KERMANSHAH iv. History from the Arab Conquest to 1953 [2015]



iv. History from the Arab Conquest to 1953

The town and province of Kermanshah (or Kermānšāhān) are located on the strategic travel route, later known as the “Khorasan Highway,” linking Mesopotamia to the Iranian plateau.  This route was militarily and commercially important even in antiquity, as, for example, in the lapis lazuli and silk trade, and the surrounding area abounds in prehistoric and historic sites. Excavations made in local caves (see ḠĀR) reveal prehistoric human presence. The main site, at Bisotun, has been almost continuously occupied from prehistoric times. Excavations at Ḡār-e Ḵar, near the Bisotun inscriptions, found remains covering a span of 35,000 years. A small cave, located above the Hellenistic-period (see HELLENISM) statue of Hercules, provided evidence of habitation by Neanderthals (Matheson, p. 26). Archaeological remains from the site of Godin Tepe in the Kangavar valley, occupied from ca. 5000 to 500 BCE, bear comparison with findings in nearby sites, including Bābā Jān Tepe in northeastern Lurestan and Tepe Giyan near Nehāvand (Matheson, p. 122). An early Neolithic site at Ganj Dareh Tepe (see ECBATANA), some 10 km to the west of Harsin, datable to 8450 BCE, is claimed to have been one of the first known agricultural zones in the Zagros plain (Matheson, p. 120). These Neolithic testimonies precede the dawn of civilized zones in the areas later occupied by various peoples. Beginning in the third millennium BCE, the Babylon-Ecbatana road served as an avenue of military penetration into Media from the kingdom of Assyria.

The exact origins of Kermanshah itself, as a town or province, are difficult to determine.  It has sometimes been identified with the Kambadene mentioned as one of the “Parthian Stations” by Isidorus of Charax (see Jackson, p. 230), but this is doubtful in light of recent research (Calmeyer, pp. 13-14). It was part of the vast region called Media (Mād in Pahlavi and later Māh in Arabic; see Gyselen, 1989, pp. 82-84), and more precisely to the Sasanian province of Ērān-Āsān-Kard-Kawād. Kermān Šāh was a title known to have been held by Bahrām IV, variously said to have been the brother or son of Šāpur III (see CARMANIA, KERMAN ii).  He is thought to have acquired the title prior to his accession when he had been appointed governor of Kerman (Ṭabari, I, p. 847; tr., V, p. 69 nn. 185-86), and it occurs on Sasanian seals as Wahrām Kermān Šāh (Gyselen, 2002, pp. 154-55; idem, 2008, pp. 16-17).  It is possible that the place name Kermānšāhān derived from this (see Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 71, n. 3; Christensen, p. 253, n. 2), and  Ḥamd-Allāh Mostawfi (Nozhat al-qolub, ed. Le Strange, I, p. 108; tr., II, p. 106) says specifically that Kermāšāhān was founded by “Bahrām, son of Šāpur II” and renovated by Kawād I

Yāqut (Boldān IV, p. 69) says that the Arabic name for Kermānšāhān was Qermisin (Barbier de Meynard, p. 438 has “Qarmiçin et Qirmiçin”), and Mostawfi similarly regarded Qarmāsin as an archaic form of Kermānšāhān found in books (Nozhat al-qolub, ed. Le Strange, I, p. 108; tr., II, p. 106).  Although other medieval geographers (e.g., Moqaddasi, p. 28) occasionally used the term Kermānšāhān, it was more common to refer to the area, or perhaps just the town, as Qermisin or one of its variants (Qarmāsin, Qermāsin, Qarmisin, Qermāšin, etc.; see Le Strange, Lands, p. 187).  According to Ernst Herzfeld (p. 16), this was a transformation of “the Kurdish pronunciation of Kermanshahan into Qarmēsīn,” but it is also possible that it was an older and non-Iranian toponym.  A local tradition holds that the site of Qermisin was at a place called Kermānšāh-e Kohna (Old Kermanshah) in the district of Balada (Rabino, p. 7; see also de Morgan, II, p. 100). 

According to Balāḏori (Fotuḥ, p. 301), Kermanshah (Qarmāsin) surrendered to Arab forces under Jarir b. ʿAbdallāh Bajali on the same terms as neighboring Ḥolwān.  This was during the course of his unsuccessful campaign to Dinavar, which took place after the battle of Jalulāʾ in 16/637 and before his departure as governor of Ḥolwān in 19/640.  Geographically, Kermanshah was part of the vast province of Jebāl and one of its four main cities.  Administratively and for fiscal purposes, following the reforms of the caliph Moʿāwia, it was one of the two districts that made up Māh al-Kufa (territories providing the revenue to support troops from Kufa; see Qodāma, Ketāb al-ḵaraj, p. 244; Lockhart, EI2 II, p. 299).

The Achaemenid and Sasanian remains and inscriptions near Kermanshah at Bisotun and Ṭāq-e Bostān fascinated early Muslim authors, prompting them to give fanciful interpretations about these pre-Islamic scenes and inscriptions. The representations of Ḵosrow II, Širin, and Farhād, and the horse Šabdiz were more accurately interpreted (Le Strange, pp. 187 ff.).  Sasanian kings certainly resided at Kermanshah, particularly Kawād I and Ḵosrow II (Schwarz, p. 481). The latter had a palace-like building constructed at Kangavar. The caliph Hārun-al-Rašid also visited there (Schwarz, p. 481).

The Deylamites under the Ziyarid ruler Mardāwij are said to have laid waste to the area of Kermanshah and enslaved the people around 319/931 (Masʿudi, Moruj, ed. Pellat, V, p. 269; Ebn al-Aṯir, VIII, p. 168), but it must have recovered quickly.  Both the Buyids and the Kakuyids minted coins at Kermanshah (Miles, pp. 369-75), and the Buyid ruler ʿAżod-al-Dawla built a palace in the main street of the city (Moqaddasi, p. 393). Ebn Ḥawqal (p. 359) described Kermanshah in the 4th/10th century as a prosperous and pleasant place, with trees, fruits, pastures, flocks, and abundant water; his contemporary, Moqaddasi (p. 393), confirms this, adding that it had a fine mosque in the marketplace.

The complicated politics of the Buyid period made possible the rise of some minor Kurdish dynasties in the areas around Kermanshah and Dinavar. The Ḥasanwayhids (349-439/959-1047), initially settled at Sarmaj (a fortified place south of Bisotun), extended their principality from Dinavar to Šahrezur.  They retained Sarmaj till 1047 (Cahen, p. 258; Ardalan, pp. 27-28). The Ḥasanwayhids were overthrown by the ʿAnnazids (ca. 380-510/990-1117). The territory ruled over by the ʿAnnazid dynasty in Iran included tracts of lands from Ḥolwān to Kermanshah and Dinavar.  However, the internecine strife in the region and the conflicts between the ʿAnnazids and the Ḥasanwayhids, Buyid, and Saljuq rulers that continued for some 130 years proved detrimental to the economic and cultural life in the region.  The Saljuq incursions of 437/1045, led by Ṭoḡrel Beg and his half brother Ebrāhim Ināl, as well as further invasions by the Ḡozz put an end to the ʿAnnazid rule over Kermanshah (Ardalan, p. 28, n. 56).

Under the Saljuqs, Kermanshah was still militarily and economically important because of its location at the intersection of the great highway linking Baghdad to Khurasan with a trade route to Tabriz and Ardabil (Lambton, 1968, p. 222).  For much the same reason, the region became a bone of contention in regional conflicts that punctuated the history of Iran beginning in the 12th century. In 494/1197-98, the Chorasmian emir Miānjoq plundered Kermanshah (Rāvandi, p. 398). Kermanshah was on Hulāgu’s line of march from Hamadan towards Baghdad, and in December 1257 his army devastated the town and massacred its inhabitants (Boyle, p. 347).  Thus, by Mostawfi’s time (ca. 1340), what had been a medium-size town was merely a village (Nozhat al-qolub, ed. Le Strange, p. 108; tr., pp. 106-7). 

In the post-Mongol era, Kermanshah became increasingly significant as a strategic frontier zone between the Safavid and Ottoman empires that was particularly crucial for Safavid efforts in Iraq and for Ottoman threats to Azerbaijan.  Control over this contested border area changed hands between the Safavids and Ottomans several times, and the power struggle affected the relations of both empires with the Kurdish tribes of the region, who might tip the balance of power either way. Under Shah Ṭahmāsp I (r. 1524-76), Kurdish tribes of Iran had to position themselves at the forefront of the Ottoman-Safavid conflict.  The case of the Ardalāns in Sanandaj is typical in this connection.  After having sided with the Ottomans, part of the family, known in contemporary narrative sources as the Bani Ardalān, came to serve the Safavids (Ardalan, pp. 34 ff.; Yamaguchi, 2012, pp. 113-14). The Ardalān governors had to protect the frontiers against the Ottomans and provide the Safavids with locally recruited and trained troops. The Ardalān repeatedly intervened in events in Šahrezur and Kermanshah.

Under the early Safavids, the Kalhor were the most powerful Kurdish tribe in the province of Kermanshah, but from mid-17th century the Zangana family increased its influence. Not very influential at first, the Zangana had served the Safavids since the 16th century (Yamaguchi, p. 112).  In 1653, Shaikh ʿAli Khan Zangana was appointed as khan and toyuldār of Kalhor, Sonqor, and Kermanshah, the homeland of the Zangana (Matthee, p. 63, n. 49).  Shah Solaymān (r. 1666-94) promoted Shaikh ʿAli Khan Zangana to the grand vizierate, a post he held from 1669 to 1689, and for the rest of the Safavid period Kermanshah remained under the control of the Zangana family (Matthee, pp. 63-71).

Taking advantage of the chaos following the Afghan invasion and overthrow of the Safavids, the Ottomans resumed their efforts to expand into northwestern Iran.  In October 1723, Ḥasan Pasha, the Ottoman governor of Baghdad, besieged Kermanshah as he advanced towards Hamadan. ʿAbd-al-Bāqi Khan Zangana, governor of the province of Kermanshah, withdrew with no resistance, and the Ottomans occupied the city (Lockhart, 1958, pp. 267-73; Yamaguchi, 2005, pp. 53-54).  According to Laurence Lockhart (1958, p. 268), the deputy-governor of Kermanshah, Ḥosayn-ʿAli Beg Zangana, was in contact with Ḥasan Pasha prior to the invasion.  Ḥasan Pasha died at Kermanshah in February 1724 and was replaced by his son, Aḥmad Pasha, who subsequently conquered Hamadan.  By the autumn of 1724, the Ottomans had taken over the provinces of Kermanshah, Ardalān, Hamadan, and Luristan.  Ašraf Ḡilzay, the Afghan chieftain and pretender to the Iranian throne, defeated the Ottomans near Hamadan in 1726 but, as part of his effort to gain recognition as shah, agreed in 1727 to a treaty ceding vast swathes of these provinces to the Ottomans (Lockhart, 1958, p. 292).  According to Ottoman registers (mühimme defterleri), many villages in the province of Kermanshah at that time had been depopulated (Yamaguchi, 2005, p. 61).

Nāder-qoli Beg Afšār, the future Nāder Shah, after proclaiming the restoration of the Safavid Ṭahmāsp II as shah and defeating the Afghans at the battle of Mehmāndust, reclaimed Kermanshah and the other territories ceded by Ašraf Ḡilzay, driving back the Ottomans from Hamadan in 1730 (Astarābādi, pp. 119 ff.).  The Ottoman governor of Baghdad, Aḥmad Pasha, counterattacked as soon as Nāder returned to Khorasan and occupied Kermanshah.  The area was only feebly defended by Ṭahmāsp, who was soundly defeated at Korejān in September 1731. Ṭahmāsp then agreed to a treaty ceding territory north of the Araxes to the Ottomans in return for their evacuation of the recently occupied territories (the Ottomans did withdraw from Hamadan but remained in Kermanshah).  Nāder used this a reason to depose Ṭahmāsp and act as regent for the infant ʿAbbās III.  In preparation for an attack on Aḥmad Pasha in Baghdad, Nāder assembled an army at Hamadan and besieged Kermanshah, which surrendered to him in late 1732 and remained part of Iranian territory thereafter.  To consolidate control over the area and support any future campaigns into Ottoman Iraq, Nāder Shah ordered the construction of a fortress (qalʿa) about one farsang (6 km) west of Kermanshah, well stocked in arms and munitions, including siege artillery and a cannon foundry, which was noted by the Ottoman ambassador in his description of Kermanshah in 1743 (Perry, pp. 5, 15; Ardalan, p. 74; Axworthy, p. 108; Tucker, p. 100).  The fortress became a crucial key for control over western Iran and figured prominently in the struggles for power that followed Nāder Shah’s assassination in 1747.

Ebrāhim Mirzā Afšār (see AFSHARIDS) rebelled against his brother ʿĀdel Shah, sent a strong force against Kermanshah, and looted the town. The commanders of the nearby fortress, Mirzā Moḥammad-Taqi Golestāna and Amir ʿAbd al-ʿAli Khan ʿArab Mišmast, prudently decided to submit its keys to Ebrāhim Mirzā (Perry, p. 5).  Shortly afterwards, Ḥosayn Khan Zangana captured Kermanshah, confiscated the wealth of the local merchants, and seized the artillery from the fortress. Failing to take Hamadan, Ḥosayn Khan returned to Kermanshah but was soon lured away and murdered in a conspiracy hatched by Mirzā Moḥammad-Taqi (Perry, pp. 15-17).  Following Ebrāhim Mirzā’s defeat at the hands of Šāhroḵ Afšār, Emāmqoli Khan Zangana, a former ally of Ebrāhim Mirzā, returned to take power in Kermanshah (Ardalan, p. 74).  After having defeated an army dispatched by Mortażāqoli Khan and Najafqoli Khan Kalhor, Emāmqoli Khan entered Kermanshah triumphantly and proclaimed himself governor.  Emāmqoli Khan’s reign did not last more than few months.  His opponents, led by Ḥasan-ʿAli Khan Ardalān, invaded the city, defeated him, and appointed Mehr-ʿAli Khan Tekkelu as governor (Ardalan, pp. 75-76, 94-95; Perry, pp. 19-20, 56). 

Kermanshah was next the scene of clashes between Zand forces and ʿAli-Mardān Khan Baḵtiāri.  After a two-year siege, backed by the Zangana and Kalhor tribes, Moḥammad Khan Zand conquered the fortress of Kermanshah on behalf of Karim Khan Zand in 1753.  ʿAli-Mardān Khan’s resistance in the city forced Karim Khan to invade Kermanshah in the same year.  The battle for Kermanshah ended with ʿAli-Mardān Khan’s defeat.  Then, Karim Khan appointed Moḥammad Khan and Shaikh ʿAli Khan as military governors of Kermanshah and its fortress (Perry, pp. 38-41, 44-47; Ardalan, p. 92). 

Kermanshah remained mostly under the Zangana family throughout the Zand period.  The most powerful Zangana governor (beglerbegi) of the city was then Allāhqoli Khan.  After ʿAli-Morād Khan Zand’s demise in 1785, the Ardalān governor Ḵosrow Khan Bozorgi seized political power in the province, defeating and killing Allāhqoli Khan, who had concentrated his forces in the district of Senna.  Under Ḵosrow Khan, Ḥāji ʿAli Khan Zangana, a paternal uncle of Allāhqoli Khan, was promoted to governor of Kermanshah.  During his career as governor of Kermanshah, Ḥāji ʿAli Khan managed to annex the districts of Sonqor and Dinavar to his territory (Ardalan, pp. 162-67).  Ḵosrow Khan Bozorgi was also an ally of Āqā Moḥammad Khan Qājār (r. 1179-97), and his victory over Jaʿfar Khan Zand paved the way for the Qajar conquest of western Iran.  Under Āqā Moḥammad Khan, the Ardalān and Mokri tribes were allowed to continue their rule over Kermanshah and Kurdistan (Ardalan, pp. 178 ff.).

Kermanshah remained a critical area for the Qajars due to their relations with the Ottomans in Iraq and concerns over the security of pilgrims going to the Shiʿite shrines there (ʿatabāt). One indication of the importance of this area to the Qajars is that in 1806 Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah (r. 1797-1834) appointed his first-born son, Moḥammad-ʿAli Mirzā (see DAWLATŠĀH, MOḤAMMAD-ʿALI MIRZĀ), as governor of Kermanshah and then, in 1809, as governor-general (wāli) of the larger region region encompassing Kermanshah, Sonqor, Hamadan, and Luristan with the significant title Dawlatšāh. Moḥammad-ʿAli Mirzā ran his court from Kermanshah, where he enlarged the city wall, built a new fortress, and constructed caravansaries and houses for the merchants (Calmard, pp. 56-57).  The number of his buildings in Kermanshah were said to surpass most of those built in other towns in early Qajar Iran (Širvāni, p. 492). Moḥammad-ʿAli Mirzā was a cultured and religious man.  He invited the Shiʿite theologian Shaikh Aḥmad Aḥsāʾi to Kermanshah, where he stayed from 1814 to 1822.  In dynastic competition with his brother ʿAbbās Mirzā, Moḥammad-ʿAli Mirzā Dawlatšāh displayed his military skills during a series of incursions against the Ottoman forces stationed in Kurdistan under ʿAli Pasha’s command (Calmard, pp. 56 ff.). He also continued to intervene in the affairs of Ottoman Iraq.  In 1812, he defeated the Ottoman forces led by ʿAbd-Allāh Pasha and obtained the reinstallation of ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Bābān as governor at Šahrezur (Calmard, pp. 52-53, 58).  In the course of the last Turko-Persian War (1821-23), Moḥammad-ʿAli Mirzā, commanding a modernized and mostly Kurdish army, was able to defeat the Ottomans at the battle of Šahrezur in 1821 and permanently annex Zehāb as part of Kermanshah province, but he died shortly thereafter of cholera while returning to Kermanshah from Baghdad (Rawlinson, p. 36; Calmard, pp. 63-75).  

After the death of Moḥammad-ʿAli Mirzā Dawlatšāh, the city and province of Kermanshah declined, mostly because of the tyranny and extortions of governors who succeeded him (a list of governors from 1795 to 1905 is given in Rabino, p. 5). His immediate successor as governor (1821-26) was his oldest son, Moḥammad-Ḥosayn Mirzā Hešmat-al-Dawla, who failed in his effort to continue the campaign to take Baghdad in the face of fierce resistance by the Ottoman commander Dāud Pasha (Calmard, p. 72).  He was generally seen as incompetent and a debauchee and was replaced by his brother Ṭahmāsp Mirzā (1826-29) but then regained the post.  He proved unable to control disorders in Kermanshah following the deaths of ʿAbbās Mirzā and Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah, when the unruly Lor and Baḵtiāri tribes invaded the province, and he won no friends by attempting to ingratiate himself with all three of the contenders to succeed Fatḥ-ʿAli as shah. In January 1835, the new ruler Moḥammad Shah sent his brother, Bahrām Mirzā, to Kermanshah; Moḥammad-Ḥosayn Mirzā, recalled to Tehran, attempted to flee but was soon arrested and sent to Ardabil to spend the rest of his life in prison (Bāmdād, Rejāl I, pp. 193, 377, III, p. 376; Hambly, 1991a, pp. 166-69). As governor of Kermanshah, it was Bahrām Mirzā who requested British assistance in modernizing his forces, so that Lt. Henry C. Rawlinson was sent there in April 1835 to serve as his advisor. In 1837, after complaints from the people of Kermanshah, Bahrām Mirzā was recalled to Tehran and replaced as governor by Manučehr Khan Gorji (Bāmdād, Rejāl IV, pp. 159-63; Hambly, 1991a, p. 155). In 1839, Isfahan was added to the domain of Manučehr Khan, which already included Kermanshah, Khuzestan, and Luristan.  As a result of this promotion, “he became in effect the viceroy of much central and southwestern Iran” (Hambly, 1991a, p. 155) and delegated authority in Kermanshah to a series of subordinate governors: Nur-Moḥammad Khan Qajar, Ṣāḥeb Eḵtiār, ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn Khan Javānšir (who revolted after his deposition), and Moḥebb-ʿAli Khan Šojāʿ-al-Dawla Mākuʾi. Moḥebb-ʿAli Khan, who was a protégé of Ḥāji Mirzā Āqāsi, proved a terrible oppressor, as observed first-hand by Joseph Ferrier (see Ferrier, pp. 24-26). Upon the death of Moḥammad Shah, the people of Kermanshah revolted, and Moḥebb-ʿAli fled with his followers to Azerbaijan (Hambly, 1991b, pp. 561-62; Solṭāni, IV-V, pp. 333-36).

After the accession of Nāṣer-al-Din Shah in 1848, the governorship of Kermanshah was given only to members of the Qajar family (Solṭāni, IV-V, pp. 336-66).  In the latter half of the 19th century, the Qajar governors of Kermanshah, in particular Eskandar Khan Sardār Davallu (1849-52) and Emāmqoli Mirzā ʿEmād-al-Dawla (1852-75, the sixth son of Dawlatšāh) managed to restore relative security in the region.  Timur Khan Gurān’s uprising was quelled at the time of ʿEmād-al-Dawla’s tenure as governor of Kermanshah.  During this period, a division of the Kermanshah-based cavalry regiment was posted to Tehran, where they had been put in charge of guarding the city walls.  Kermanshah’s cavalry regiment also participated in the capture of Herat  during the Anglo-Persian War of 1856-57.  In 1871, Nāṣer-al-Din Shah, on his pilgrimage to the Shiʿite shrines in Iraq (ʿatabāt), passed twice through Kermanshah.  Local complaints filed with the shah against ʿEmād-al-Dawla resulted in his removal from the governorship of Kermanshah (Bāmdād, Rejāl I, pp. 160-62; Solṭāni, IV-V, pp. 338-55), and he was replaced by his older brother and an earlier governor, Ṭahmāsb Mirzā Moʾayyed-al-Dawla. A year and a half later, the post was returned to ʿEmād-al-Dawla, who held the office until his death in 1875. He was then succeeded by his eldest son Badiʿ-al-Molk Mirzā Ḥešmat-al-Salṭana, followed by Solṭān-Morād Mirzā Ḥosām-al-Salṭana. 

In the years after the governorships of ʿEmād-al-Dawla and Ḥosām-al-Salṭana, the governorship of Kermanshah changed hands frequently and rapidly.  As a result, the situation in Kermanshah deteriorated, and there were tribal revolts, leading to some administrative restructuring.  Nāṣer-al-Din Shah’s oldest son, Masʿud Mirzā Ẓell-al-Solṭān, the powerful and oppressive governor of Isfahan (1874-1907) came to control most of the central and southern provinces of the country, including Kermanshah, and designate deputies to administer them.  For Kermanshah, he appointed Maḥmud Khan Qarāgozlu Nāṣer-al-Molk and his successor Ḥosayn Khan Qarāgozlu Ḥosām-al-Molk, whose period in Kermanshah was witness to a local uprising led by a certain Javānšir Ḥamāvand.  After 1888, however, the powers of Ẓell-al-Solṭān were reduced and his appointees dismissed.  During the troubled days of the Tobacco Protest (1890-91), Amir Neẓām Garrusi was recalled from Azerbaijan and made governor of an enlarged “central province” (eyālat-e markazi) that included Kermanshah, Kurdistan, and Hamadan (1891-96).  Amir Neẓām was the last governor of Kermanshah under Nāṣer-al-Din Shah.

Moẓaffar-al-Din Shah (r. 1896-1906) first appointed Zayn-al-ʿĀbedin Khan Ḥosām-al-Molk Amir Afḵam as governor of Kermanshah, but he soon replaced him with Abu’l-Fatḥ Mirzā Sālār-al-Dawla, the shah’s own son. Sālār-al-Dawla’s oppressive rule made the people and religious leaders disobey him, which led to his dismissal and the appointment of Mirzā Moḥammad Khan Kāšāni Eqbāl-al-Dawla as governor from 1897-1901 (Bāmdād, Rejāl I, p. 48, III, p. 215).  The subsequent governors of Kermanshah under Moẓaffar-al-Din Shah were Mahdiqoli Khan Majd-al-Dawla, Aḥmad Khan ʿAlāʾ-al-Dawla, and ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn Mirzā Farmānfarmā.  It was during the latter’s governorship that Russian and British consulates were established in Kermanshah, in 1903 and 1905, respectively. 

Kermanshah was actively involved in in the Constitutional Revolution. Some of the population there took sanctuary (bast) in support of the constitution, formed an anjoman, elected representatives, and petitioned the Majles to protect peasants and villagers from their landlords (Afary, p. 153).  However, the governor, Solṭān Moḥammad Mirzā Sayf-al-Dawla, was an anti-constitutionalist, and the former governor, Abu’l-Fatḥ Mirzā Sālār-al-Dawla, with a militia made up at least in part of Kalhor tribesmen from the Kermanshah area, rebelled against his brother, now Moḥammad-ʿAli Shah, in 1907 before being routed by a constitutionalist army at Nehāvand (Browne, Persian Revolution, pp. 140-41; Bāmdād, Rejāl I, pp. 48-50; Afšār Sistāni, II, pp. 880-85; Solṭāni, II-III, pp. 574-88, IV-V, pp. 494-96). Under the governors sent by the provisional government, there was a serious pogrom in 1909 directed against the Jewish quarter in Kermanshah that led to protests from the British consul there. In 1911, Sālār-al-Dawla launched a second and more serious attempt to seize the throne, backed again by Kurdish tribesmen.  He appointed his brother Fażl-Allah Mirzā ʿAżod-al-Solṭān as governor of Kermanshah, but after being defeated by constitutionalist forces led by Epʿrem Khan, he seized Kermanshah himself and “gave it over to his Kurdish tribesmen to plunder” (McDowall, p. 82).  The Second Majles entrusted ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn Mirzā Farmānfarmā with the task of defeating Sālār-al-Dawla, which he did during his second governorship of Kermanshah (1912-14; see Ettehadiyyeh, 2004, pp. 111-72). 

With the outbreak of World War I, the Ottomans and their German allies struck at Russian and British interests in Iran.  The Ottomans sent a military force towards Kermanshah (part of the Russian zone of influence according to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907), where the German consul, Otto Schünemann, was welcomed in 1915 and managed for a while to drive out the Russian and British consuls (Sykes, II, p. 446; Bast, pp. 13, 81, 109 ff.).  Although many Iranians suspected that the Ottomans were reviving old territorial ambitions in western Iran, pro-German sentiments were strong.  Confronted with a Russian invasion and threats to march on Tehran, many members of parliament and a division of the gendarme forces took refuge in Kermanshah.  Backed by the Germans, these Mohājerin (“emigrants”) organized the National Defense Committee (Komita-ye defāʿ-ye melli) and Council of Representatives (Hayʾat-e namāyandagān).  Reżāqoli Khan Neẓām-al-Salṭana Māfi was elected as head of this provisional cabinet.  In the face of further Russian intrusions, this cabinet-in-exile moved to Qaṣr-e Širin and then to Baghdad (May 1916).  When the Turks repelled the Russians and took over Kermanshah in June 1916, they allowed the mohājerin to return and form a provisional government under Neẓām-al-Salṭana Māfi and an assembly led by Sayyed Ḥasan Modarres (see Cronin, pp. 52-58; Ettehadiyyeh, 2006, pp. 9-22; Solṭāni, IV-V, pp. 792-810). 

Between the end of World War I and the fall of the Qajar dynasty (1918-25), twelve governors, mainly military chiefs, served as governors of Kermanshah (Solṭāni, IV-V, pp. 837-83).  During the Pahlavi period, Kermanshah notables (secular and religious) took part in the movement for oil nationalization.  Following the 30 Tir 1331/21 July 1952 uprising in Tehran, demonstrators in Kermanshah, wearing shrouds (kafanpušān), marched toward the capital in a show of solidarity with Prime Minister Moḥammad Moṣaddeq and his supporters (Solṭāni, IV-V, pp. 927-34).  After the royalist coup in 1953 (see COUP D’ETAT OF 1332 Š./1953), Teymur Baḵtiār, commander of the Kermanshah garrison, was called to Tehran to head the new military governorship in the capital (Solṭāni, IV-V, pp. 935-56).

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(Jean Calmard)

Originally Published: March 11, 2015

Last Updated: March 11, 2015

Cite this entry:

Jean Calmard, "Kermanshah iii. History to 1953," Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2015, available at (accessed on 11 March 2015).