Hassan Arfa's Account of Reza Khan

  June 13, 2022   Read time 2 min
Hassan Arfa's Account of Reza Khan
On the morning of 20 February 1921, Major [Habibollah] Sheibani called me and said that about 1000 Cossacks had rebelled at Qazvin, as they had not received their pay for several months and were marching on Tehran to get their salaries. They would probably reach the city in the evening.

He ordered me to take command of a battalion for that evening and to occupy the western approaches to the city... I had to prevent the Cossacks from entering and ensure that the several hundred Bolshevik prisoners in a camp near Baghe-e-Shah did not escape. I was astonished at these instructions and remarked that there were four other captains senior to me in the regiment. Under the circumstances how could I take command? Major Sheibani replied that he had already disposed of this difficulty by giving two days leave to the senior captains. I asked him if I should fire on the Cossacks if they tried to force my barrage [position]. You can fire on them if they open fire on you/ he answered.

At 8pm the telephone rang and it was the Shah enquiring about the situation. The Shah told Arfa he was at the Farahabad hunting lodge some five miles east of Tehran and instructed Arfa to report if anything happened. At 9pm a Cossack Colonel with a few men tried to enter one of the city’s gates but were stopped by Arfa and his men. Arfa then tried to reach the Shah and Sheibani by telephone but was unsuccessful.

At 11 o’clock Arfa returned to Bagh-e-Shah and heard gunshots coming from the centre of the city. He was finally able to contact Sheibani who informed him that the Cossacks ’numbering perhaps 1500 men had entered the town and three policemen had been killed*. Arfa was ordered to guard the prisoners camp and to shoot anyone trying to enter, but to take no notice if the Cossacks merely pass in front of the barracks.

The next day Major Sheibani came to Baghe-e-Shah and told me the Cossacks had occupied the town and installed a hew government headed by Seyyed Zia al Din Tabataba’i, that the new military commander was General Reza Khan of the Cossack Division and that many important . people had been arrested. He allowed me to go home and rest for 24 hours... Reza Khan received the title of Sardar Sepah and a jewel studded golden sword from the Shah. All his officers and soldiers received pecuniary rewards and most of his officers received promotions.

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