Ali Dehghan is one of the old academicians and graduates of high teacher’s college who has spent about 60 years of his life in cultural affairs and schools. In this conversation, while describing the cultural situation and expressing the existing problems on the way of development and extending the schools and educational centers, he proceeds to describe some memories about the first and second world wars, occupation of some parts of Iran’s territory by the foreign soldiers, the situation of Azarbaijan and announcing its autonomy by Pishevari, and criticizes the way by which the Azarbaijan’s governor- general, the ministers of culture, premiers and some other distinguished men in Pahlavi period functioned.
Hossein Navaee also attended this conversation and we thank him for his cooperation.
□ Most of the academicians know you as one of the initiators of Iran’s culture and also for services which you have rendered for establishment and equipment of schools during the past 50 – 60 years and remind you as one who has clearness, honesty and heart purity. Please tell us about your childhood. How was the family you grown up in it and what was the effect of your family an your future life?
I was born in 1910 and I have belonged to a religious family inhabitant of Urumia. My maternal grandfather was the late Ayat–ol–lah Mirza Abutorab who was called Malek (king) by the natives. He was a free and pious cleric who had no altar and pulpit.
Unfortunately I was in the worst and strongest unrests during my childhood which is said to have a considerable effect on the persons late ages and so the child should be raised in a calm and kind situation. You know that the first world war (1914 – 1918) changed its form by outbreak of Bolshevik Revolution in Russia for which the Russian soldiers laid down their arms when they heard the sound of revolution and went to their country. They also fired Urumia market and plundered it twice. While Iran’s government had announced its impartiality, neither of allies observed that. Turkey from the west and Russia from the north reduced the Azarbaijan’s territory to a battlefield. As the Tesar soldiers or as they said the Russian “Saldats” withdrew from the war, to fill their place in the north of Iran and preventing the Turk’s influence in Iran, the allies purchased Russian soldiers arms with a low price and armed the Christians specially the mountains Assyrians who had flight from Turkey to Iran. After two or three days battle between Assyrians and the Moslems of Urumia, the former prevailed and the rule of city fell at the hands of the Christians. Therefore, the Allies simply succeeded to replace the Russian force with an army of Christians in Urumia in order, to prevent the progress of the Turk force.
Ismael Agha Simitgho, the head of Kurd Shakak tribe, drew “marshimon” the leader of Assyrians toward Chehrigh to be united for constituting the Kurd government and killed him there. As the Christians has no access to Simitgho, they issued a general massacre notice for 24 hour time to retaliate. Thus, there was an indescribable terror prevailed on Urumia in the last Wednesday night of the year fell on February 18, 1918. No one slept on that night because the general massacre would begin tomorrow. One of the Assyrian tribes named as Jelohaye Khonkhar rushed to the city at night and were rejoicing with applause for tomorrow’s killing and plundering the people.
On early morning, my mother brought her four sons, of whom two were older and one younger than me. We all went to house tops. House tops were full of children and women. We were hungry and thirsty till afternoon on the house top and then they said that the general massacre was finished. We returned to house but they had taken every things which were in the house. Even they had broken the lights. The appearance of house was dreadful. Meanwhile the door was strongly broken. My mother put her four children in bread baking oven. She also entered into the bread oven and told the servant to close the oven so if Jeloha would come, they would kill him before killing her children. This event was so dreadful which I can’t repeat it even after 80 years.
□ The preliminaries of Azarbaijan’s autonomy and PisheVari were prepared in the same year. Regarding that you were responsible for culture administration of province at this time, it would be interesting to hear your memories.
In one spring day of 1945, they telephoned from the Russian consulate and said that “Hashem F.” the Russian’s vice consul who was an inhabitant of Caucasus, would come to the culture administration. I properly remember that he had a secretary named “Ali Akbarov” who was managing the affairs of Urumia and villages of the area and all of the Kurd tribes of area were under his power by Russian commander. The Kurds were rushing into the people’s houses to kill and plunder them.
However, “Hashemov” came on that day to invite me to the autonomous republic of Russian’s Azarbaijan which was one of the fifteen autonomous republics constituting Soviet Union. He said that he invited me on behalf of the Russian government to be the Russian’s guest in Azarbaijan for 15 days. In reply I said that I am interested in this journey at least to visit Baku’s schools but I must get permission from the capital. He said that it was not necessary to get permission and all the guests in capital were waiting us to move tomorrow. By capital, he meant Tabriz instead of Tehran. The preliminaries of Pishevaris’ revolt were being prepared in Tabriz to be separated from Tehran. However I immediately telegraphed to the ministry of culture. The telephone was not established yet. I received a letter signed by the late Foyuzat, the under secretary of ministry, saying that it is not right to abandon the post at the time of holding the examinations. They would begin more than one month later. However when I interpreted the reply for Hashemov, he got angry and strongly pounded the manuscript on the table so that it broke. He said: “we knew that you are the tail of Sayyed Zia but we didn’t know that you are so bold to turn down the formal invitation of the Russian government. But I had neither seen Sayyed Zia-ol-din Tabatabaee nor agreed with his views in my life. When we took each other, outside his room I saw his secretary Ali Akbarov. Seeing my anger, he left me to his room and said: “Mr. Dehghan, the chance comes once in life. Why you reject come with us to Russia and do not annoy the consul. The Russians decided to appoint me as the minister of culture of Pishevari’s government but in spite of great difficulties I left Azarbaijan and came to Tehran. However, on that day Hashemov accompanied with “Naghi khan Boozcholo”, of Solduz khans, went to Russian’s Azarbaijan and then Boozcholo was appointed as the minister of culture of Pishevari in the Pishevari’s government.
□ What was the behavior of culture authorities when you came to Tehran ?
The first day that I went to the ministry of culture, in general director of the ministry of culture office (who had deceased. I don’t mention his name as he was one of the active writers and translators and has left so many books as a memorial) there were also some leftist members of culture ministry such as Kazem Saghafi and two others, whom I don’t remember their names, they began to reproach me for returning to Tehran and not cooperating with democrats in Azarbaijan! I was trying to convince them that in Azarbaijan, the Russians have the power in stead of Azarbaijan’s democrats and the Russians intended to take me to Baku and train me there and appoint me as the minister of culture of Azarbaijan. They were saying that even in that case, there was no matter and I would improve the Azarbaijan’s ministry of culture, then I would come to Tehran and improve Iran’s ministry of culture.
Finally I went to Vahid Tonkaboni, the then under-secretary of the ministry of culture to clear up my job. He ordered to the staff department to issue a “ministerial inspector” communiqué for me.
I was happy for taking the communiqué because I supposed that the ministerial inspectors were to deal with cultural problems which the administrative inspectors couldn’t solve them. I went to the ministry next morning at 7 o’clock and asked for the ministerial inspectors’ department, they said that there was not such a department; the ministerial inspectors’ room was at that small courtyard of the ministry of culture’s garden and the room of the minister was also on that courtyard. I inquired about the room but when I reached there. I saw a big padlock on it. I walked for two hours until an old servant came and opened the door. When I entered he said: If you want to have a word with sirs, they wouldn’t come sooner than 10 o’clock. I walked through the garden’s courtyard one more hour until the ministerial inspectors came one after the other. I entered the room too. A big table was amid the room with chairs on its both sides.
□ Do you remember the names of inspectors?
As I remember they were Haj Ismael Amir Khizi, Mayel Toyserkani, Ahmad Aram, Shahidi, Nemat Dabirsiaghi, Abolghasem Shokraee, Hassan Ali Akbarnia, Taghi Taghavi and some other directors of culture whom I don’t remember their names now.