Early Life of Reza Khan

  June 12, 2022   Read time 4 min
Early Life of Reza Khan
Little is known about Reza Khan prior to the coup. He was bom in the village of Alasht in the region of Savad Kouh in the province of Mazandaran. Alasht was an isolated village some 6.000 feet above sea level and at the turn of the century its population did not exceed 1,000.

Reza Khan’s grandfather. Morad Ali Khan, had been an officer in the local provincial army regiment and had been killed about 1848 in the siege of Herat. A geneological chart prepared by the descendants of Morad Ali Khan, the Pahlavan family, traces the lineage to the late seventeenth century and cites a Mohammad Khan as the first known member of this family, with Jahan Bakhsh Khan the elder as his son, Jahan Bakhsh the younger as grandson and Haji Mohammad Hassan as the great grandson and father of Morad Ali. The chart lists some 300 living descendants of Morad Ali Khan. In a recently published book on Reza Shah, Reza Niazmand, having conducted the definitive research on Reza Khan’s ancestry believes that it is difficult to ascertain his forbearers beyond his grandfather Morad Ali Khan. Morad Ali had seven sons.

The eldest, Cheraq Ali, was also an officer in the provincial army and apparently reached the rank equivalent to colonel. The youngest, Abbas Ali Khan also known as Dadash Beik, was in the same regiment and probably reached the rank equivalent to major. The other known sons were Nasrollah, Fazlollah and Abbasqoli. The remaining two cannot be identified with certainty. The family w oe members of the small clan of Palani of the Savad Kouh region. Although small in numbers the dan has been mentioned in the history of the region as having furnished soldiers to the local armies. Several writers, among them Arfa and Wilber, state that the family came from the much larger Bavand dan of the region. This is apparently an error. The Bavand dan was in fact a rival and relations between the Bavand and Palani dans were often strained.

Abbas Ali, the youngest of Morad Ali’s children w asbom around 1815. As a member of the Savad Kouh regiment he took part in the third Afghan War in 1856 as a junior officer.6 Abbas Ali’s background and military record has been substantiated by the recent surfacing of a letter he had written to Ali Reza Khan Azod al Molk, an dder of the Qajar tribe and later regent, who at one time as Governor of Mazandaran had been the honorary commander of the Savad Kouh regiment. In the letter, dated around 1877, Abbas Ali refers to his past military service and seeks finandal assistance from Azod al Molk.7 Abbas Ali Khan married at least twice and had four children who survived infancy: three daughters from his first marriage and a son, Reza, from the second. He married his second wife, Noush Afarin, around 1877. She was a girl of Persian-speaking stock whose father had come to Iran from Erivan. The following year 1878 a son, Reza, was bom .
Abbas Ali died some three to six months after Reza’s birth. The new wife had not had a good relationship with Abbas Ali’s other wife and children and shortly after Abbas Ali’s death, Noush Afarin, at the urging of her youngest brother, decided to leave Alasht and settle in Tehran.9 Noush Afarin had three known brothers. The eldest, Ali, was one of the many physicians at Naser al Din Shah’s court. The second brother, Abol Qasem, who had done some soldiering in Erivan, had enlisted in the Cossack Brigade. The third brother, Hosein, had accompanied Noush Afarin to Alasht and on her return to Tehran. There is an often-told stoiy that the infant Reza almost froze to death on the journey. It was thought the child was dead but the heat inside a caravanserai revived him .
Probably at the urging of his uncle, Abol Qasem, and because of his meagre circumstances. Reza joined the Cossacks in 1893-94 at about the age of fifteen. Most of the volunteers and recruits in the Cossack Brigade came from humble backgrounds. There is no existing or available record of Reza’s service until 1911. There are references by several Iranian writers to Reza Khan having served as a guard at either the Dutch, Belgian or German Legation. Although there is no convincing evidence of such service it should not be entirely discounted.
In 1911, serving under the overall command of Farmanfarma, Reza Khan took part in battles against Salar al Dowleh who was attempting to topple the Government in Tehran and reinstate his brother Mohammad Ali on the throne. Reza gave a good account of himself in that campaign and was promoted to First Lieutenant. His proficiency in handling machine guns elevated him to the rank equivalent to captain in 1912. By 1915 he had come to be regarded as a brave and fearless soldier and was hand-picked by successive senior commanders to accompany them on expeditions to quell tribal uprisings.13 Reza Khan’s military reputation, his native intelligence and professionalism served him well and he was soon known by some prominent Iranians in Tehran and the provinces. By 1915 various sources refer to him as Col. Reza Khan.14 In 1918 Reza Khan is referred to as a Brigadier General (Sartip) in the campaign of Cossacks in the Kashan area against the bandit Na’eb Hosein and his sons.

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