DĀVAR, ʿALĪ-AKBAR (b. Tehran, 1302/1885, d. Tehran, 21 Bahman 1315 Š./10 February 1937), journalist, politician, statesman, and founder of the modern Persian judicial system, as well as of several state enterprises in the time of Reżā Shah (1304-20 Š/1925-41). He was the son of Kalb-ʿAlī Khan Ḵāzen Ḵalwat, a government employee, and was educated at the Dār al-fonūn, from which he received his diploma in humanities in 1327/1909 (ʿĀqelī, pp. 12-13). With the help of the Persian Democratic party (Ferqā-ye demokrāt-e Īrān), he began his career at the Ministry of justice (Wezārat-e ʿadlīya), where he was appointed to the district court (Ṣadīq, p. 265). In 1328/1910, at the age of twenty-five years, he became district attorney for Tehran. In this period he also wrote political articles for the radical newspaper Šarq, which was edited by Sayyed Żīāʾ-al-Dīn Ṭabāṭabāʾī (ʿĀqelī, p. 16). In 1329/1911 Ḥājj Ebrāhīm Panāhī, a merchant in Tabrīz, provided financing for him to study in Switzerland while serving as guardian for Panāhī’s minor child. In 1920 Dāvar received a law degree from the Université de Genève and became a doctoral candidate. After the announcement of the Anglo-Persian Agreement of 1919 he joined with other Persian intellectuals abroad in opposing it and wrote several newspaper articles (Afšār, pp. 454-74). Nevertheless, when the news of Żīāʾ-al-Dīn’s coup d’etat of 1299 Š./1921 reached him in Switzerland Dāvar abandoned work on his doctoral thesis in law and returned to Persia to enter politics. He first became director of public education and then director-general of the Ministry of education (Wezārat-e maʿāref; Ṣadīq, p. 268).
In the elections of 1301 Š./1922 Dāvar became representative for Varāmīn to the Fourth Majles. During this period he briefly published the newspaper Mard-e āzād, for which he wrote radical editorials read mostly by the Persian intelligentsia (Ḵᵛāja Nūrī, p. 10); organized 330 young intellectuals in the Radical party (Ḥezb-e rādīkāl; ʿĀqelī, p. 33); and formed a group in the Majles to support the minister of war, Reżā Khan (Bahār, II, p. 91). In the elections for the Fifth Majles in 1303 Š./1924 he became deputy from Lār. Five other members of the Radical party were also elected. Dāvar rose to prominence in the Majles and joined with ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn Teymūrtāš, and Fīrūz Mīrzā Fīrūz (Noṣrat-al-Dawla) to lead support for Reżā Khan. On 25 Bahman 1303 Š./14 February 1925 Dāvar presented a bill to appoint Reżā Khan commander-in-chief of the army. On 9 Ābān 1304 Š./31 October 1925 he also introduced legislation to depose the Qajar dynasty and entrust the state to Reżā Khan, pending the convening of a constituent assembly (Majles-e moʾassesān) to amend certain articles in the Addendum to the Constitution. Eighty of eighty-five deputies in the Majles had cosigned the bill. In this historic session of the Majles it was Dāvar who gave detailed replies to questions raised by Sayyed Ḥasan Modarres and Dr. Moḥammad Moṣaddeq (Amīr Ṭahmāsbī, pp. 248-67; ʿĀqelī, pp. 71-85; Makkī, p. 337). He was then put in charge of organizing the constituent assembly and became spokesman for the Committee to amend the constitutional law (Komīsīūn-e moṭāleʿa), which paved the way for transfer of kingship to Reżā Khan and his descendants (Ṣadīq, 1352 Š./1973b, pp. 303-05; Amīr Ṭahmāsbī, pp. 427, 507, 615-17).
Under Reżā Shah Dāvar became head of the Ministry of public utilities and trade (Wezārat-e fawāʾed-e ʿāmma wa tejārat) in the cabinet of Moḥammad-ʿAlī Forūḡī (28 Āḏar 1304 Š./19 December 1925). In this position he oversaw preparations for constructing the Persian railroad. He founded a school of business, the Madrasa-ye tejārat, in Tehran and laid the foundations for a Persian chamber of commerce. In 1305 Š./1926 he was again elected representative from Lār to the Sixth Majles (ʿĀqelī, p. 91), and in February 1927 he was appointed minister of justice in the cabinet of Ḥasan Mostawfī.
The judicial system established in 1324/1906-07 by Mīrzā Ḥasan Khan Mošīr-al-Dawla had evolved gradually, but it still suffered from organizational deficiencies, particularly the proliferation of religious and secular jurisdictions and absence of a uniform legal code, most notably in civil and criminal areas. In 1306 Š./1927 the government decided to revoke capitulations (q.v.) to foreign powers, which had permitted their citizens to be tried in special courts, and to bring the entire judiciary under Persian control; in exchange the foreign powers insisted that the government take measures to centralize and modernize the Persian judicial system (Komīsīūn-e mellī, p. 993). Dāvar seized this opportunity, and on 27 Bahman 1305 Š./17 February 1927 he was granted discretion by the Majles to compile a new legal code on the basis of reformed principles and to select a body of qualified judges. Dāvar appointed committees of experts to formulate new legislation; in a very short period 120 separate legal bills were ratified by the judiciary committee of the Majles. The most important was the civil code, and in addition there were the basic judicial law, the criminal code, the commercial code, and the code for religious courts (Ṣadīq, 1352 Š./1973a, p. 126). On 5 Ordībehešt 1306 Š./25 April 1927 the new legal system was inaugurated in the presence of Reżā Shah, who at the same time officially terminated the capitulations (Šafā, I, p. 56).
In the seven years that he served as minister of justice Dāvar founded new courts throughout Persia and selected suitable judges, both from among those already serving and from among qualified religious jurists (mojtaheds) and government employees. It was also he who organized the recording of documents and properties in appropriate registries (see DAFTAR-E ASNĀD-E RASMĪ). Other achievements included combining the ministerial schools of law and political science into the Higher school of law and political science (Madrasa-ye ʿālī-e ḥōqūq wa ʿolūm-e sīāsī) under the supervision of the Ministry of education, in 1306 Š./1927, and organizing courses in jurisprudence in the Ministry of justice. Dāvar also formulated rules and regulations for the office of defense attorney (ʿĀqelī, pp. 188-89).
The most important criticism of Dāvar’s performance as minister of justice was that he retained for himself power to intervene in the judgments of the courts and to remove disobedient judges; this power was embodied in an amendment weakening Article 82 of the Constitutional law, which had established an independent judiciary. The amendment was ratified by the Majles judiciary committee on 26 Mordād 1310 Š./17 August 1931 (Afšār, pp. 363-71; for some cases under the amendment, see Kasrawī, pp. 256-57, 272, 288-90, 305-40).
In 1311 Š./1932 the Persian government unilaterally abrogated the oil treaty with the British (see ANGLO-PERSIAN OIL COMPANY), who filed a complaint with the Permanent Court of International Justice. The Persian government denied the jurisdiction of the court over its internal affairs, and the British appealed to the Council of the League of Nations. In February Dāvar headed a delegation to Geneva to respond to the complaint; the defense was successful, and the court found in favor of Persia, denying the court jurisdiction (Fāteḥ, p. 292; ʿĀqelī, pp. 207-41).
In September Dāvar was appointed minister of finance in the cabinet of Moḥammad-ʿAlī Forūḡī. During the next five years he strove to strengthen the Persian economy, founding or enlarging numerous state enterprises and monopolies. He instituted barter transactions with Germany and the Soviet Union, exporting agricultural products in exchange for industrial goods. In order to promote and standardize exports and to streamline the distribution system, he also centralized the management of state companies (Wakīlī, pp. 32-98). Forūḡī’s government resigned in 1314 Š./1935, and Dāvar expected to be named prime minister; instead the shah appointed Maḥmūd Jam, reappointing Dāvar as minister of finance. Dāvar considered this choice a sign of the shah’s disfavor and feared for his life. Fear and the increasing pressures of work, especially the problem of ensuring sufficient grain for Tehran in the drought year 1315 Š./1936, contributed to his suicide from an overdose of opium in February 1937 (Taqīzāda, pp. 220-22).
Dāvar was a capable, ambitious, and courageous statesman, devoted to his work. As a politician, he was machiavellian, believing that the end justifies the means (Afšār, pp. 457-59; Golšāʾīān, pp. 611-22). Aside from his judicial and economic reforms, his legacy included his influence on a group of capable administrators of the next generation, including ʿAlī Amīnī, ʿAbbāsqolī Golšāʾīān, Aḥmad Matīn Daftarī, and Allāhyār Ṣāleḥ.
M. Afšār Yazdī, Sīāsat-e Orūpā dar Īrān, tr. Żīāʾ-al-Dīn Dehšīrī, Tehran, 1357 Š./1978, pp. 454-74.
ʿA. Amīr Ṭahmāsbī, Tārīḵ-e šāhanšāhī-e aʿlāḥażrat Reżā Šāh Pahlavī, Tehran, 1305 Š./1926.
B. ʿĀqelī, Dāvar wa ʿadlīya, Tehran, 1369 Š./1990.
M.-T. Bahār, Tārīḵ-e moḵtaṣar-e aḥzāb-e sīāsī-e Irān II, Tehran, 1363 Š./1984.
Bāmdād, Rejal, II, pp. 427-29.
“Faʿʿālīyathā-ye sīāsī-e ʿAlī-Akbar Dāvar dar Orūpā,” Āyanda 5, 1358 Š./1979, pp. 305-13.
M. Fāteḥ, Panjāh sāl naft-e Īrān, Tehran, 1335 Š./1956.
Fīrūz Mīrzā Fīrūz, Majmūʿa-ye mokātabāt, asnād, ḵāṭerāt wa āṯār-e Fīrūz Mīrzā Fīrūz (Noṣrat-al-Dawla), ed. M. Etteḥādīya (Neẓām Māfī) and S. Saʿdvandīān, 2 vols., Tehran, 1369-70 Š./1990-91, index, s.v.
Dāvar. ʿA. Golšāʾīān, “Yāddāšthā-ī čand rājeʿ be marḥūm-e Dāvar,” in Q. Ḡanī, Yāddāšthā-ye Doktor Qāsem Ḡanī, ed. S. Ḡanī, XI, London, 1984, pp. 607-52.
M. Hedāyat, Ḵāṭerāt wa ḵaṭarāt, Tehran, 1329 Š./1950.
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A. Kasrawī, Zendagānī-e man, dah sāl dar ʿadlīya, čerā az ʿadlīyabīrūn āmadam, Piedmont, Calif., 1990.
Komīsīūn-e mellī-e Yūnesko (UNESCO), Īrānšahr II, Tehran, 1347 Š./1968, p. 997.
Ḥ. Makkī, Tārīḵ-e bīst sāla-ye Īrān III, Tehran, 1357 Š/1978.
R. Pahlavī, Safar-nāma-ye Ḵūzestān, Tehran, 2535=1355 Š./1976.
ʿĪ. Ṣṟadīq, “ʿAlī-Akbar Dāvar,” in ʿĪ. Ṣadīq, Čehel goftār, Tehran, 1352 Š./1973a, pp. 119-29; repr. Rāhnemā-ye ketāb 16, 1352 Š./1973, pp. 745-53.
Idem, Yādgār-e ʿomr I, Tehran, 1352 Š./1973b. [Š. Šafā, ed.], Gāh-nāma-ye panjāh sāl šāhanšāhī-e Pahlavī, 5 vols., Paris, n.d. (1364 Š./1985?).
Ṣ.-Ḥ. Taqīzāda, Zendagī-e ṭūfānī. Ḵāṭerāt-e Sayyed Ḥasan Taqīzāda, ed. Ī. Afšār, Tehran, 1367 Š./1988, pp. 216-49.
ʿA. Wakīlī, Dāvar wa šerkat-e markazī, Tehran, 1343 Š/1964.
Originally Published: December 15, 1994
Last Updated: November 18, 2011
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Vol. VII, Fasc. 2, pp. 133-135