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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

And smashed the kalians before his eyes


Yet

this affair of the tobacco monopoly showed what fine, dignified people the Persians can be if they choose. The want of tact, the absolute mismanagement and the lack of knowledge in dealing with the natives, the ridiculous notion that coercion would at once force the Persians to accept the tobacco supplied by the Corporation, fast collected a dense cloud of danger overhead. Teheran and the other larger cities were placarded with proclamations instigating the crowds to murder Europeans and do away with their work.

But the Persians, notwithstanding their threats, showed themselves patient, and confident that the Shah would restore the nation to its former happiness. In the meantime the company's agents played the devil all over the empire. It seems incredible, even in the annals of Persian history, that so little lack of judgment could have been shown towards the natives.

The Mullahs saw an excellent opportunity to undo in a few days the work of Europeans of several scores of years. "Allah," they preached to the people, "forbids you to smoke or touch the impure tobacco sold you by Europeans." On a given day the Mugte halh, or high priest of sacred Kerbalah, declared that the faithful throughout the country must touch tobacco no more; tobacco, the most cherished of Persian indulgences.

Mirza Hassan Ashtiani, _mujtehed_ of Teheran, on whom the Shah relied to pacify the crowds now

in flagrant rebellion, openly preached against his Sovereign and stood by the veto of his superior priest at Kerbalah. He went further and exhorted the people to cease smoking, not because tobacco was impure, but because the Koran says that it is unlawful to make use of any article which is not fairly dealt in by all alike.

At a given date all through the Shah's dominions--and this shows a good deal of determination--the foreigner and his tobacco were to be treated with contempt. Tobacco was given up by all. In the bazaars, in the caravanserais, in the streets, in the houses, where under ordinary circumstances every man puffed away at a _kalian_, a _chibuk_ (small pocket-pipe) or cigarette, not a single soul could be seen smoking for days and days. Only the Shah made a point of smoking in public to encourage the people, but even his wife and concubines--at the risk of incurring disfavour--refused to smoke, and smashed the _kalians_ before his eyes. In house-holds where the men--ever weaker than women--could, after weeks of abstinence, not resist the temptation in secrecy, their wives destroyed the pipes.

For several weeks not a single individual touched tobacco--a most dignified protest which quite terrified the Shah and everybody, for, indeed, it was apparent that people so strong-willed were not to be trifled with.

In many places the natives broke out into rebellion, and many lives were lost. Nasr-ed-din Shah, frightened and perplexed, called the high Mullah of Teheran to the palace (January 5th-6th, 1892). By his advice the tobacco monopoly was there and then abolished by an Imperial Decree, and the privileges granted for the sale and export of tobacco revoked. Furthermore, the Mullah only undertook to pacify the people on condition that all foreign enterprises and innovations in Persia should be suppressed; that all people imprisoned during the riots should be freed, and the families of those killed fully indemnified.

The sudden end of the Tobacco Corporation necessarily led to much correspondence with the British Minister, Sir Frank Lascelles, on the question of compensation and damages to the company which, depending on its monopoly, had entered into agreements, and had already paid out large sums of money. It was finally agreed that the Shah should pay L500,000 sterling compensation, and take over the assets of the company, supposed to be some L140,000, subject to realisation.


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