Sunday, February 26, 2023

Sattar Khan

Sattar Khan (ستار خان), honorarily titled Sardar’e Melli was a pivotal figure in the Iranian Constitutional Revolution and is considered a national hero by the Iranian people. He was born in 1866 in Sardar Kandy, the third son of Haj Hasan Bazzaz. During his childhood, his eldest brother, who had become a highway robber, was executed by the authorities. The family later moved to Tabriz where Sattar himself came into conflict with the law when he tried to find a hideout for two Caucasian fugitives to whom his father had given shelter. He was incarcerated for two years in Narin Ghaleh, a notorious local prison. Afterwards he too became a brigand and was subsequently imprisoned again. He also served in the gendarmerie controlling the main road between Khoy and Marand, and for a while found employment as part of the armed escort to the crown prince Mozaffaredin Mirza and was given the title of "khan". Later, after a period in Tehran, he headed an auxiliary troop fighting Turkmen highway robbers near Mashhad.

Sattar Khan had close ties to the Social Democratic Party. He rose from obscurity to head Constitutionalist rebels from the Amirkhiz district of Tabriz. By 1907, he had become a favored leader of the rebels. After shelling the Majles of Iran in Tehran, 40 thousand of Mohammad Ali Shah's soldiers were ordered to attack Tabriz, where Constitutional rebels were holding out. In June 1908, under the leadership of Sattar Khan, a High Military Council was established. Sattar Khan was appointed the Commander in chief of High Council, and Bagher Khan as his deputy. Tabriz was surrounded by soldiers and all roads to the city were blocked, preventing goods, and particularly food, from reaching the city.

By April 1909, the Tabriz rebels had lost a large number of their fighters in driving out royalist forces from the city. Taking into account Sattar Khan and Bagher Khan's heroism during the battle, Sattar Khan was honored by the title of "Sardar’e Melli" and Bagher Khan "Salar’e Melli" by the order of the Assembly. The early victories of the rebels in Tabriz greatly influenced other Constitutionalists across Iran. Special committees with the name of "Sattar Khan" were established in Tehran, Rasht, Qazvin, Isfahan and other cities. Sattar Khan's reputation also led to the powerful Bakhtiyari tribal leaders to throw in their lot with the Tabriz rebels. Eventually with collaboration from the British and authorization from Mohammad Ali Shah, Russian forces entered Tabriz and opened pathways to the city. Most of the cities of Azerbaijan province were cleared of royalist military forces by October 1908. Mohammad Ali Shah authorized the reopening of the Majles in Tehran in order to try and placate the opposition. The Second Majles was held in December 1908. It ordered a plaque of honor with images of Sattar Khan and Bagher Khan carved on it in gold as a token of appreciation for their services.

The strengthening of revolutionary power in the wake of the Tabriz victory frightened not only the Qajar Shah but also his allies, Russia and Great Britain. In March 1910, Sattar Khan and Bagher Khan set out for the capital Tehran with 300 pro-Moderates soldiers, where they were greeted by large numbers of supporters. During this time, the Majles entertained a proposal in which, to avoid further unrest, all civilians were to disarm and surrender their weapons. Sattar Khan opposed this measure and sided with the armed rebels. The situation in the capital was becoming more and more unstable, largely due to the presence of a large number of armed men in the city whom the government could not control and who later assembled in Atabak Park. Sattar Khan joined the 1,000 strong Mojahedin forces after the siege of the Park where they refused to obey the Shah's order to disarm. The Shah's troops and police forces led by Yeprem Khan, head of Tehran police, launched a brief but violent confrontation on the night of August 7, 1910, and succeeded in surrounding and disarming Sattar Khan's forces. About 30 warriors were killed and Sattar Khan was wounded in his leg – remaining disabled until his death at the age 48, on November 9, 1914. 

He was buried in the famous Shah Abdol Azim shrine cemetery in Shahr’e Ray, just outside Tehran.

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