Book One – Ep.3: Tale of Two Shahs

Lion and the Sun Podcast - Tale of Two Shahs

What comes after establishing democracy in a nation? Protecting it at all costs.

In this episode, the ideals of democracy clash with the limitations of Islam and the new Shah maneuvers to undermine the parliament’s authority, even as the people take to the streets to defend their hard-won freedoms.

Episode Summary

In the fall of 1906, after months of strikes and protests, Iranians were able to convince the shah to order the establishment of the country’s very first parliament, the Majlis. This marked a significant moment in Persia’s modern political history. As the Majlis was seen as a major step towards the creation of a more democratic government.

The members of the Majlis set out to create a new constitution for the country. Drawing inspiration from European countries like Belgium and France. However, they had to be careful not to overstep their power and anger the monarchy, leading to deliberate ambiguity in the constitution.

Just as the Majlis was finalizing the draft of the constitution, the ailing Mozaffar-al-din Shah, who had ordered the establishment of the Majlis, passed away. His son, Mohammad Ali Mirza, ascended to the throne. Unlike his father, Mohammad Ali was determined to cancel the newly found Majlis and shut down Persia’s short-lived democracy.

The clash between the Majlis and the new shah came to a head over the amendment to the constitution, which sought to add more provisions and clarity to the original text. Mohammad Ali, recognizing the rift between the religious and secular constitutionalists, exploited it to sow further discord among the members.

As the Majlis was embroiled in internal strife, an assassination attempt on Mohammad Ali Shah further escalated the tensions between the monarchy and the parliament. The shah, fearing for his life, isolated himself, and the infighting among the members of the Majlis increased.

Ultimately, Mohammad Ali Shah made a bold move, ordering martial law and forbidding large gatherings in public places. With the streets emptied, the parliament building left undefended. The Shah was poised to finally put an end to the “Persian Awakening” and the struggle for democracy in Persia.


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