Mr. Tyler to Mr. Olney.

No. 260, Dip. Ser.]

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith inclosed correspondence relating to the disturbed state of the town of Hamadan.

The presence of a large Jewish population, probably upward of 3,000, in this city appears to be a perpetual source of alarm, anxiety, and trouble. The causes for this state of disquiet, and occasionally outbursts of fanatical rage and open revolt against the administrative authorities, are many, but all owing their origin to the weakness and incapacity of the local government and the want of decisive measures at Teheran.

The Jews have been settled in Hamadan from a time coeval with the captivities, and have to-day, many of them, a position and standing which excites the envy of their Moslem neighbors. They have, too, notwithstanding their persecutions, the same methods of doing business as elsewhere, and thereby not unfrequently bring upon themselves the wrath of their victims. If they would behave with a little more prudence in business matters they would escape many indignities and much suffering. Ever since the establishment of the Mohammedan faith in Persia the dominant class has always manifested a bitter spirit of animosity toward them, although at the present time this does not show itself so virulently in Teheran, Ispahan, and some other towns, as formerly. In Hamadan the conflict between the civil and priestly powers has given the disorderly class occasion and excuse to commit every kind of excess at the expense of the Jews, in which they have had the connivance if not the actual support of the priests; and the central government, when they have made a show of authority, have rarely punished the ringleaders of disorder or stamped out the elements of disaffection, consequently they are always ready to break forth when the conditions are favorable. Hence Hamadan, with a population of not more than 40,000 souls, has become one of the most turbulent and worst-governed places in Persia. It lies about 200 miles southwest of Teheran, and has a considerable trade in the tanning of leather.

The missionaries located in Hamadan have generally been on good terms with the governor and with the fanatical priest Mullah Abdullah, and have by mediation and advice greatly ameliorated the condition of the Jews. Their high moral standard of conduct and their unselfish devotion to their trying duties have gained them the respect of all classes, and have enabled them to exercise their influence in favor of better and more lenient treatment of the Jews.

In view of this abnormal state of affairs existing in Hamadan, it seems difficult for the legation to intervene without producing further confusion. In my letter to the Sadr Azem, while asking for full protection of our citizens, I have intimated the cause of these popular outbursts of passion and revenge. I hope it may have some beneficial effect. * * *

It seemed advisable, so as to put Dr. Holmes in possession of full information of my action, to send him a copy of my letter to the Sadr Azem.

I have, etc.,

John Tyler,
Vice-Consul-General in Charge.
[Page 483]
[Inclosure 1 in No. 260.]

Dr. Holmes to Mr. Tyler.

Dear Sir: It is my duty to advise you of the serious condition of affairs again prevailing in Hamadan, as concerns the poor Jews. The Ameer-i-Nazam has come and gone, and nothing has been done, apparently, toward the solution of the question at issue between the Akhund Abdullah and the Agayan—the influential Sayids who have had charge of the principal madressah (college) until the Akhund sought to obtain control of it. A sort of truce was patched up between the two parties which may or may not prove permanent. It is supposed that the Ameer was handicapped by instructions from Teheran, and the report was current that the central Government was deterred from active measures through fear of antagonisms by the fear of ecclesiastics of other cities who have spoken through the Mujtaheeds of Tabriz, Ispahan, etc.

On Saturday, September 19, just before the Ameer’s departure for Senneh, where he had been ordered to add to his already large jurisdiction the province of Kurdistan, a young man was brought before him charged with adultery under somewhat aggravated circumstances. This young man belonged to a family who—the father and two sons; all physicians—had gone over to Islam during the disturbances here in 1892. They have since been prosperous, and by many it is believed that the charges against the son were trumped up by personal enemies. He was taken before the Ameer, and according to the report made to me by Hajji Hassan, Khan Mudir, a prominent and reputable gentleman, who was present at the trial, a large crowd of Mullahs and Sayids appeared on the scene, who charged the young man with being a Jew and Bâbee, who had brought reproach upon Islam, and who was worthy of instant death. According to this man’s statement, this was accompanied by the threat that if he were not executed the whole Jewish community would be massacred. This receives some corroboration from the statement made by the Ameer in my hearing, that had he not promptly executed the prisoner the lives of all the Jews would have been endangered.

Orders were given that the house of the condemned should be sealed; but before this was done the mob of the lower classes, together with some of the men sent to protect the place, broke into the house, pillaged and burned it. The house of a Jew adjoining was also looted, and but for the determined efforts of Mr. Hawkes’s Moslem servants the houses of other Jews adjoining Mr. Hawkes’s would have shared the same fate. Several Jews were beaten and wounded. The Ameer-i-Nazam and the Prince Governor Azzod-ud-Dowlah were visiting at my house, and the matter being reported to me I imformed the Ameer, who at once ordered troops to be sent to protect the people. Later on receiving information that a plot was formed for looting the Jewish quarters, I went in the evening to the Ameer and received satisfactory assurances from him that he had taken all precautions to prevent so deplorable an occurrence. He also gave orders that the pillaged property should be restored, but up to the present time little or nothing has been effected in that direction. The Ameer left on Monday last, and since that time there has been increasing apprehension on the part of the Jews lest they should become victims of the greed of the rabble, whetted as it has been by occurrences of last Saturday. We have heard of the intervention of the Akhund Abdullah and Hajji Mirza [Page 484]Mehdi, on several occasions, to protect Jews and Moslem converts from Judaism, and have had assurances from them that no harm should come to our people.

To-day I hear of a conspiracy against a Jewish shopkeeper, the purport of which was that a woman was to be sent to his shop on pretense of making purchases, and then to raise the cry that she had been insulted. This being taken up by the conspirators, a mob would be gathered, and in the present inflamed state of the populace work will be done first and the inquiries of the truthfulness of the charge made afterwards.

The fact that the man charged with the crime was a Moslem and had forsaken the religion of his fathers makes no difference at all in the eyes of the people who are after loot and not justice. There has been much pressure brought upon the Jews in the past to make Moslems of them; but it seems they have to bear the curse of their nationality and responsibility even for those who have turned away from their faith.

I at once sent to Hajji Mirza Mehdi, advising him of the affair mentioned above, requesting him to protect the endangered party and urging him and the Akhund to do everything in their power to allay the excitement and to give protection to the Jews. This he promised to do for himself and for the Akhund, and I understand that he has taken already measures to carry his promise into effect.

It is hard to say just where the blame lies in this matter. So far as I know, the Akhund had no part in it. The blame seems to rest with the lawless spirit of the people and the failure of the authorities to really rule. The cupidity of the populace has been excited by the stories of loot and massacre from Turkey, so long ignored by Christendom, and they are hungry to have a chance at the Jews and their property. If stringent orders do not come from Teheran, and orders which really mean something, I fear deplorable results may follow.

I hear the Ameer has laid an additional tax on the Jews and Armenians. I doubt not they would willingly pay this (i. e., the Jews) if thereby they could have assurance of protection to life and property. As it is it appears unjust.

I am, etc.,

Geo. W. Holmes.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 260, Dip. Ser.]

Mr. Tyler to the Sadr Azem.

Your Highness: I have just received a letter from Dr. Holmes, a highly respectable United States citizen residing in Hamadan, reporting that that city is in a very disturbed state owing to the acts and threats of the lawless portion of the inhabitants.

Dr. Holmes does not say that there is any immediate danger to the lives and property of our citizens, but he intimates very clearly that unless strong and effective measures be taken to restrain the passions of the riotous class the state of affairs might become grave, indeed.

It seems that there is a strong feeling of religious hatred toward the Jews of Hamadan, who, so far as I can understand, are a loyal and well-conducted community and deserving the protection and support of the Government.

[Page 485]

Your Highness will know that if any lawless proceedings are permitted against the Jews, which I hope may not be the case, others would also become the victims of the violence and rapacity of the mob.

I beg, therefore, respectfully, to request that you will give this matter your earnest consideration, and take all necessary steps to protect our citizens from molestation and harm.

I have, etc.,

John Tyler,
Vice-Consul-General in Charge.
[Inclosure 3 in No. 260.]

Mr. Tyler to Dr. Holmes.

Dear Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 27th ultimo, reporting the execution of a Jew in and the disturbed state of the city of Hamadan.

The story you have to tell is a sad one, and reflects great discredit and incapacity on the part of the authorities. They have allowed their power to slip out of their hands, and the irresponsible ecclesiastics have not been slow to take it up and to use it with advantage to further their own interests. This is a position it will be difficult to upset or even to neutralize. It appears that the Central Government is afraid to act with open authority and determination. In such case it is a question of considerable difficulty as to how far and in what sense the legation can interfere without aggravating the circumstances. When a request is addressed to the Government by the official representative of the United States, whatever it may be, they can not ignore it without assuming a very grave responsibility. And I think I can, so far as my experience goes, say that attention has been given to my representations. The Government would, I feel sure, welcome the pretext of a complaint from a foreign legation to make their power felt, if they were confident of their ability to do so. But as this is more than doubtful, I feel it necessary to act with care and prudence, lest in invoking their interference on behalf of their own subjects I make matters more complicated and threatening. I can always demand the intervention of the Government when your lives, work, and property are in danger, and can also make this an occasion for reporting the condition and invoking the protection of the authorities for the persecuted and oppressed of other creeds and nationalities.

On receipt of your letter I addressed a communication to the Sadr Azem, of which the inclosed is a copy, and I hope it will have the effect intended. I have not hesitated to use your name, for I know that the Shah has great respect for your judgment, prudence, and transparency of character.

I remain, etc.,

John Tyler,
Vice-Consul-General in charge.