chants to foreign exchange from exports were all of direct interest to many in the bāzār (Melbourne, pp. 1-5). Much more important than these material interests, however, was the bāzārīs’ feeling during Moṣaddeq’s rule that they were granted a rare oppor­tunity to participate in the political life of the country, giving them a sense of civic and political worthiness they had not had before. Moṣaddeq, as a champion of the material and nonmaterial interests of the Iranian na­tionalist petty bourgeoisie, inaugurated a new role for this group in national politics.

The urban uprising of 1342 Š./1963. Two major developments in the early 1340s Š./1960s helped bring about the uprising of Ḵordād, 1342 Š./June, 1963. First, external pressures came from the revolution in Iraq, supported by the Soviet Union and the United Arab Republic and, above all, from the new foreign policy of President John F. Kennedy, who pressed his client regime for social and political reforms (Pahlavi, pp. 23, 102, 118, 141, 146). Domestically, there was a severe economic recession in 1340-41 Š./1961-62, which led to many bankruptcies in the bāzār. The land reform program, the granting of voting rights to women, and the omission of specific references to Islam and the holy Koran in the local election bill marked the beginnings of a new era in Iran, i.e., a shift of the social bases of the shah’s regime from the traditional urban forces of the landowning classes, the ʿolamāʾ and the bāzārīs to the rapidly growing modern classes of bureaucrats, professionals, and new bourgeois elements.

Second, there occurred simultaneously a number of developments in the Qom theological center. The death of the well-established, highly conservative and apolitical grand ayatollah Ḥosayn Borūjerdī in 1340 Š./1961 led to the emergence of a number of “models of emulation” in Qom and Najaf. It also granted an opportunity to a group of young students of theology who were inclined toward modern education, political activities, and even militant behavior to assert themselves and emerge as a new force on the political stage. The time was ripe, therefore, for the emergence of a new religio-political protest movement.

Ayatollah Rūḥ-Allāh Ḵomeynī who had recently risen to prominence with the title of grand ayatollah (āyat-Allāh al-ʿoẓmā) and was being recognized as a new model of emulation for the Iranian Shiʿite community, together with a group of his students, took advantage of this opportunity and assumed the leadership of the movement (Bāzargān, pp. 118-19). The new possi­bilities for mobilization transformed the bāzārs and major mosques and shrines of Tehran and other major cities into centers of resistance. The ʿolamāʾ acted in unison to boycott the referendum of 6 Bahman 1341 Š./26 January 1963 on the shah’s reform programs. The security forces invaded Fayżīya (the main religious seminary in Qom) on 2 Farvardīn/22 March and left a score of casualties. The struggle between the ʿolamāʾ and the state intensified during the month of Moḥarram Ḵordād/June of the same year. The arrest of Ayatollah Ḵomeynī on 15 Ḵordād/4 June, transformed the anti­government demonstrations into violent confron­tations during the next two days. Massive urban riots and clashes with security forces broke out in the bāzār areas and religious centers in a number of cities (Rūḥānī, pp. 229-600; Karbāsčī, pp. 21-57). News re­leases reported from Tehran that the bāzār area looked as if a tornado had hit it (New York Times, 6 June 1963). The American consul in Tabrīz reported that the bāzār remained closed for almost a month (Coon, p. 12). Tens of thousands of lower bāzārīs participated in these demonstrations (Rūḥānī, pp. 437, 484-87; Resālat, 6-7 Esfand 1365 Š./25-26 February, 1987, p. 8); 200 to 300 demonstrators, many of whom came from the masses of the lower bāzārīs (apprentices and footboys), were killed in clashes with the security forces (Karbāsčī, pp. 34, 49, 51, 55; Die Welt, Le Monde, and New York Times 6 and 7 June 1963).

Whereas the Constitutional Revolution and oil nationalization movement occurred during the periods of rising nationalism, modernism, and secularism which in turn led to the relative eclipse of religion, the 1340s Š./1960s marked the opening of an era of Islamic revival and militant-radical action combined with the decline of liberal nationalism and nonviolent protest. In the 1342 Š./1963 uprising for the first time a small number of militant ʿolamāʾ played a critical role while the bāzārīs had a secondary role and the in­telligentsia only a minimal one. The ʿolamāʾ had the leadership of Ayatollah Rūḥ-Allāh Ḵomeynī, a juris­consult (faqīh), who combined the charisma of the office with strong will to power and personal charisma; the bāzārīs played a more passive role vis-à-vis the ʿolamāʾ; and, finally, a new alliance between the militant ʿolamāʾ and the politically active intellectuals and university students, who were attracted to Ayatollah Ḳomeynī’s militant discourses, was forged for the first time. The urban uprising of 1342 Š./1963 served, therefore, as a prelude to the revolution of 1356-57 Š./1977-79.

The bāzār and the revolution of 1356-57 Š./1977-­79. Bāzārīs, along with the ʿolamāʾ and young intelligentsia, constituted a major faction in the revolutionary coalition of 1356-57 Š./1977-79. The bāzār and the mosque provided a strong organizational base for the militant ʿolamāʾ in the effort to mobilize the revolution. Many of the strategies and tactics for revolutionary mobilization were planned and carried out by the bāzārīs under the supervision of a small group of the militant ʿolamāʾ (Resālat, 20 Esfand 1365 Š./11 March 1987, p. 8).

The bāzār ‘s relationship with the Pahlavi regime was fraught with tensions and conflicts. The increasing animosity since the 1330s Š./1950s between the state and the bāzār was focused on political and sociocultural issues as well as the basic processes of economic development. It has often been stated that the bāzārīs revolted against the Pahlavi regime because the government had favored, particularly in the post-land-reform era, the big modern “dependent bourgeoisie” (through its promotion of supermarkets and shopping malls) at the expense of the “petty bourgeois” bāzārīs and shopkeepers (Pūr(-e) Āḏar, pp. 27-31; Pahlavi, pp. 155-­56). However, given the considerable material gains that the bāzārīs made in this period, the threats to the bāzārīs were, more often than not, in various forms of state intervention in commercial activities and the regime’s repressive policies toward them, rather than the expan­sion of the new shopping areas. Increasingly arbitrary and discriminatory implementation of commercial regulations and tax laws against the bāzārīs and guildsmen in the 1340s Š./1960s and the 1350s Š./1970s were two major sources of the bāzārīs’ hostility to the state (Cook, p. 10; Rotblat, pp. 217-­18). Added to these factors was the expansion of government-sponsored cooperative societies and discount sale centers known as city-village coopera­tives (Šerkathā-ye Taʿāwonī-e Šahr o Rūstā). Re­porting after the urban uprising of 1342 Š./1963, the American consul in Tabrīz commented on the situation, “the establishment of a variety of commis­saries and small cooperatives by the Iranian govern­ment for various of its employees . . . [has removed] a segment of retail shoppers from the bazaar” (Coon, p. 10). Later, in 1348 Š./1969, in a bitter conflict with the ruling Īrān-e Novīn party, the chairman of the High Council of Tehran Guilds “blamed the Government for harmful rivalry with the guilds by expan[ding] . . . Gov­ernment sale centers” (Iran Almanac, 1969, p. 562). The establishment of rural cooperatives, as part of the land reform measures, was also threatening to the bāzārīs. Thus, to win the support of the bāzārīs, Ayatollah Ḵomeynī, in an edict (fatwā) that forbade participation in the national referendum of 6 Bahman 1342 Š./26 January 1963, condemned the creation of cooperative societies as being “detrimental to the vested interests of the bāzārī shopkeepers and merchants as well as those of peasants” (Rūḥānī, p. 231). Another contributing fac­tor was the shah’s and his regime’s thinly disguised contempt for the bāzārīs. There was little room in the shah’s grand modernization scheme for the bāzārīs, whom he felt ashamed of: “The bazaaris are a fanatic lot, highly resistant to change because their locations afford a lucrative monopoly. Moving against the bazars was typical of the political and social risks I had to take in my drive for modernization” (Pahlavi, 1980, p. 156).

After a hiatus of a decade or so, the repression of the bāzārīs and guildsmen was resumed immediately after the coup d’état of 1332 Š./1953. After the general strike of the bāzārīs in support of Moṣaddeq on 21 Ābān 1332 Š./12 November 1953, the government stepped in to demolish the roof of the bāzār of Tehran, an attempt that was thwarted at the last minute by a promise by the bāzārīs that they would no longer become involved in protest movements or close down their shops without the assent of the government. As a punitive measure against the bāzār, furthermore, the bus lines in Tehran were rerouted so that only one rather than several lines ran into the bāzār area (Melbourne, p. 5).

Meanwhile, the government supported the Merchants Association of Tehran, which included many of the city’s major merchants (Kayhān, 12 Āḏar 1332 Š./3 December 1953) who were to collaborate with the regime over the next quarter of a century; a number of these merchants later served as loyal senators and Majles deputies. Further, the state initiated a new plan to organize and supervise the guilds under the firm control of the state machinery. A new law (Qānūn-e Neẓām-e Ṣenfī) was enacted in 1336 Š./1957, stipulating the formation of individual guilds and a high council of guilds (Šūrā-ye ʿAlī-e Aṣnāf) in each town. By the late 1340s Š./1960s, approximately 110 different guilds with a membership of about 120,000 formed the High Council of Guilds in Tehran (Iran Almanac, 1969, p. 562). The main function of the guilds and the councils was to negotiate the amount of taxes to be paid by guild members, but this function was often ignored by the authorities. The tension between the state and the guilds reached a peak in 1348 Š./1969, when the mayor of Tehran dismissed all members of the High Council of Guilds (Iran Almanac, 1969, p. 562).

Later, in 1350 Š./1971, a new law entitled the Guilds’ Codes (Qānūn-e Neẓām-e Ṣenfī), with special provi­sions for setting up a chamber of guilds, was enacted by the Majles. In the same year the chamber of guilds (Oṭāq-e Aṣnāf) consisting of some 124 guilds with a total membership of approximately 200,000 members was established in Tehran (Iran Almanac, 1972, p. 583). First a former governor, then a police colonel, and finally a police major were elected by the members, under government pressure, as heads of the chamber.

One of the main intended functions of the chamber was to launch an anti-price-gouging campaign against both the bāzārīs and manufacturers and big traders. Three agencies, including the Center for Price Determination (Markaz-e Barrasī-e Qaymathā), the Cham­ber of Guilds, and the Special Tribunal for the Prosecu­tion of Price Gougers (Dādgāh-e Kayfar-e Gerān­forūšān) were put in charge of the antiprofiteering campaign. Furthermore, the government organized the National Association for the Protection of Consumer Rights (Anjoman-e Mellī-e Ḥemāyat az Maṣrafkon­anda) to enforce price monitoring measures; a former chief of the national police force was appointed as its director. The anti-price-gouging campaign reached its climax in the summer of 1975, when it was included as the fourteenth principle of the shah’s White Revolution (Eṭṭelāʿāt, 23 Tīr, 29 Mordād 1354 Š./14 July, 20 August 1975). A special task force (Setād-e Mobāreza bā Gerānforūšī) was immediately formed in the Rastāḵīz party for planning and implementing the anti-­profiteering campaign with the minister of commerce

and the deputy secretary-general of the party as its chief. The task force recruited some 2,000 students to monitor prices and file charges before the tribunal against the violators (Eṭṭelāʿāt, 3 Šahrīvar, 5 Mehr 1354 Š./25 August, 27 September 1975). Many industrial and commercial establishments in Tehran, including thousands of small shops as well as scores of major industrial units, were targeted with their owners and often harassed and humiliated by the student inspec­tors. The penalties for price gouging included heavy fines, temporary and permanent closing of shops, deportation to remote areas, imprisonment, and even, potentially, execution (Eṭṭelāʿāt, 25 Tīr, 26 Šahrīvar 1354 Š./16 July, 17 September 1975). When the guild chambers proved to be less than cooperative in im­plementing such repressive measures, the minister of commerce dismissed 17 top guild leaders from the Chamber of Guilds of Tehran and dissolved most of the guild chambers throughout the country (Eṭṭelāʿāt, 18, 29 Mordād, 8 Šahrīvar 1354 Š./9, 20, 30 August 1975). The anti-price-gouging campaign was one of the decisive factors in causing the bāzārīs to join in the revolution of 1977-79.

Another arbitrary, though much more limited but symbolically important, measure was taken by the government in the mid-1970s against the vested interest of the bāzārīs when thousands of small shops and stands around the shrine of the eighth imam in Mašhad were demolished in order to renovate the area and turn it into green space. This policy cost thousands of petty traders and artisans, who were maltreated, their businesses.

The bāzārīs also resented the regime’s sociocultural policies promoting Western secular life-styles at the expense of traditional urban ways of life; included in these grievances was the appearance in public of the more privileged Westernized classes, particularly the unveiled and often “provocatively clad” upper-class women (lebāshā-ye zananda wa taḥrīkāmīz), and among other things violation of Islamic codes of behavior in public, un-Islamic or anti-Islamic ideas disseminated by the state-controlled media, non-Islamic contents of the curriculum of modern schools, and the increasing influence and presence of Americans and Europeans at all levels of the country’s economic and social life.

The big merchants and prosperous bāzārīs supported the revolution on the assumption that they would pay no more illegitimate state taxes in an Islamic regime, that their life-styles would be respected by the Islamic state, that they would be free from arbitrary domination of the state, and that in the new regime they would have many more contacts within the state bureaucracy. For many bāzārīs, therefore, the revolution meant a collective show of force and self-assertion vis-à-vis the state. The lower bāzārīs also thought the revolution would bring them Islamic social justice and equality. While offering a variety of appealing Islamic ideologies, the revolution mobilized almost all urban social forces of different ideal and material interests under the charis­matic leadership of Ayatollah Ḵomeynī.

On the eve of the revolution, the bāzārīs prepared to contribute a number of protest tactics against the regime, including closing down of the shops, taking sanctuary in mosques and public buildings, providing financial support for the movement, and participating in mass meetings and street demonstrations. The bāzārīs were in a position to make a major contribution to the revolutionary mobilization.

In the early stages of the revolution from Dey, 1356 Š./January, 1978 to Ḵordād, 1357 Š./June, 1978 their participation was limited mainly to public processions and meetings honoring the victims of the urban riots in Qom, Tabrīz, and Yazd. In the bāzārs, the closing of shops immediately affected the urban economy and created a state of crisis in many cities. The bāzār of Qom was the first to close down its shops which it did on 19 Dey 1356 Š./9 January 1978, and thereafter it did so frequently until the collapse of the Pahlavi regime. Ten days after the events in Qom many bāzārīs of Tehran, too, closed down their shops in order to commemorate the martyrs despite pressures from the regime to prevent it. When the bāzār in Tehran followed suit, the Chamber of Guilds responded by suspending the busi­ness operation of fifteen shops, whose owners were among the leaders of the movement (Davānī, VII, pp. 38-41, 67-68; Bādāmčīān, 3-4 February 1987, p. 7). The bāzārīs of Isfahan, Shiraz, and Ahvāz, among others, reacted by closing their own. Later the bāzārs of Tehran, Qom, and many major cities closed down again on the occasion of the fortieth day of the martyrs of the Qom uprising (Bādāmčīān, 22 Esfand 1365 Š./12 March 1978, p. 7). At the instigation of the Society of Mer­chants and Artisans of the Bāzār of Tehran (Jāmeʿa-ye Bāzargānān wa Pīšavarān-e Bāzār-e Tehrān), the first coordinated action to close down the bāzārs nation­wide was made on the occasion of the fifteenth an­niversary of the 15 Ḵordād 1342 Š./5 June 1963 uprising. The entire bāzār of Tabrīz, Isfahan, and Mašhad, about 70 percent of the bāzār of Tehran, and a large part of the bāzārs in several other cities shut down completely (Bāzargān, p. 45; Davānī, VII, pp. 198-200). The first successful shutdown of all the bāzārs through­out the country occurred on 24 Mehr 1357 Š./16 October 1978, when Ayatollah Ḵomeynī and the three grand ayatollahs (Moḥammad-Kāẓem Šarīʿatmadārī, Moḥammad-Reżā Golpāyegānī, and Šehāb-al-Dīn Maṛʿašī Najafī) of Qom called for a universal strike in commemoration of the 40th day of the martyrs of the Black Friday (Jomʿa-ye Sīāh) killings of unarmed demonstrators by the troops in Tehran’s Žāla Square (Davānī, VIII, pp, 161-71; Eṭṭelāʿāt, 24 Mehr 1357 Š./16 October 1978). Thereafter, the closing of the bāzārs became a fairly regular occurrence during the revolution (Resālat, 21 Esfand 1365 Š./11 March 1987, p. 8).

Organizing and participating in mass demonstrations and street rallies were other forms in which the bāzārīs contributed to the revolutionary protests. Approxi­mately two-thirds of some 2,500 reported demon­strations that took place in the course of the revolution were mobilized by the bāzārī-ʿolamāʾ alliance (Ashraf and Banuazizi, p. 25; Bāzargān, p. 39; Resālat, loc. cit.).

The provision of financial resources to various revolutionary groups and organizations was made by many prosperous merchants, with amounts increasing rapid­ly as the revolution gained momentum. Financial help for the families of those who were killed, injured, and imprisoned in the course of the revolution, as well as compensation to the apprentices, footboys, and workers during the bāzār’s repeated strikes, was provided by the bāzār merchants. The bāzārīs also provided considerable financial support for many of the dem­onstrations, strikes, riots, and publication and distri­bution of newspapers, leaflets, and revolutionary mes­sages, recorded on cassette tapes. They supported welfare committees and Islamic cooperatives during the last months of the revolutionary movement. From Ābān to Bahman, 1357 Š./November, 1978 to Feb­ruary, 1979, for example, some forty-five welfare com­mittees were formed by the bāzārīs in different cities (Ashraf and Banuazizi, p. 16). Their role was also important in organizing patrol committees to protect the bāzār areas. These committees became the forerun­ners of the revolutionary committees formed later to assist in the consolidation of the Islamic state. Moreover, a survey of the “martyrs” of the revolution in Tehran, shows that over one-half of the total of 646 who were killed came from the lower-middle and lower strata of young bāzārīs and their families.

At the conclusion of the revolution, it appeared at first that the bāzār-mosque alliance would be its main beneficiary. The Islamic Revolution was, however, dramatically different from the Constitutional Revolution and the oil-nationalization movement. While in the first Majles after the Constitutional Revolution some 35 percent of the deputies represented the bāzārīs and 29 percent the ʿolamāʾ, in the first Majles after the Islamic Revolution, half of the deputies represented the ʿolamāʾ, 45 percent the new intelligentsia, and only 2 percent the bāzārīs (Majles-e Šūrā-ye Es­lāmī, p. 204). The bāzārīs were, however, represented indirectly in two other ways. First, through their younger generation, who had joined the ranks of professionals and young intelligentsia (mainly students and teachers) and, second, by a coalition of conservative and traditional deputies that was formed in the Majles in order to support the interests of the bāzār and the private sector vis-à-vis the state and the public sector. In general many lower-rank bāzārīs have managed to maintain and promote their interests in post­-revolutionary Iran. The upward economic mobility of many members of this group has often been at the expense of the better-established and prosperous bāzārīs.

On the whole, however, the bāzārīs have been threatened by such unprecedented governmental measures as nationalization of foreign trade and elimination of intermediaries through the development of cooperative societies. Further, comparing the 1350 Š./1970s to the 1360s Š./1980s, one can observe a much more vigorous and ruthless anti-profiteering campaign launched by the revolutionary organizations against the bāzārīs. Again a bitter conflict between the state and the bāzārīs seems to be developing.



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(Ahmad Ashraf)

Originally Published: December 15, 1989

Last Updated: January 1, 2000

This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 1, pp. 30-44