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On the Centenary of Iranian Constitutional Revolution

During the early 1900s the only way to save Iran from governmental corruption and foreign manipulation was to make a written code of laws. This sentiment gave birth to the Iranian Constitutional Revolution.

Tehran, 3 August 2006 (CHN) -- The Iranian Constitutional Revolution took place between 1905 and 1911. The Revolution marked the beginning of the end of Iran's feudalistic society and led to the establishment of a parliament in Persia. The Iranian Constitutional Revolution is known as the first event of its kind in the region which triggered several movements in the regional countries such as Afghanistan.

As one of the earliest and most popular revolutions of its kind, its influence was fled from the Ottoman Empire to South East Asia. It was a democratic movement which ended the despotic rule of the Qajar Kings and their absolute rule. The Revolution opened the way for cataclysmic change in Iran and heralded the modern era. However, this Revolution was incomplete and later the struggle for freedom and democracy continued.

The subject of the Constitutional Revolution and the role of Qajar dynasty in it is an extremely complex event. A series of ongoing secret activities was aroused by Iranian opponents against Naser-al Din Shah, Qajar king which led to loss of many lives. Different parts of the country were involved in the Constitutional Revolution in different ways, which facilitated the rise of some whilst hastened the decline of others. However, the efforts of freedom fighters finally bore fruit during the reign of Mozafededin Shah, who ascended to throne on June 1896. In the wake of the efforts of freedom fighters, Mozafa-al Din Shah Qajar was forced to issue the decree for the Constitution and the creation of an elected parliament (the Majlis) in August 5, 1906, due to which, the royal power limited and a parliamentary system was established. It was a period marked by unprecedented debate in a burgeoning press, which transformed the ways Iranians saw their place in the world and remembered their past.

On August 18, 1906, the first Legislative assembly (called Supreme National Assembly and shown in the picture above) was formed in the Military Academy to make the preparations for the opening of the first Term of the National Consultative Assembly and drafting the election law thereof. During this meeting, Moshirul Doleh, the Prime Minister of the time, delivered a speech as the head of the Cabinet. The session concluded with the address made by Malek Al Motokalemin. Despite his poor health, Mozaferedin Shah made a speech on October 7th 1906 and inaugurated the first session of the National Consultative Assembly. At this time, the session was formed in the absence of representatives from provinces.

Following Mozafar-al Din Shah's death, his successor, Mohammad Ali Mirza who was then ruling Tabriz as a crowned prince, ascended to the throne on January 21, 1907. Before taking the reign, he pledged to respect the fundamentals of Constitution and Nation's Rights. However, he contravened this from the very beginning which made Constitutionalists react.

After several disputes with the members of the Majlis, in June 1908 he used his Russian-officered Persian Cossacks Brigade to bomb the Majlis building, arrested many of the deputies, and closed down the assembly. Resistance to the Shah, however, coalesced in Tabriz, Isfahan, Rasht, and the other cities. In July 1909, constitutional forces marched from Rasht and Isfahan to Tehran and took the control of the capital and deposed the Shah, reestablished the Constitution, and sent Mohammad Ali Shah into exile in Russia.

Although this early victory for constitutionalism would have its setback in 1908-1909, constitutionalism would ultimately remain in Iran until its demise through a British coup in 1925 against Ahmad Shah Qajar, which resulted in the overthrown of the Qajar dynasty and bring the Pahlavid dynasty into power. The demise of a constitutional monarchy in Iran and its replacement by an absolute monarchy after the freeing of the democratic energies and aspirations of the people resulted in pent up frustrations that would manifest themselves throughout the reign of Pahlavid dynasty. These tensions finally resulted in the abolition of monarchy altogether with the theocratically inspired revolution in 1979, replacing rule by kings with rule by the common people for the first time in Iran's twenty five century long monarchic history.

The centenary of the constitutional revolution reminds the Iranians that they are inherently against authoritarianism and dictatorship and have always desperately sought freedom and democracy. Still the Constitutional Revolution has been subject to a whole range of different interpretations and it still raises a large number of questions such as what was the nature of the revolution? How did it change the identity of Iran and perhaps most importantly, how did it shape the country's future? These questions are still left open.

... Payvand News - 8/3/06 ... --

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