On December 2, 1921, Iran lost one of its prominent freedom fighters, Mirza Kuchak Khan-e Jangali. Historians name him as the country’s first president. However, his government ended soon, and Reza Khan suppressed him in collaboration with then-British and -Russian states. “The Iranian people will know us later when we no longer exist,” read one of his notes.
During the Persian Constitutional Revolution, Mirza was leading a division consisting of his fellow citizens Gilakis. However, he soon realized that self-interested motives individuals were diverting the people’s cause and betraying the genuine leaders Sattar Khan and Bagher Khan. Though, he returned to his hometown after removing then-tyrant Mohammad-Ali Shah from power in Tehran.
Cooperating with his allies in Tehran and northern areas, Mirza founded a new movement of “Jangal” or “Mojahedin of the forest.” They began their activities by pushing Russian invaders to retreat from Gilan province. At the time, Russian forces had unannouncedly occupied northern Iran and looted farms and people’s warehouses to fund its army.
Mirza Kuchak Khan, First-Line Warrior or Separatist?
Following Russia’s retreat in 1917, Mirza declared the first-ever republic government in northern Iran. The issue severely intimidated then-Defense Minister Reza Khan, who was purging dissidents and following a coup to become the next king. Reza Khan also enjoyed the British government’s support.
Britons preferred dealing with a dependent Shah [King] rather than involving in negotiations with people’s representatives in the form of a republican government. Remarkably, Britons and their Russian mercenaries conflicted with Jangal forces near the Manjil bridge.
Such other tyrannies, then-government labeled Mirza Kuchak Khan as a separatist, paving the path for a bloody crackdown. However, the people knew him and his forces as the first-line warriors who confronted foreign powers.
Aside from Gilakis, many citizens from Kurdistan, Azarbaijan, and Mazandaran joined the Jangal movement and reinforced its queues against domestic and foreign enemies. The level of patriotism and progress of Mirza Kuchak Khan and the Mojahedin of the forest can also be found in their “Letter of intent,” which was published long before the proclamation of the Republic of Iran.
The letter emphasized:
- General and free elections with equal rights to vote and to be elected
- The government is accountable to the representatives of the nation
- Equality of all individuals in civil rights, regardless of race or religion
- Equality between men and women in civil and social rights
- Separation of the clergy from political and social affairs
- Prohibition of monopoly and hoarding of currency and capital
- Nationalization of public wealth such as rivers, pastures, forests, seas, mines, roads, factories
- Land ownership with respect to public livelihoods is recognized to the extent that it is the result of the producer’s income
- Limit working hours to 8 hours a day plus general and compulsory rest of one day a week
- Pensions for anyone above 60 years old and their use in youth education
- Creation and reproduction of factories with respect to workers’ health
- Eliminate the principles of unemployment
- Social security, freedom of residence, and travel
- Freedom of thought, opinion, association, press, work, speech
- Compulsory and free primary education for all children
- Establishment of free public hospitals and Dar al-Ajza
Reza Khan Was Proud of Mirza Kuchak Khan’s Beheading
Today, Reza-Khan advocates portray him as the father of modern Iran. However, they intentionally ignore his heinous crimes against freedom-loving people such as Mirza Kuchak Khan, Colonel Pesyan, Mohammad Khiabani, Rais-Ali Delvari, and Hassan Modarres, all killed by the so-called father!
Before taking power and establishing the Pahlavi dynasty, Reza Khan began eliminating regional states, including Gilan. Reza Khan saw Mirza’s republic government as a substantial threat to his dream of being a king. Therefore, he used local mercenaries to attack the Jangal movement.
Following Reza Khan forces’ frequent attacks, the then-Russian government’s collusion with the royal troops, longstanding sieges, etc. Mirza lost significant parts of his forces. Furthermore, Reza Khan could divide some of Mirza’s allies with financial, military, and political incitements. Notably, almost all traitors were either hanged by Reza Khan or killed by Mirza’s adherents later.
Eventually, Mirza and one of his last men German-national Gauck [Hushang] headed to Khalkhal, east of the Caspian Sea. He wanted to mob new divisions in coordination with Khalkhal ruler Azemat Khanom Fuladlu, one of his allies. However, they were caught in a storm and lost their lives to cold and snow in Talesh mountains on Friday, December 2, 1921.
The lifeless body of Mirza was found by Reza Khan’s forces while carrying Hushang on his shoulders. Eventually, one of Mirza’s former allies and now-traitor Khalu Qorban beheaded Mirza Kuchak Khan and sent it to Reza Khan. Instead, Reza Khan rewarded the traitor, upgrading him to colonel rank.
Mirza Kuchak Khan’s Struggle Continues
Indeed, Reza Khan supposedly eliminated Mirza and his republic government thanks to Britons’ support. However, another British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and allied forces toppled him during World War II and ousted him to Mauritius. Britons transferred him is several colonies and he finally died in exile at 66 in 1944.
Responding to then-Russian Ambassador Theodor Rothstein’s letter for a “deal,” Mirza wrote, “You are very late! I refused to succumb to the British government’s representatives before… Your threats and incitements would not stop me from my destination.”
“I and my friends, you and your followers are heading into two opposite paths. Let’s see that history will laugh at our dead bodies or your prevails?” Mirza added.
In his great meeting in Rasht in 1980, Mojahedin-e Khalq leader Massoud Rajavi praised Mirza Kuchak Khan and his struggle. Who has said that Mirza was frozen? No, he is here in our hearts… We are the same generation who took his aspirations and idea against tyrants, disgraced individuals, and plunderers, he said.