The Iranian Army: 1900-1921

Prior to World War One (1914-1918; also known as the Great War) Iran lacked a single unified standing army capable of resisting military invasions, a situation that lasted until 1921.

When the Great War ended in 1918, Iran’s military situation was dire. There were now four distinct military forces, in which each acted according to different interests: (1) the Qajar government national army (2) the Persian Cossacks (3) the South Persia Rifles and (4) the Gendarmerie.

(1) The Qajar Government force. Nominally the “national army”, this was in fact a highly ineffective force. Military equipment (especially guns and cannon) were mostly outdated and of substandard quality. Iranian arsenals were also poorly managed. The last military acquisitions were Austrian artillery pieces that had been delivered to Iran in 1898 (negotiations for more purchases had been made in 1901). Iranian troops were still using obsolete percussion and matchlocks, but there were numbers of more modern Snider and Martini (single-shot breech-loading) rifles becoming available.

1-Qajar troops-Germanic helmetsVery interesting photo of an assembly of Qajar troops prior to World War One; these troops show marked imperial German influence as seen by a number of troops wearing “Germanic” type helmets. The backpacks of the above troops resemble those worn by imperial German and Austro-Hungarian troops (Source: Russian Guns.Ru website).

The Iranian military of the early 1900s was in a desperate state. While Iran had on paper a total of 150,000 troops at Mozzafar e Din Shah’s time, barely a fraction of such troops could be raised when World War One began in 1914. The few available troops were hardly effective as a fighting force. Farjollah Hosseini, the Chief Consul of Iran to England in the early 1900s summarized the desperate state of the Iranian military as follows:

“…the military office is nominally 70,000 men but is officially nil as numbers of our formations have never seen service…it would take six months to get our army to move if we were to mobilize available formations. We have no weapons, no ammunition reserves, no military schools…no military regulations, no factories and no battleships” [Unit for the Publication of Documents-Office of International Political Studies, 1991, pp. 92]

While Hosseini’s observations regarding military factories and schools were somewhat exaggerated, much of what he told the British was accurate. Many Iranian officers lacked knowledge of modern military doctrines, and most troops were poorly trained and disciplined, and morale was low.

Qajar TroopsA small Qajar army detachment prepares to march (Source: قشون‌ نظامی ایران در زمان قاجار and Public Domain). Note the slovenly state of their appearance, such as boots, gear on belts (or lack of), unkempt uniforms (note person in the rear with oversized military coat). Due in large part to the Qajar administration’s mis-management, cronyism and corruption, the Iranian army by the early 20th century was poorly equipped and trained to defend the country’s borders against Russian, Ottoman and British (or British-Indian) intrusions. 

By the onset of the First World War, the Qajar army had ceased to be an effective military force capable of combating and repelling invasions from modern and well-equipped foreign armies.

Qajar Army Music BandFrench postcard with photograph of a Qajar military band attired in red-blue uniforms (Source: Fouman).

A serious obstacle against serious military reform was corruption in just the militayr apparatus but the Qajar government and society as a whole. Put simply, corrupt officials in important posts (civilian and military) often placed their personal wealth, personal interests and status ahead of their country’s interests. As a result, regular army troops, conscripts and levies continued to suffer from arrears in pay. The army even failed to provide its troops with adequate food, housing and a whole host of other essential services. To make matters worse, these same troops would also often see their personal income pocketed by their corrupt officers. Forced to make ends meet, Iranian soldiers were thus forced to engage in low-level vocational services and odd-jobs in the civilian sector such as hard labour and gardening. All of this meant time taken away from regular military training and preparedness. All of this in turn translated to increasing anger and resentment among ordinary Iranian troops.

Selling bread Tehran qajar eraShopkeepers at a bread outlet in a Tehran street in the early 20th century (Source: Due to arrears in payments or outright theft of monthly payments by their superior Qajar officers, many regular troops had to find other jobs just to make ends meet. 

The weaknesses of Qajar army forces allowed for foreign governments to invade Iran at will and to  sponsor breakaway movements on Iranian soil.

Tribal levies normally support the central government but increasing Qajar weakness and disorganization in Tehran meant that recruiting these troops for the regular army became increasingly difficult. Thus, while these warriors remained effective in combatting (though not stemming) foreign invaders, tribal warriors became increasingly beholden to the security issues of their respective local provinces rather than the country as a whole.

(2) The Persian Cossack Brigade. This was first formed in 1879, with the arrival of Colonel Alexei Ivanovich Dumantovich to Tehran with a Cossack contingent. The Persian Cossacks were essentially modeled and trained by Imperial Russia. These were essentially under Russian command and served imperial Russian interests in Iran.

1-Persian Cossack reviewElements of the Persian Cossack Brigade in Tehran sometime in the early 20th century, possibly in the 1910s prior to World War One; note the Persian sabres (Source: Russian Guns.Ru website).

The Persian Cossacks supported Czarist actions in suppressing the Constitutional Movement in Iran – notably the infamous bombing of Iran’s democratically elected Majlis (Parliament) by Colonel Vladimir Platonovitch Liakhov on June 23, 1908. The Persian Cossacks were finally disbanded on December 6, 1921.

(3) The South Persia Rifles (S.P.R.). This force had been formed by the British Empire by Fall 1916 on Iranian soil during World War One. Led mainly by British officers,  the S.P.R. worked to safeguard British interests (for the main part) in southern Iran, notably the Persian Gulf coastline and the new oil industry in Khuzestan province.

2-South Persian RiflesInteresting photograph (1917?) of British and Iranian officers of the South Persia Rifles (S.P.R.) of Shiraz, under the command of Lieut.-Col. W. A. K. Fraser, M.C., of the Central India Horse (Source: The Illustrated First World War). Note the description in the above photograph which clearly outlines the S.P.R.s objectives: “Guarding Our Interests in the Land of the Shah: officers of the South Persian Rifles”.

The S.P.R. had first recruited approximately 8000 Iranians and Indians into its force. Units of the S.P.R. were then stationed in Fars, Kerman and Bandar Abbas. The S.P.R. proved critical in suppressing anti-British revolts in the south during the war. At its height, this force was to have a maximum size of 11,000 thousand troops. Many Iranian politicians opposed the S.P.R., noting that this force was the British version of the Persian Cossack Brigade. London had assured that the S.P.R. would be turned over to Iranian control after the conclusion of the First World War. The force was finally disbanded in October 1921.

(4) The Gendarmerie. The Iranian parliament had voted as early as 1910 to hire officers from neutral countries with Sweden  soon chosen for the task. The Swedish mission led by Colonel H.O. Hjalmarsen arrived in Iran by May 1911 to quickly work towards building an indigenous Iranian gendarmerie. The mission proved successful.

Iranian Gendarmes-75 mm gunsThe most effective force of the Iranian military prior to and during World war One: the Gendarmerie – above are Iranian Gendarmerie posing with two 75mm (Shneider-Cruesot?) in Tehran prior to World War One (Picture Source: Morgan Shuster, The Strangling of Persia, T. Fisher Unwin, London, 1913, pp. 144, 152). Despite being a para-military force, the Iranian Gendarmes fought very well against opponents who enjoyed superiority in numbers and military equipment.  For more on the Iranian Gendarmerie, consult Stephanie Cronin’s article in the Encylopedia Iranica.

The Gendarmerie proved to be a highly motivated and relatively efficient force. These were the only forces loyal to the country and took no orders from Russia or Britain. They were however, a small force and despite their good training, lacked heavy weapons which prevented them from being able to repel foreign invasions.

Military Reform: Continuing Challenges until 1921

A serious problem for Iran was foreign, namely British and Russian interference: neither wished for Iran to have a strong, unified and modern national army. The British however, shifted their position, especially after the Bolsheviks overthrew the Czarist regime in Russia in 1917.

The Russians (Czarist and their Soviet successors) remained unfavourable to the notion of a modern, strong and militarily capable Iranian state. This is because if Iran were to possess a modern army, this would then be capable of repelling foreign invasions. Russia in particular was sensitive about this as it had conquered Iranian territory in the Caucasus and continued to harbour ambitions in not just northern Iran but all way towards the Persian Gulf. Despite having instituted a long-term and well-funded anti-Iranian cultural campaign in its conquered Caucasian territories, especially in the Arran-Shirvan region (Republic of Azerbaijan since May 1918), the Russians were deeply perturbed by the Caucasus’ historical ties with Iran. A reformed Iranian army and a strong national government in Tehran were seen as a threat by the Czarist regime in Moscow.

Early 19th century Map of IranMap of Iran in 1805 before the territorial losses to Russia of the Caucasus and Central Asia. Iran also lost important eastern territories such as Herat  which broke away with British support (Picture source: CAIS).

Following the end of the First World War, the importance of forming a unitary and modernized military was finally instituted. As noted previously, the disbanding of the pro-Russian Cossack brigade (now under British command following the overthrow of the Czars by the Bolsheviks in 1917) and the pro-British South Persia Rifles resulted in Iran finally having a unified national army, one of the chief aims of the Constitutional Movement of the Early Twentieth century.

K. E. Eduljee: An Introduction to Persepolis

The article below (An Introduction to Persepolis) is by K.E. Eduljee in the Zoroastrian Heritage website.


Persepolis (Parsa in Persian) is located in the present southern Iranian province of Fars (Pars) and in ancient Persia. It was the seat of government and summer palace (Susa remained the winter residence) of the Persian Kings from the early 500’s BCE until its destruction and looting by Alexander of Macedonia in 330/31 BCE.

1-NE view P-J

An artist’s impression of the Northeast view of Persepolis by K. Afhami and W. Gambke as it would have appeared (Source: Persepolis3D, K. Afhami & W. Gambke).

The site is popularly (and erroneously) known as Takht-e Jamshid meaning the Throne (or Palace) of Jamshid. Jamshid was a mythical king whose legend is part of folklore and he poet Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh.

While the present-day Persepolis / Parsa site is better known for the ruins of the royal palace / administrative complex, the site also contained the town of Parsa that existed adjacent to the palace complex, and which presumably housed the workers at palace complex, soldiers, artisans, crafts persons and other town residents. The town was surrounded by a fortification wall.

The Building of Persepolis

At the start of his reign around 521 BCE, Darius I, King of Persia (521-486 BCE) moved his capital from Babylon to Susa, where he started construction on a grand palace. No sooner had the palace at Susa been completed when Darius decided to build a palace complex in his native Pars. While the precise date when the extensive excavation work at the Persepolis site is not known, it is assumed to have started between 518 and 516 BCE.

2-Map of Achaemenid Empire-Kaveh Farrokh-2007Map of the Achaemenid Persian Empire in c. 500 BCE (Source: Farrokh, page 87, 2007, Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War-Персы: Армия великих царей-سایه‌های صحرا).

Darius lived long enough to see a part of his grandiose and ambitious plans executed. His son and successor Xerxes I (485-465 BCE) continued construction and the Persepolis we know was for the main part completed during Xerxes’ reign. A foundation inscription at Persepolis states:

When my father Darius passed from the throne, I by the grace of Ahuramazda became king on my father’s throne. After I became king… I continued work and added to what my father had built.”

Work at Persepolis was completed a hundred years after its start during the reign of Artaxerxes I (464-424 BCE), Xerxes’ son and heir to the throne.

3-Persepolis View TodayA view of the ruins of Persepolis form the hill behind the complex and looking west. In the background are the plains of the Marv Dasht basin (Source: Heritage Institute).

Location of the Site and Size

The site is located 60 km northeast of present day Shiraz, at an altitude of 1,800 meters on the eastern perimeter of the broad plain called the Marv Dasht basin. It is close to the small river Pulwar and the east side of the complex butts against the Kuh-e Rahmat or the Mountain of Mercy.

4-Marv Dasht Site and Kuh Rahmat MapSites and environs around Persepolis – Marv Dasht and Kuh-e Rahmat (Source:Heritage Institute & The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago).

The Palace complex was brightly painted. At any time of the day and especially at twilight, the white-painted columns and gold-toned roof caps must have afforded a spectacular sight from afar.

The relatively small size of the ruins, belies the true scale of the township of Persepolis. The palace was surrounded by numerous dwellings. While there is no estimate of the population, it was in the thousands.

Site Map

The palace complex is built on top of a 450 m long and 300 m wide i.e. 135,000 square meter terrace, raised between 7.5 to 18 meters off the lower slope.

The terrace is accessed by a double stairway that leads to the Gate of Nations (also called the Gate of Xerxes). To the left of the gate is the Apadana or audience hall.

The principle buildings are identified in the site plan on the right.

Identification of the Site

Locally, the site has traditionally been thought to be the palace of legendary King Jamsheed – therefore its local name, Takht-e Jamsheed (the Throne/Palace of Jamsheed). Less commonly, the site was also known as Chelminar (Forty-Minarets) or Sad-Sotun (Hundred-Columns).

In his travelogue, Italian and late-medieval Franciscan friar, Odoric of Pordenone, (also known as Odorico Mattiussi or Mattiuzzi and Odoricus), notes that (around 1320) he passed through Persepolis on his way to China. Odoric who had set out on his travels in 1313, calls the site Comerum – a name that Austrian scholar Alfons Gabriel would later point out was derived from the name of a nearby village – Kenareh. However, Ali Mousavi in his book, Persepolis, points out may also be a corruption of Kazerun – another village near Bishapur.

5-Persepolis Plannung auf deutschSite plan of Persepolis (Source: Public Domain).

In 1472 or 1474, Venetian traveller Giosafat (or Josaphat) Barbaro visited the ruins of Persepolis and incorrectly surmized the ruins of Jewish origin. In his report, the Jornada (1606), Antonio de Gouveia from Portugal described Persepolis’ cuneiform inscriptions following his visit to the site in 1602.

The site was first identified as Persepolis, the capital of the Persian Achaemenid Empire in 1620-21 by Pietro della Vallee.

Jean-Baptiste Chardin (later to become Sir John Chardin) visited Persepolis on three occasions in 1667, 1673, and 1674. On his third visit, Chardin was accompanied by artist Andre Daulier-Deslandes who had previously published a panoramic drawing of the site. Chardin would argue that the site was not the ruins of a palace, but that of a temple. His argument was that palaces were built on river banks and not on hill slopes. Little did Chardin know of the Zoroastrian admonition not to pollute rivers. Chardin records the defacement and continued destruction of the ruins by successive Islamic era governments including Shah Abbas, the general Imam Koli Khan and even more so by Khan’s successor.

German naturalist, Engelbert Kaempfer visited the ruins in 1686 and was the first to call the inscriptions ‘cuneatae’ i.e. cuneiform.

Cornelis de Bruijn (also spelled Cornelius de Bruyn, 1652-1727), a Dutch traveller, visited Persepolis between 1704 and 1705. His account Reizen over Moskovie, door Persie en Indie published in 1711, contains exquisite drawings.

Around 1764 CE, Carsten (or Karsten) Niebuhr (1733 – 1815), a German mathematician, cartographer, and explorer, visited the ancient site at Behistun and made copies of the cuneiform inscriptions. He visited Persepolis in March 1765, and in three weeks and a half copied all the texts. His reproductions of the text engraved in rock faces were prepared so diligently, that few changes have been made to them since.

The Persian governor of Shiraz authorized a preliminary excavation in 1878.

6-Persepolis_rendering_oldReconstruction of Persepolis, by Eugene Flandin and Pascal Coste (19th century) (Source: Public Domain).

The Oriental Institute of Chicago commissioned the first thorough archaeological exploration headed by Ernst Herzfeld, then Professor of Oriental Archaeology in Berlin, and assisted by Fritz Schmidt. Their work at the site extended from 1931 to 1939. Together, Herzfeld and Schmidt uncovered on the Persepolis Terrace, the Eastern Stairway of the Apadana and the small stairs of the Council Hall. Herzfeld was accused of attempting to smuggle artifacts out of Iran and had to leave the country.

Shapour Shahbazi: Bahrām I

The article below by Shapour Shahbazi on Sassanian king Bahrām I (c. June 271 – September 274 CE) was originally published in the Encyclopedia Iranica on December 15, 1988 and last updated on August 24, 2011.

Kindly note that picture posted below does not appear in the original publication and on-line posting by Encyclopedia Iranica.


Bahrām I, the fourth Sasanian king and son of Šāpūr I, succeeded Hormozd (Ohrmezd) I and ruled from June, 271 until September, 274 (for the chronology of the early Sasanians, the findings of W. B. Henning, Asia Major, 1957, p. 116, are followed here). Four of Šāpūr’s sons are named in his Kaʿba-ye Zardošt inscription (A. Maricq, Classica et Orientalia, Paris, 1965, pp. 61-62): Bahrām Gēlān Šāh, Šāpūr Mēšān Šāh (King of Mesene), Hormozd (Ohrmezd) Ardašīr, Wuzurg Šāh ī Arminān (Great King of Armenia), and Narseh Sakān Šāh (King of the Sakas, exceptionally honored later in the inscription, Maricq, ibid., p. 58, as “the noble Mazdā-worshipping Narseh, King of Sind, Sakastān, and Tūrān to the edge of the sea”). The order shows that Bahrām was the eldest son (Henning, “Notes on the Great Inscription of Šāpūr I,” in Professor Jackson Memorial Volume, Bombay, 1954, p. 419 n. 6), and indeed, the prince is shown on the Naqš-e Rajab investiture relief of Ardašīr I, facing his name-deity Bahrām, who is figured in the Hellenistic guise of Herakles, nude and club in hand (W. Hinz, Altiranische Funde und Forschungen, Berlin, 1969, p. 124 with pl. 59). However, despite Bahrām’s age and Narseh’s exalted position, the succession of Šāpūr had been decided in favor of Hormozd Ardašīr, who, however, reigned for only just over a year. Then Bahrām ascended the throne, probably with the help of the influential priest, Kardēr. Narseh probably looked upon Bahrām as a usurper (see bahrām, iii), but had to settle for the second rank in the empire, becoming “Great King of Armenia” (V. Lukonin, “Varakhran i Narse,” in VDI 1, 1964, pp. 48ff.; H. Humbach and P. O. Skjærvø, The Sassanian Inscription of Paikuli III/1, Wiesbaden, 1983. pp. 66ff.).

Bahram I-Sassanina Coin

Sassanian coin of Bahram I (c. June 271 – September 274 CE) (Source: Public Domain).

Bahrām was fond of fighting, hunting, and feasting, which he regarded as virtues (Henning, “Mani’s Last Journey,” BSOS 10, 1942, p. 951), and Sasanian-based sources praised him as a benevolent and worthy king. This was no doubt partly due to his reversal of Šāpūr’s policy of religious tolerance, which enabled the clergy led by Kardēr to proceed with the establishment of a Zoroastrian state church. In 274, he ordered the imprisonment and subsequent execution of Mani, and the persecution of his followers (Henning, ibid., pp. 949ff.). Otherwise Bahrām’s short reign was uneventful. His coins show him wearing the characteristic crown of Mithra: a headgear adorned with ray-shaped spikes (K. Erdmann, “Die Entwicklung der sasanidischen Krone,” Ars Islamica 15-16, 1951, p. 96; R. Göbl, Sasanian Numismatics, Brunswick, 1971, p. 43, pl. 3 nos. 40-47). The lost Book of the Portraits of Sasanian Kings (Ḥamza, p. 50) depicted Bahrām I as standing, holding a lance in the right hand and leaning upon a sword held in the left, and wearing red gown and trousers and a gold crown topped with a sky-blue globe (Erdmann, op. cit., p. 96 n. 3). Following Ardašīr and Šāpūr, Bahrām I symbolized his accession in a rock-relief (Bīšāpūr IV) showing him on horseback, receiving the diadem of royalty from Ohrmezd, also shown mounted. The relief is accompanied by a Mid. Pers. inscription. The dignified spirituality of the king, the sweeping gesture of the god, the finely balanced composition, and the proportionate, majestic figures of the horses make this monument “artistically the most appealing example of Sasanian rock sculpture” (E. F. Schmidt, Persepolis III: The Royal Tombs and Other Monuments, Chicago, 1970, p. 129. See further F. Sarre and E. Herzfeld, Iranische Felsreliefs, Berlin, 1910, pp. 215ff.; G. Herrmann and R. Howell, The Sasanian Rock Reliefs at Bishapur, pt. 2, Iranische Denkmäler, Lief. 10, Berlin, 1981). Later, Narseh tampered with this sculpture and substituted his own name for that of Bahrām (see Schmidt, op. cit., p. 129 n. 71 for reference).


See also Ṭabarī, tr. Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, pp. 47-48.

Other Oriental, Greek, and Syriac sources are listed by Justi, Namenbuch, p. 361 no. 7.

The identification of Bahrām I with Bahrām Kūšān Šāh, who on his coins wears a crown adorned with a pair of ram’s horns and who is known also from a Sasanian silver plate now in the Hermitage (K. Erdmann, “Die sasanidischen Jagdschalen,” in Jahrb. d. preuss. Kunstsammlung LIX, 1930, p. 190 with references) must be rejected on the evidence of the Kaʿba-ye Zardošt inscription which specifies that Bahrām was King of Gēlān. On Bahrām’s religious policy see further W. Hinz, “Mani and Kardēr,” in La Persia nel medioevo, Rome, 1971, pp. 485ff.

Evangelos Venetis: Greeks in Modern Iran

Dr. Evangelos Venetis is the author of a seminal book entitled “Greeks in Modern Iran: Discovering the Past of a Prosperous Community (1837-2010)” in published in Athens, Greece in 2014 (this project was also supported by the collaboration of Elli Antoniades; publication supported by the Kefalidis family):

Venetis-Greeks in Iran

Greeks in Modern Iran: Discovering the Past of a Prosperous Community (1837-2010) (translated from Greek to English by Michael Mericas [(Νικόλαος Μερίκας)]), Athens, Greece: Poreia, 2014, ISBN:978-960-7043-89-4. To order this text, contact Dr. Evangelos directly: 28, Petropoulaki st., 10445, Athens, Greece, Email:

The above text was first published in Greek in 2011:

Evangelos Venetis, Greeks in Modern Iran (Athens: Poreia Publications, 2011), Graeco- Iranica Series 1, 290 pp. 2 maps, 57 illustrations, index, ISBN: 978-960-7498-85- 1

The book is an historical monograph in the field of modern Greek-Iranian studies published by the Society for Hellenic-Iranian Studies (SHIS) in the Graeco-Iranica Monograph Series. It aims at informing the scientific and wide readership about the past, present and future of the Greek Diaspora in Iran in the last two centuries.


The Moschalis family in Kermanshah, 1910 (Source: Society for Hellenic-Iranian Studies collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).

The first part of the book narrates the history of the Greeks who entered Qajar Iran in the early 19th century and established their community in northern Iran.


The Misailidis family in Rasht (Northern Iran, 1913-1915) (Source: Misailidis family collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).


On a humorous note: A long time between drinks! A 1902 cartoon entitled “491 BC-1902 CE” in Puck magazine (v. 52, no. 1348, 1902, December 31) depicting “Persia” (at left) toasting “Greece” (at right) from a punch bowl labeled “Renewal of Diplomatic Relations” (Source: US Library of Congress). Contrary to Eurocentric or Nordicist popular narratives in news media, entertainment and scholarship, the relationship between the Greco-Roman and Iranian realms has been multifaceted and constructive since ancient times. The two civilizations have often engaged in strong exchanges in the arts, learning, architecture, theology, culture and commerce for millennia.


Photo taken in 1935 of the Papadopoulos and Paraskevopoulos families in Rezaieh in northwest Iran’s West Azarbaijan province (Source: Elli Antoniades; published by Evangelos Venetis). Note that these Iranian-Greeks have adopted the favorite Iranian Samovar pastime of drinking tea (tea kettle atop metallic vase with tap for pouring hot water) along with the small glass teacups and accompanying saucers. The Samovar (Russian: self-boiler) is also highly popular in the Caucasus, Turkey, Ukraine and of course Russia (where the “Samovar” originates).

In the second part, the analysis focuses on the history of the Greek community of Tehran in the Pahlavi era and the period of the Islamic Republic, highlighting also the interaction between Greeks from all over the world and Iranians inside Iran in various fields such as economy, politics and culture.


The campaign regiment of Iranian-Greeks prior to their departure to Egypt, 1943 (Source: Greek Community of Tehran collection; published by Evangelos Venetis). Like much of Europe, Greece had fallen to brutal Nazi occupation in 1941 during the Second World War. These Iranian-Greeks were joining British and allied forces in North Africa to fight the Nazis. 

5a-Greco-Iranians-Vasilios Antoniades

Vasilios Antoniades (1910-1943) who was the only casualty of the Iranian-Greek regiment from Iran in Egypt (Source: Greek Community of Tehran collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).

Given that the contemporary research and study of Hellenic-Iranian studies worldwide stop in the seventh century AD., contemporary Hellenic-Iranian relations remain a terra incognita.

6-Greco-Iranians-Greek School on Tehran

The first official Greek school in Tehran in 1945 (Source: Greek Community of Tehran collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).

7-Greco-Iranians-Greek women tailor shop in saadi st Tehran

The first Greek women’s taylor shop in Tehran’s Saadi street. This was established by Eleni Salonikidis (Source: Violetta Grammatikopoulos collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).

As a result Dr. Venetis’ monograph is a general introduction to a long period, covering a wide range of topics and aiming to act as the framework for the development of the study and research of contemporary Hellenic-Iranian studies worldwide.

Fereydoun Farrokh and Greek Foregin Minsiter in Athens 1962

Fereydoun Farrokh (at left), the Iranian chargé d’affaires in Greece meeting with Evangelos Averoff (at right) the Greek Foreign Minister) in 1962 (Source: Archives of; published by Evangelos Venetis). The Minister is entrusting a cheque on behalf of the Greek government to Farrokh to send to Iran to provide financial assistance for Iranian earthquake victims at the time.

9-Greco-Iranians-Embassy 1976 Tehran

The Greek Foreign Minster Demetrios Bitsios (sitting second from left) in the Greek community of Tehran with the president of the community Elli Antoniades, the Greek Ambassador Panayotis Economou (third from the left) and members of the diplomatic retinue of the Minster, 1976 (Source: Elli Antoniades; published by Evangelos Venetis).

Dr. Evangelos Venetis studied history at the University of Ioannina, where he received also his master’s degree in medieval history entitled: The Zoroastrian priesthood and their influence in diplomatic relations Byzantium and Persia. (Second International Award of Iranology, Tehran, 12.16.2002).

10-Greco-Iranians-Tehran 1999

Konstantinos Stefanopoulos (at left), the president of the Hellenic Republic being received by Ionnis Grammatikopoulos (at right), president of the Greek-Iranian community in Tehran in 1999 (Source: Ionnis Grammatikopoulos collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).

In 2006 Dr. Evangelos Venetis successfully completed his doctoral dissertation in the field of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Edinburgh. During the period 2006-2010 he was a Senior Research Associate at the Department of Arabic, Persian and Turkish, in the School of Middle Eastern Studies, the University of Leiden, the Netherlands.

11-Greco-Iranians-Bishop in Tehran 2001

His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos officiating in the Greek Orthodox Church of Annunciation in Tehran in 2001 (Source: Ionnis Grammatikopoulos collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).

In addition to his “Greeks in Modern Iran” Dr. Evangelos Venetis has also authored five other academic books thus far:

  • The Iskandarnama (Book of Alexander): An analysis of an anonymous Persian prose romance (Saarbrücken, 2013)
  • The Shahnama Tradition, Storytelling in Contemporary Iran (Saarbrücken, 2012)
  • The Persian Book of Kings. Storytelling in Modern Iran (Lambert Publications, Saarbrügen, 2011);
  • Grammar of modern Persian for Greek Speakers (Tehran, 2007)
  • Bibliographica Sasanica (Costa Mesa, California, 2009)

12-Greco-Iranians-Greek Church in Tehran 2009

The Greek Church of Annunciation of Tehran in 2001 (Source: The Society for Hellenic-Iranian Studies collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).

An accomplished world-class academic, Dr. Evangelos Venetis has also authored a large number of articles on medieval and modern Islamic world in Greek and international journals. He is the founder and director of the Society for Hellenic-Iranian Studies.

Iran Air Force Operations and the UN in Congo (1962-1963)

The article below was first forwarded to by Shahyar Mahabadi (posted originally in the IIAF website ). Kindly note that the text and picture captions below has been edited from the original version which appeared in the IIAF website.


ONUC was established initially in July 1960 to ensure the withdrawal of Belgian forces, to assist the Government in maintaining law and order, and to provide technical assistance. The function of ONUC was subsequently modified to include maintaining the territorial integrity and the political independence of the Congo, preventing the occurrence of civil war, and securing the removal from the Congo of all foreign military, paramilitary and advisory personnel not under the United Nations Command, and all mercenaries. On completion of the mandate, the Mission was withdrawn in June 1964. For more on the UN’s Congo mission, see here… and here…

The Iranian Air Force played a major role in the success of the UN mission. Four F-86 Sabre fighter aircraft were deployed for the UN mission. The route of Iranian Air Force F-86 “Sabre” fighters from Iran to Congo was as follows: Dezful –Tehran- Dhahran (Saudi Arabia)-Jadeh (Saudi Arabia) -Addis a Baba (Ethiopia)–Entebbe (Uganda)–Katanga( Congo). The flight plan traversed more than 6,300 Km over a time of 10.

IIAF-Crew-Vahdati ABIranian airmen and crew pose with their F-86 Sabre combat aircraft in Dezful’s Airbase in 1963 (Source: IIAF).

Iranian Air Force aircraft were mission-ready at all times. There were no accidents or fatalities during the mission. The one exception was one incident during which Lt. Alaghband’s aircraft was hit by a bullet the F-86 was quickly repaired and ready to fly in less than 24 hours. It is notable that the four F-86 fighters of the IIAF flew more sorties than the Philippines and Sweden who had a total of 18 aircraft.

IIAF-F-86 Sabre

Iranian Air Force F-86 Sabre – note “UN” insignia on above aircraft (Picture Source:

Iran’s airmen were commended by the United Nations for their excellent performance. After returning  to Iran Maj. Seyed Javadi, Major Rabii (Base Operation Commander), Lt. Mostafavi and Capt. Farywar were decorated with medals for their exemplary performance. In honor of these operations, Iranian Postal services issued a special stamp six Months after the mission on United Nation Day.

IIAF-Un StampIran’s postal services issued the above stamp in honor of the Iranian Air Force operations for the United Nations in the Congo in the early 1960s (Source: IIAF).

Originally, the medal awarded for service in the Congo was a UN blue and white ribbon with a bar indicating Congo service. In 1963 it was decided that a distinctive ribbon should be issued. The ribbon subsequently awarded carries a broad center band of green, symbolic of hope which was thought to be appropriate for a young nation, and also to represent the Congo Basin. The center band is flanked by two narrow white bands, representing the UN Mission and at either end are two bars of UN blue. To qualify for the medal, three months of service in the Mission were required.

IIAF-MedalsMedal issued for service for the UN in the Congo in 1962-1963 (for more on medals see here…)

The Iranian Air Force crew assigned to the UN mission were: Maj. Amir Kamiabipour ” Mission Planner” Capt. Mostafa Hadj Seyed Javadi “Mission Commander“. 1St.Lt. Iradj Mostafavi (later Brig. General ) 1st. Lt Vahid Kimiagar ( Later Brig. General) 1st. Lt Mohsen Memarian (killed in Aircraft Crash) 1st. Lt Mohammad Alaghband ( Killed in Aircraft Crash) 1st. Lt Esmaeel Memari (Killed in Aircraft Crash) 1st. Lt Mohammad Abolmolouk (later Brig.General) 1st. Lt Mohammad Pezeshki (later Col.) 1st. Lt Nasser Zolali ( Later Brig.General, Died of Cancer ) 1St.Lt. Ali Akbar Farywar (later General) “commander of Support & Maintenance” and 33 maintenance and support crew (kindly forward the names of these personnel to the IIAF website as well as in recognition for their services to the United Nations).

There was also a single C-47 “ Dakota” with 6 crew assigned with support duties for the UN mission. The Aircraft commander was Capt. Hessam Mirtolooi (later general). The C-47 made three sorties from Tehran to the Congo. The formidable Kilimanjaro Heights posed great challenges for the C-47 flying over them, a task which the aircraft successfully accomplished.

IIAF-C 47 DakotaIranian Air Force C-47 Dakota during the UN mission to the Congo (Source: IIAF). Ideal for landings in rough terrain, the venerable Dakota proved its worth in spades during and after the Second World War as a robust and reliable transport aircraft. The Dakota served in several countries decades after the conclusion of the Second World War. Numbers of the Dakota continue to fly in a number of countries.