Book Review of Farrokh by Iran Museum and Center of Manuscripts

Kaveh Farrokh’s third book, entitled -(ایران در جنگ (۱۹۸۸-۱۵۰۰-Iran at War: 1500-1988 has been reviewed by the Iran-based Library, Museum and Center of Manuscripts –کتابخانه، موزه و مرکز اسناد

Below is one excerpt of that review:

-فرخ با تحلیل جنگ های مذهبی و غیرمذهبی رخ داده در این مدت به ما نشان می دهد که چگونه ایران از همه طرف (شرق، غرب، جنوب) و در دوره های مختلفی مورد هجوم همسایه هایش قرار گرفته است… تحلیل های فرخ از انقلاب اسلامی و جنگ ایران و عراق، اطلاعاتی در مورد پیشینه نظامی ایران در اختیار ما می گذارد که تا به حال مطرح نشده است.-

Farrokh has analyzed the religious and non-religious wars and has demonstrated how Iran has been attacked by its neighbors from all sides (east, west and south) over several periods…Farrokh’s analyses of the Islamic revolution and the Iran-Iraq war provides us information that has hitherto remained unmentioned…”

[Click to Enlarge]Modern-day Lur rifleman of the type that formed the backbone of the armies of Karim Khan Zand (1705-1779) (Picture source: courtesy of Mehdi Dehghan). Below the Lur warrior is a picture of a Zand era Iranian gun with a British percussion cap mechanism fitted to the barrel of the firearm (Picture source: Khorasani, Maouchehr, Mosthagh (2009), Persian Firearms part Three: The percussion Cap Lock. Classic Arms and Militaria, pp.22-27).

Kindly note that the Farrokh text has been reviewed by other major venues such as the Wall Street Journal (click icon below for details…)

The review by the Iran Library, Museum, and Center of Manuscripts concludes by noting that:

-جمع آوری و طبقه بندی اطلاعات تاریخی حدود ۵ قرن یک کشور کار بسیار دشواری است و به نظر می رسد کاوه فرخ، به خوبی از پس آن برآمده است-

The compilation and categorization of historical information spanning five centuries is a very difficult task and it would seem that Kaveh Farrokh has done well in achieving this.”

[Click to Enlarge] (Left) Young Lur women from Malayer pose with their pistols and rifles circa early 1960s. The women of Luristan often accompanied their husbands to battle in the armies of Karim Khan Zand and were famed for their skills with firearms, archery and horseback riding. Many of these traditions endure to this day among the Lurs. (Picture source in Facebook, with special thanks to Shahyar Mahabadi and the Moradi clan) (Right) Pre-Islamic tombstone of a female warrior in Malayer. Iranian women have often been cited as warriors, one example being the presence of female fighters in the armies of Shapur I in the 3rd century AD (Picture source in Facebook, with special thanks to Shahyar Mahabadi and the Moradi clan).

Farrokh has also been interviewed on a number of major media outlets on his third text (see for example interviews in Voice of America, (August 14, 2011) and Pars TV (August 27, 2011).

The University of British Columbia’s Asian Studies program recently gave Kaveh Farrokh a tribute acknowledging his long association with the University of British Columbia – kindly see video showing the distinguished Professor Harjot S. Oberoi who is a world-class historian at the University of British Columbia’s Asian Studies program.

Address by Professor Harjot S. Oberoi of the University of British Columbia (UBC) Asian Studies Department: Introduction to “An Evening with Dr. Kaveh Farrokh – Sassanian Architecture” (Monday March 12, 2011). This talk  was given as part of the overall drive by the UBC Asian Studies department to promote support for the University of British Columbia’s Iranian Studies and Persian language initiative.

Farrokh’s text in also being increasingly consulted in various US and Western venues.

Select history books cited by Union University in November 2011 – note Union University History Department Chair, Professor Stephen Carls  (at right) displaying a copy of Farrokh’s Iran at War (for full report click here…).

 

Iranian Schindler who Saved Jews from Nazis

The story below was originally published by the BBC on December, 20, 2011 (the author of the BBC article is Brian Wheeler).

Kindly note that a number of pictures and their accompanying descriptions that appear in the reprint of the BBC article below did not appear in the BBC original.

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Thousands of Iranian Jews and their descendants owe their lives to a Muslim diplomat in wartime Paris, according to a new book. In The Lion’s Shadow tells how Abdol-Hossein Sardari risked everything to help fellow Iranians escape the Nazis.

Sardari trained as a lawyer in Switzerland before becoming a diplomat (Photo source: BBC).

Eliane Senahi Cohanim was seven years old when she fled France with her family.

She remembers clutching her favourite doll and lying as still as she could, pretending to be asleep, whenever their train came to a halt at a Nazi checkpoint.

I remember everywhere, when we were running away, they would ask for our passports, and I remember my father would hand them the passports and they would look at them. And then they would look at us. It was scary. It was very, very scary.”

Mrs Cohanim and her family were part of a small, close-knit community of Iranian Jews living in and around Paris.

The West Wall in Jerusalem. After his conquest of Babylon, Cyrus allowed the Jewish captives to return to Israel and rebuild the Hebrew temple. It is believed that approximately 40,000 did permanently return to Israel (Photo source – see Blog).

Her father, George Senahi, was a prosperous textile merchant and the family lived in a large, comfortable house in Montmorency, about 25km (15.5 miles) north of the French capital.

‘Trembling’

When the Nazis invaded, the Senahis attempted to escape to Tehran, hiding for a while in the French countryside, before being forced to return to Paris, now in the full grip of the Gestapo.

I remember their attitude. The way they would walk with their black boots. Just looking at them at that time was scary for a child, I think,” recalls Mrs Cohanim, speaking from her home in California.

Like others in the Iranian Jewish community, Mr Senahi turned for help to the young head of Iran’s diplomatic mission in Paris.

Abdol-Hossein Sardari was able to provide the Senahi family with the passports and travel documents they needed for safe-passage through Nazi-occupied Europe, a month-long journey that was still fraught with danger.

Sardari shunned publicity after World War II (Photo source: BBC).

At the borders, my father was always really trembling,” recalls Mrs Cohanim but, she adds, he was a “strong man” who had given the family “great confidence that everything would be OK.”

Unlikely hero

The 78-year-old grandmother has lived for the past 30 years in California with her husband Nasser Cohanim, a successful banker. Mrs Cohanim has no doubt to whom she and her younger brother Claude owe their lives.

I remember my father always telling that it was thanks to Mr Sardari that we could come outMy uncles and aunts and grandparents lived there in Paris. It was thanks to him they weren’t hurt. The ones that didn’t have him, they took them and you never heard about them again.”

Of Mr Sardari, she says: “I think he was like Schindler, at that time, helping the Jews in Paris.”

Like Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist who saved more than 1,000 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories, Sardari was an unlikely hero.

Nazi propaganda

In his book In the Lion’s Shadow, author Fariborz Mokhtari paints a picture of a bachelor and bon viveur who suddenly found himself head of Iran’s legation house, or diplomatic mission, at the start of World War II.

Although officially neutral, Iran was keen to maintain its strong trading relationship with Germany. This arrangement suited Hitler. The Nazi propaganda machine declared Iranians an Aryan nation and racially akin to the Germans.

Iranian Jews in Paris still faced harassment and persecution and were often identified to the authorities by informers.

In some cases, the Gestapo was alerted when newborn Jewish boys were circumcised at the hospital. Their terrified mothers were ordered to report to the Office of Jewish Affairs to be issued with the yellow patches Jews were forced to wear on their clothes and to have their documents stamped with their racial identity.

But Sardari used his influence and German contacts to gain exemptions from Nazi race laws for more than 2,000 Iranian Jews, and possibly others, arguing that they did not have blood ties to European Jewry.

When History goes beyond Politics: Koresh or Cyrus street in Jerusalem. There is currently no street named Cyrus or Koroush in Tehran, the capital of Iran today. There is also an “Iran” street in Israel.

He was also able to help many Iranians, including members of Jewish community, return to Tehran by issuing them with the new-style Iranian passports they needed to travel across Europe.

A change of regime in Iran, in 1925, had led to the introduction of a new passport and identity card. Many Iranians living in Europe did not have this document, while others, who had married non-Iranians, had not bothered to get Iranian passports for their spouses or children.

When Britain and Russia invaded Iran in September 1941, Sardari’s humanitarian task become more perilous.

Iran signed a treaty with the Allies and Sardari was ordered by Tehran to return home as soon as possible.

Racial purity

But despite being stripped of his diplomatic immunity and status, Sardari resolved to remain in France and carry on helping the Iranian Jews, at considerable risk to his own safety, using money from his inheritance to keep his office going.

The story he spun to the Nazis, in a series of letters and reports, was that the Persian Emperor Cyrus had freed Jewish exiles in Babylon in 538 BC and they had returned to their homes.

However, he told the Nazis, at some later point a small number of Iranians began to find the teachings of the Prophet Moses attractive – and these Mousaique, or Iranian Followers of Moses, which he dubbed “Djuguten,” were not part of the Jewish race.

Using all of his lawyer’s skill, he exploited the internal contradictions and idiocies of the Nazis’ ideology to gain special treatment for the “Djuguten“, as the archive material published in Mr Mokhtari’s new book shows.

 

Oskar Schindler (1908-1974) (at left – Photo source: Wikipedia) was immortalised by Hollywood in 1993 with actor Liam Neeson (at right-Photo source:This Movie Guy) portraying the character of Oscar Schindler in the movie “Schindler’s List” .

High-level investigations were launched in Berlin, with “experts” on racial purity drafted in to give an opinion on whether this Iranian sect – which the book suggests may well have been Sardari’s own invention – were Jewish or not.

The experts were non-committal and suggested that more funding was needed for research.

Lonely death

By December 1942, Sardari’s pleas had reached Adolf Eichmann, the senior Nazi in charge of Jewish affairs, who dismissed them, in a letter published in Mr Mokhtari’s book, as “the usual Jewish tricks and attempts at camouflage“.

The tomb of Esther and Mordechai in Hamedan, northwest Iran. External view (left) and the interior of the tomb (right).

But Sardari somehow managed to carry on helping families escape from Paris, at a time when an estimated 100,000 Jews were deported from France to death camps.

The number of blank passports in Sardari’s safe is estimated to have been between 500 and 1,000. In his book, Mr Mokhtari suggests that if each was issued for an average of two to three people “this could have saved over 2,000 individuals“.

Sardari never sought recognition for his work during his lifetime, insisting he had only been doing his duty. He lived his final years in England in the early 1980s after losing his ambassador’s pension and Tehran properties in the Iranian revolution.

The tomb of Daniel in Khuzestan in southwest Iran. The main structure (note cone-like dome) as it stands today (left) and Iranian pilgrims paying homage within the tomb of Daniel.

Sardari is believed to have died in Nottingham, where he moved to be close to a nephew, after living for a time in a bedsit in Croydon.

He was posthumously recognised for his humanitarian work in 2004 at a ceremony at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles.

Mr Mokhtari hopes that by telling his story, through the testimony of survivors, including Mrs Cohanim, he will bring it to a wider audience but also shatter “popular misconceptions” about Iran and the Iranians.

Here you have a Muslim Iranian who goes out of his way, risks his life, certainly risks his career and property and everything else, to save fellow Iranians,” he says “There is no distinction ‘I am Muslim, he is Jew’ or whatever.”

He believes the story illustrates the “general cultural propensity of Iranians to be tolerant” which is often overlooked in the current political climate.

The late Abdol-Hossein Sardari (1914-1981) in his later years. Hopefully, Hollywood will one day consider making a movie of Sardari and his brave humanitarian efforts to save the lives of Jews from Nazi barbarism (Picture source: Shalom).

 

Liberation of Tabriz from Ottoman Turks by Shah Abbas I

The Ottoman Turks had defeated the Iranian army of Shah Ismail I (r. 1502-1524) at the Battle of Chaldiran on August 23, 1514. In the disastrous aftermath of the ensuing Ottoman-Safavid wars, much of Iran’s Azarbaijan province (including its provincial capital Tabriz), Armenia (known as the Irvan Khanate in Medieval Iranian sources) and the Caucasus fell under the occupation of the Ottoman Turks.

[Click to Enlarge]Shah Ismail as depicted by a European painter – the painting is now housed in the Uffizi Gallery in Italy. Note the Latin terms “Rex Persareum” [Monarch of Persia] which makes clear that Shah Ismail was the king of Safavid Persia or Iran. Despite being hopelessly outmatched by the Ottoman armies in manpower and firearms, Ismail stood his ground in Chaldiran on August 23, 1514. Despite their victory, the Ottoman Turks, who had also sufferred heavy losses,  failed to conquer Iran.

The Ottoman Turks also occupied many of the Caucasian Khanates such as Irvan Khanate (modern Republic of Armenia) as well as much of those Caucasian territories (i.e. Shamakhi, Nakhchevan, etc.) known as the Republic of Azarbaijan since May 1918 (i.e. Shamakhi, Nakhchevan, etc.).

 

[Click to Enlarge]Recently published article by Kaveh Farrokh and Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani on the Battle of Chaldiran by major peer-reviewed military history journal based in Austria: Pallasch: Zeitschrift für Militärgeschichte, Organ der Österreichischen Gesellschaft für Heereskunde. At left is the cover page of the journal; at center is a Safavid sword and a Qajar era painting of the battle of Chaldiran and at right are the profiles of the authors (in German). The peer board of Pallasch consists of high-ranking European military officers. The citation of the journal article for reference is: Farrokh, K., & Khorasani, M.M. (2012). Die Schlacht von Tschaldiran am 23. August 1514, Pallasch: Zeitschrift für Militärgeschichte, Organ der Österreichischen Gesellschaft für Heereskunde. Heft 41, März 2012, pp. 47-71.

Despite their status as the world military superpower of the day, their deployment of heavy firepower (muskets and cannon) as well as larger numbers of troops, the Ottoman Turks failed to destroy the Iranian army. This was due to important military reforms (especially in the creation and integration of firearms units within the Iranian army) as well as a revived Iranian martial arts tradition (discussed further below).

[Click to enlarge]Iranian artilleryman of the type serving in the Iranian armies of Shah Abbas I during his campaigns which cleared the Ottoman Turks out of Western Iran (notably Luristan and Kurdistan), northwest Iran (especially Azarbaijan province) and the Caucasus in the early 1600s (Picture source: Historum.com). The Iranians facing the Ottoman armies in 1514 at the Battle of Chaldiran had no cannon or muskets; Shah Ismail and his cavalry suffered very heavy losses by repeatedly charging into the Ottoman lines in their endeavor to silence the Ottoman Sultan’s 500 cannon!

Important military reforms which had begun at the time of Shah Tahmasp I (r. 1524-1576) reached their apogee at the time of Shah Abbas I (r. 1587-1629), especially in the latter’s success in fully integrating firearms into the Safavid battle order. The latter task was assisted by the English brothers, Anthony and Robert Shereley.

Vincenzo D’Alessandri a European visitor to Iran arriving in 1571, reported that:

Persians are tall and strong… commonly use swords, lances and guns on the battlefield…Persian Musketeers use their muskets so adeptly…they will draw the sword at times of necessity…muskets are slung to the back as to not interfere with the usage of bows and swords…their horses are very well trained and they [the Iranians] have no need to import horses…” [As cited in Amiri, M. (1970). Safarnameye Venezian dar Iran [The Travelogues of the Venetians in Persia]. Tehran: Entesharat-e Kharazmi, pp.448-449].

Despite fielding smaller numbers of troops, the reformed Safavid armies of Shah Abbas I defeated the Ottoman Turks and liberated Tabriz from Turkish occupation on October 21, 1603 (after 20 days of fighting).

Rare drawing by a European traveller who witnessed the aftermath of the liberation of Tabriz by Shah Abbas I on October 21, 1603. Local Azari citizens welcomed the Iranian Safavid army as liberators and took harsh reprisals against the defeated Ottoman Turks who had been occupying their city. Many unfortunate Turks fell into the hands of Tabriz’s citizens and were decapitated (Picture Source: Matofi, A., 1999, Tarikh-e-Chahar Hezar Sal-e Artesh-e Iran: Az Tamadon-e Elam ta 1320 Khorsheedi, Jang-e- Iran va Araqh [The 4000 Year History of the Army of Iran: From the Elamite Civilization to 1941, the Iran-Iraq War]. Tehran:Entesharat-e Iman, p.63).

Note that the sources cited in this article thus far are clear that the Safavids are Iranians; they are consistently refered to as “Persians” in reference to their historical and cultural links to the wider Iranian mileau. Therefore, the fact that many of the Iranian Azarbaijanis had become Turcophone was simply another facet of their Iranian identity – Iranians are not limited to Persian-speakers only, as Iranian culture is multi-faceted and characterized by diversity and synthesis within an Iranian cultural framework.

Note the observations of a European traveller to Iran named Antonio Tenreiro in 1525 and his descriptions of the inhabitants of the city of Tabriz:

This city [Tabriz] is inhabited by Persians and some Turkomans, white people, and beautiful of face and person” [Ronald Bishop Smith (1970), The first age of the Portuguese embassies, navigations and peregrinations in Persia (1507-1524), Decatur Press, pp. 85-86.].

It should be noted that the Turkoman tribes cited above were religious followers of the Safavid dynasty (themselves originally of the Iranian pedigree but progressively Turkicized linguistically, hence of the Persianate civilizational realm). These had migrated from the Anatolian regions and became the military backbone of the early Safavid dynasty. It was these same Turcomens who had stood up with Shah Ismail against the Ottoman Turks in the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514.

It is clear that the Ottoman Turks had intended to hold Tabriz and all of Azarbaijan under permanent occupation. In a letter written by Shah Abbas to Jalal e Din Mohammad Akbar (the powerful emperor of India and contemporary of Shah Abbas, whom the Iranian king always addressed as father) after the liberation of Tabriz, he had noted that the Ottomans in Tabriz had:

“…200 cannon, 5000 musketeers…supplies lasting for ten years and much equipment for the holding of fortresses…” [Falsafi, N. (1965). Zendeganiye Shah Abbas Avval [The Life and Times of Shah Abbas the First] (6 Volumes). Tehran University, Volume IV, pp.22-23.].

 

[Click to enlarge] Shah Abbas I (r. 1587-1629) as depicted in a European copper engraving made by Dominicus Custos citing him as“Schach Abas Persarum Rex” or “Shah Abbas the Great monarch of Persia”. Note how Custos makes a particular emphasis on linking Shah Abbas to the “Mnemona Cyrus” (the Memory of Cyrus the Great of Persia). Shah Abbas’ victories over the Ottomans weakened them against the Europeans to the West, and especially in the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

Shah Abbas I then thrust into the Caucasus to expel the Ottoman Turks from the Irvan Khanate and the rest of the Caucasus. The occupying Ottoman garrison of Irvan (Yerevan) city lost 2000 troops in just a few hours after it was forced by the Iranians into close-quarter combat; the Ottoman were then forced to surrender in June 1604.

 

[Click to enlarge] The Zoorkhaneh or “House of Power”. The Zoorkhaneh is the traditional Iranian martial arts school which has for centuries been an important medium for the training of Iranian warriors. The roots of this can be traced to the pre-Islamic Zoroastrian tradition. At right is Pahlavan  (lit. brave intrepid champion) Mustafa Toosi wielding Zoorkhaneh meels at 60 pounds each (Picture source: Pahlavani.com). Meel training is one of the Zoorkhaneh regiments used for building strength, stamina, and overall physical strength. Each Meel can range from 25-60 pounds and can be as tall as 4 ½ feet. At left is Pahlavan Reza Zanjani with traditional Iranian weights  (Picture source: Abbasi, M. (1995), Tarikh e Koshti Iran [History of Wrestling in Iran], Tehran: Entesharate Firdows, page 133.).

The Iranian ascendancy over the Ottomans had much to do with the revival and promotion of Iran’s ancient martial arts tradition by the Safavids. As noted by Jean Chardin, a French Huguenot jeweller who had arrived in Iran in 1665:

“…the youth, much like the times of ancient Persia, are introduced to martial exercises…” [Abbasi, M. (1956). Siyahatnameye Chardin [The Travelogues of Chardin] (10 volumes). Tehran: Amir Kabir, Volume III, p.179.]

Yet another European travellor to Iran, Giovanni Battista Vecchietti reported the Iranians in the late 16th century as being:

“…expert in fighting with sword, lance and bow, and… greatly superior to the Turks in this” [As cited by Matthee, R.P., 1991, The Politics of Trade in Safavid Iran. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p.394].

Regarding this topic consult Professor M. Haneda: Iranian Safavid Armies, Iran at War:1500-1988, 2011, pp. 28-41, 56-61 and Dr. Manouchehr M. Khorasani’s upcoming text “Persian Archery and Swordsmanship: Traditional Martial Arts of Iran”.

[Click to Enlarge]Dr. Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani (at left in each photo) demonstrating hand to hand combat techniques in accordance with tradtional Iranian martial arts techniques. As the Ottoman Empire had vastly larger numbers of troops than Iran, the Safavids developed an excellent core of professional fighters who were often capable of standing up to larger numbers of Ottoman troops (Photos to appear in Dr. Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani’s upcoming text “Persian Archery and Swordsmanship: Traditional Martial Arts of Iran”).

Shah Abbas I completed his defeat of the Ottomans by crushing their counteroffensive in Iran’s Azarbaijan province (November 6, 1605). He then cleared the Ottoman Turks out of Ganja and Shamakhi in the Caucasus by late June 1606 .

The Ottomans once again attempted to occupy Tabriz and Yerevan in 1616-1618, by deploying 200-300,000 troops and heavy firepower. Once again, they were defeated and expelled back into Ottoman territory by Shah Abbas I (see Iran at War:1500-1988, 2011, pp. 56-61).

 

[Click to Enlarge] (LEFT-Picture source: Yerevan.Am) Modern-day Yerevan and traditional Armenian churches; (RIGHT-Picture source: Historum.com) Safavid musketeer of the type contemporary to Iranian forces liberating Yerevan from the Ottoman Turks in 1604; it is notable that among the troops liberating Yerevan were musketeers from Iran’s Azarbaijan province.