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Photographic portrait of Ahmad Shāh Qājār, Shah of Iran

Ahmad Shah Qajar (احمد شاه قاجار in Persian) ‎(January 21, 1898 - 21 February 1930) was Shah of Iran from July 16, 1909, to October 31, 1925 and the last of the Qajar dynasty.



Ahmad acceded to the Peacock Throne on July 16, 1909, following the overthrow of his father and predecessor, Mohammad Ali Shah, who had attempted to reverse earlier constitutional restrictions on royal power, and thus enraged the majority of Iranians. Not much is known about his early life prior to his acceded to the throne. He was very attached to his father and after his father left, Ahmad felt isolated and bitter. Due to his young age a regent who was his uncle Azud al-Mulk, took charge of his affairs. However his lavish lifestyle didn’t gain him any favors with the Iranian people. Ahmad Shah inherited a kingdom in turmoil, frustrated with British and Russian imperialism and the absolute rule of his father.

He attempted to fix the damage done by his father by appointing the best ministers he could find. He was, however, an ineffective ruler who was faced with internal unrest and foreign intrusions, particularly by the Britsh and Russian Empires. Russian and British troops fought against the Ottoman forces in Iran during World War I. The War led to outcries across the country because people of Iran were not happy that they were being used as a battleground. Thus, leading to local movement across the country that tried to challenge the power of Ahmad Shah Qajar and his government.

In 1917, Britain used Persia as the springboard for an attack into Russia in an unsuccessful attempt to reverse the Russian Revolution of 1917. The newly born Soviet Union responded by annexing portions of northern Persia as buffer states much like its Tsarist predecessor. Marching on Tehran, the Soviets extracted ever more humiliating concessions from the Qajar government - whose ministers Ahmad Shah was often unable to control. The weakness of the central bureaucracy in the face of such aggression by an atheist foreign power sparked seething anger among many traditional Iranians - including the young Ruhollah Khomeini, who would later condemn both communism and monarchy as treason against Iran's sovereignty and the divine laws of Islam.

By 1920 the government had virtually lost all power outside its capital and Ahmad Shah had lost control and couldn't do anything to fix the situation. The Anglo-Persian Agreement along with new political parties furthermore immobilized the country. The Moderates and Democrats often clashed, particularly when it came to minority rights and secularism. The debates between the two political parties led to violence and even assassinations.

The Second Majles didn't get along with Ahmad Shah, and in addition to its loss of power during the war these problems led to a state that didn’t have a strong centralized government. After removing Muhammad Ali Shah from power the Grand Majles placed his son Ahmad Shah on the throne. The Grand Majles consisted of 500 delegate members who came from different backgrounds. They held a special tribunal in order to punish all those who participated in the civil war, among those executed was Sheikh Fazlollah Nuri. They also brought in new reforms that were not seen in Iran before. They abolished class representation; created five new seats for the minorities in the majlis; the Armenians got two seats, Jews got one seat, Zoroastrians got one and the Assyrians each got one seat in the new government; the majlis also democratized the electoral system; diminished the electoral dominance of Tehran and even lowered the voting age from twenty five to twenty.

The Second Majles took place on November 1910 but just like the First Majlis it had great ideas and reforms but couldn’t get much accomplished. The Majles was crippled because the centralized government was weak and didn’t have enough influence to reign in the changes that it had proposed. While in Europe the Majles decided to terminate the Qajar Dynasty on October 1925. This paved the way for the rise to power of Reza Khan, who formed his own dynasty, the Pahlavis.

Bankruptcy put Ahmad Shah and the government at the mercy of foreign influence; they had to obtain loans from the British Imperial Bank. Furthermore, the oil revenues were owned by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company which owned the revenues from the oil and only paid Iran a small fraction. Receiving a small fraction of the revenues from the oil didn’t upset Ahmad Shah because he made enough to support his lavish lifestyle but it didn't make the people of Iran too happy. On the other hand, the Red Army along with rebels and warlords ruled much of the countryside.

Ahmad Shah saw the end coming and so did the British thus they throw their support behind Reza Khan. The British government realized that Ahmad Shah was powerless and incompetent in carrying out their agenda. The people of Iran saw Ahmad Shah as a young kid who didn’t deserve to be on the throne and Reza Khan was seen as ambitious and a very strong military leader. Prior to his exile Ahmad Shah Qajar was weak and a puppet of the imperial powers, they had lost all hope in the government. Ahmad Shah was seen as a self indulging, greedy and not too worried about the faith of his country. Ahmad Shah was no match for Reza Khan who was both feared and respected. Reza Khan believed in a central government that would unite the country and free Iran from its foreign influence. This was the opposite of Ahmad Shah whose government was dishonest, oppressive and incompetent of leading the country. Ahmad Shah sees his time is coming to an end and leaves Iran on a “European Tour.”

At this time Reza Khan employs his coup. On February 21, 1921 the commander of the Cossack garrison Reza Khan takes over Tehran. During the coup Reza Khan uses three thousand men and only eighteen machine guns, a very bloodless coup that lasted very shortly. Reza Khan was a self made man who climbed his way up thru the military ranks. A strong military leader who some claim was semi illiterate. The liberation was welcomed in the beginning and many saw him as the man to take back control of Iran. One of his first actions was to take back the Anglo Iranian Treaty this was seen as a very successful diplomatic move since the treaty was very unpopular in Iran. Also at this time he signed the Iran Soviet agreement in 1921. This agreement canceled all previous treaties between the two countries and also gave Iran full and equal shipping right in the Caspian Sea.


Ahmad Shah was pushed aside in a military coup in 1921 by his Minister of War, Colonel Reza Khan, who subsequently seized the post of Prime Minister. Stripped of all his remaining power, Ahmad Shah went into exile with his family in 1923. He was formally deposed on October 31, 1925, when Reza Khan was proclaimed Shah by the Founders Assembly, taking the name Reza Shah Pahlavi. Prior to his death it is well documented that Ahmad Shah followed frequent crash diets which didn’t help his health. For example he lost and gained two hundred pounds within a two year span. He died in 1930 at Neuilly-sur-Seine, outside Paris, France. His brother, former crown prince Mohammad Hassan Mirza, assured the physical continuation of the dynasty through his descendants.


Soltan Ahmad Shah married five times. Soltan Ahmad Shah's first wife was Lida jahanbani. From this marriage there was no offspring. He had 4 Children from his 4 other wives:

  • Princess Maryamdokht (1915 -10 November 2005)
  • Princess Irandokht (1916 -1984)
  • Princess Homayoundokht (1917-)
  • Prince Fereydoun Mirza (1922 -24 September 1975) [1]


See also


  1. ^ Qajar Pages
 Ghani Cyrus, Iran and the Rise of the Reza Shah:From Qajar Collapse to Pahlave Order, I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd, 2000.
 Abrahamian Ervand, A History of Modern Iran, Cambridge University Press, 2008, p. 62.
 Abrahamian, p. 62
 Abrahamian, p. 58
 Abrahamian, p. 54
 Abrahamian, p. 55
 Abrahamian, p. 62
 Ghani, p. 23, p. 308
  Katouzian Homa, State and Society in Iran:The Eclipise of the Qajars and the Emergence of the Pahlavis, I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2006, p. 114.
 Abrahamian, p. 63
 Katouzian, Preface
  Ghani, p. 23

Further Reading Nosrati Ahmad, A Letter to Intellectuals: The Manipulation of the Persian Nation by Western Power and Russian Policy, Trafford Publishing, 2004.

Abrahamian Ervand, “Oriental Despotism:The Case of Qajar Iran” International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 5, No. 1 (Jan., 1974).

Ammanat Abbas, “Russian Intrusion into the Guarded Domain": Reflections of a Qajar Statesman on European Expansion” Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 113, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 1993), pp. 35-56.

External links

Ahmad Shah Qajar
Born: January 21 1898 Died: 21 February 1930
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar
Shah of Persia
Succeeded by
Reza Shah Pahlavi
Preceded by
Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar
Head of the Qajar Dynasty
Succeeded by
Fereydoun Mirza
New title Heir Presumptive Qajar dynasty
Succeeded by
Mohammad Hassan Mirza


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