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Event of Goharshad Mosque

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People gathering in the courtyard of the Holy Shrine of Imam al-Rida (a) during the days of sit-in at Goharshad Mosque before the massacre.

The Event of Goharshād mosque refers to gathering of the people of Mashhad in Goharshad mosque objecting to the law of dress code change which was suppressed by government forces. This gathering was made in July 1935 during the rule of Reza Shah. The main reason of this sit-in was objecting to the obligation of wearing chapeaus and the policies of changes in dress code and also house arrest of Ayatollah Sayyid Husayn Tabataba'i Qummi.

In this gathering, Shaykh Muhammad Taqi Buhlul gave a speech and a fight happened between people and government forces. This sit-in was heavily suppressed and more than 1600 people were killed and injured. After this event, distinguished clerics of Mashhad were arrested and exiled and also some managers of offices in Mashhad were changed.

Dress Code Change

One of the cultural policies of Reza Shah was dress code change he followed during the years after stabilization of his power. The law of dress code unity of Iranian citizens inside the country was approved in the national parliament on December 31, 1928. According to this bill, except some clerics, all Iranian citizens inside Iran had to wear unified dress code.

On April 03, 1935, a festival was held in Shiraz with the presence of Ali Asghar Hekmat, the minister of Ma’aref. In a part of this festival, some girls went on the stage and all of a sudden removed their masks and began dancing to orchestra. Some of the audience left the session in objection and the next day some people gathered in Wakil mosque and Sayyid Hisam al-Din Fali gave a speech for them and condemned what was done in the festival. Fali was arrested and imprisoned.

Order to Change Pahlavi Hat to Chapeau

The order for changing Pahlavi hat to “international hat” called Chapeau was sent for Fath Allah Pakravan, the governor of Khurasan. Without any hesitation, he implemented the order of Reza Shah and issued definite orders to police of Khurasan and other offices. According to Muhammad Ali Shoushtari, the secret reporter of the time of Reza Shah who had a mission in Mashhad,

“implementation of the order in Mashhad was somehow difficult in Mashhad, because secret agents, religious people and neighbors of the shrine had entered a challenge. The phrase ‘one who becomes like to some people, he is one of them’ was used and secretly and publicly made objections.”

Scholars’ Reactions

Scholars of Mashhad held several sessions for discussing about this bill. In one of these sessions which was held in the house of Ayatullah Sayyid Yunus Ardabili, it was suggested that Ayatullah Husayn Qummi goes to Tehran and speaks with Reza Khan about cessation of implementation of this bill and changing the dress code. On June 28th or 29th, he went to Tehran and after entering Siraj al-Mulk garden, was surrounded by security forces and was held incommunicado. In several announcements, clerics of Mashhad asked people to sit in Goharshad mosque in objection to religious and social policies of Reza Shah and the restrictions they had made for Ayatullah Qummi. They themselves decided to join people in the mosque and every day, one of them gives speech for people.

Gathering in Goharshad Mosque

People of Mashhad followed up the arrest of Ayatullah Qummi and asked for his release. Also, a letter with 150 signatures of clergies and distinguished people of Mashhad was written to Reza Shah, in which they had asked for freedom of Ayatullah Qummi, but the head of telegraph services in Mashhad informed Fathullah Pakravan about it before sending it. The governor of Khurasan immediately ordered the prosecution of all who signed the telegraph; thus, some were arrested and some had to leave Mashhad. After this event, the situation in Mashhad was deteriorated more than before.

Shaykh Buhlul's Entry to Mashhad

Shaykh Muhammad Taqi Buhlul who was sued and went from one city to another, was informed of Ayatullah Qummi’s problem and arrived in Mashhad on Wednesday, July 10th and went to the Holy Shrine of Imam al-Rida (a), but police officers arrested him after few hours and arrested him in one of the rooms in Kuhna courtyard. Few hours after detention of Shaykh Muhammad Taqi Buhlul, people gradually were informed of it and gathered in front of his detention place and released him. Shaykh Muhammad Taqi Buhlul said, “I wanted to frighten the ruling class and it was what I had done in Tehran and other cities and different cases, the government had to retreat.” He also mentioned, “In Mashhad too, I wanted to do the same, but it was not successful. When this debate occurred and the head of police and police officers were beaten, I was confused and did not know what to do…In all the mosque and courtyards, the shouts of ‘death to Shah’, ‘curse be upon Shah’, ‘may Shah be dead’, ‘viva Islam’, ‘curse on Baha’is’ and ‘curse be on the enemy of clergies’ were heard.” He added that with these happenings, giving up was meaningless and impossible; thus, in one of the speeches, I told people, “what should not be happened, happened and we should no more show lenience. We need to be steadfast and resist until Hajj Aqa Husayn Qummi will be freed from prison and Islamic rulings will be done.”

The First Limited Killings

Following the order of Reza Khan, soldiers gradually took important positions around the mosque since the call for morning prayer of Friday and tried to stop people from entering the shrine and Gohrashad mosque. One of the officers told to the people sitting in the mosque to scatter and submit your requests to the governor to follow up. In reply to that, Shaykh Buhlul said, “we have not gathered here to be scattered by the order of the governor. Quickly go away from here, since we do not want you receive any harm.” That man went away. Soldiers and those who wanted to go to the shrine began fighting. Some were killed and some were injured and people took some weapons from soldiers. According to Muhammad Taqi Buhlul, 22 people were killed and some were injured on Friday.

Increasing the Number of Demonstrators

Based on Muhammad Ali Shoushtari’s reports, “responsible offices lost their decision-making power out of their fear from the capital and Shah and so much exaggerated the issue in reports that naturally Shah became very worried so much that in those two days, he himself sent telegraphs and issued orders.” Based on the report of the police of Mashhad, the number of people gathered in Goharshad mosque was increasing every moment and on the day of Saturday, shopkeepers were forced to close their shops. On Saturday, some people joined those sitting in the mosque from villages around Mashhad and Goharshad mosque and the courtyards became full of people and speakers spoke about different issues especially about Ayatullah Qummi, dress code change and removing hijab. On the other hand, soldiers of the east led by general Iraj Matbu’i and police mobilized their forces to suppress people. Shoushtari quotes from Asadi and Pakravan, “His Highness had said, ‘if you compromise more and delay, neither you will have your hat on your head, nor I will have my crown on mine anymore; thus, I order that the rebellion must end tonight without spilling any blood. With as many as soldiers necessary, they should be besieged, motivators should be arrested and release other people.”

The Trick of the Management of the Shrine for Sending Scholars out of Sit-in

Muhammad Vali Khan Asadi, the manager of the shrine by making recourse to the trick of lying that Reza Shah had accepted the request of demonstrators and convinced high clerics and authorities of Khurasan to go out of the mosque, but some believed that government officials were afraid of killing authorities and its dangerous consequences which would cause chaos in the country.

Massacre of Demonstrators

Commemorative stamp issued by the Iran's Post Company at the 50th anniversary of the massacre.

Based on the strict order of the national police to the police of Mashhad on Rabi' II 11, 1354/July 13, 1935, “although the universally-obeyed holy orders of the king (may our souls be sacrificed for him) have been issued for the commander to arrest all mischief makers of any class; you and your agents should be the agents for the operation and tonight, when there is no traffic and the number of demonstrators is decreased, take more than enough and preferably uniformed foot soldiers, agents, officers abruptly to enter the mosque and immediately arrest all motivators including ‘Ulama, businessmen, shopkeepers, etc. and immediately take out of the mosque and courtyards and take toward Turuq and even further arrest as well anyone out of the shrine and the mosque you have recognized as involved in the issue and perform the same order about them. The operation should be undercover before performance so that demonstrators do not become aware about.”

This order was issued supposing that most demonstrators would leave the mosque the previous night; but, it did not happen so and the demonstrators increased in numbers every moment and they reached 15 to 20 thousand people in Goharhad mosque and its surroundings. It is mentioned in the rest of the above order that, police should not use firearm in the courtyards and in the shrine and use bayonets and as such upon necessity.

Upon midnight, when people had not dispersed, all the doors, entrances and exits of the mosque were closed. Meanwhile, people began breaking the doors using mattocks and exiting. At that moment, the order to open fire was given and the massacre of people began and defenseless people in and out of the mosque were shot by soldiers. During few hours, a great massacre was made and in and out of the mosque became full of dead and injured bodies and also the mosque received some damages and the sanctity of the Holy Shrine of Imam al-Rida (a) was violated. Before the sunrise of July 14th, 1935, the resistance of demonstrators was broken and the uprising of Goharshad mosque was suppressed. Many of the killed and even some of the injured were thrown in a pit dug for this purpose.

Number of the Dead

Muhamamd Ali Shoushtari quoting from eye witnesses, reported the number of the dead, 1670 people, “Abbas Nam, the driver of the prince Sardar Sa’ed… had told Sardar Sa’ed that we carried the dead to Khuni garden, in front of Ma’juni and ‘Askariyyeh lands, who were more than 1670 ones.”

In Bahar newspaper dated May 28th, 1942, Ahmad Bahar mentioned the number of the martyrs 1750 and ‘Alireza Bayegan who was among the eye witnesses confirmed the number of 1670. Bayegan said, “They were 1670 and about 70 people had hidden themselves here and there and looked for chances to escape, but were captured by soldiers and were thrown in the truck and then in the pits. They did not care about their cries of being alive and their begging and buried those poor people alive.”

Arresting and Exiling Clerics

The day after this event, top clerics and scholars of Mashhad were arrested and imprisoned. One of arrested ones was Ayatullah Mirza Muhammad Kafa’i Khurasani known as Aqazadih, the second son of Akhund Khurasani who passed away in a suspicious way in one of the prisons of Tehran. Other distinguished people who were arrested were: Ayatullah Sayyid 'Abd Allah Shirazi, Ayatullah Sayyid Yunus Ardabili, Muhammad Wali Nijat, Bahr al-‘Ulum, Muhaqqiq, Hashim Qazwini, Aqa Buzurg Shahrudi and Nawwab Ihtisham Radawi. Some others escaped the scene and even left the country. Some managed to hide. Some clerics were later released and went to their own cities.

Shaykh Muhammad Taqi Buhlul who were alive after the event, exited the country in disguise and went to Afghanistan with the help of his family who were in the event of Goharshad mosque. After the event of Goharshad, by the order of Reza Shah, some changes were made at the level of the heads of offices in Mashhad and the management of the Holy Shrine of Imam al-Rida (a). Although Muhammad Vali Khan Asadi was hated, but he remained in his position of management of the shrine for a while, but he was executed on December 20th, 1935. Some people who were actively involved in the event of Goharshad were exiled to Yazd and other cities. They were 18 people and were either clergies or students of religious studies and since no definite documents were found against them, their exile finished and they returned to their cities.