Riot in Isfahan has turned out to be very critical; and I should ask your majesty what action should be done at this step... Believe me that the mullahs are the basis of this intrigue ... a few months ago ... I mentioned that the return of Agha Najafi to Isfahan would be dangerous.... As it is found out he has become the leader of bandits against the Europeans.
The British minister to Iran, Sir Henry Durand
Four years after the tobacco uprising and nearly four months before the murder of Nasseraddin Shah in January 1896, there happened an event in Isfahan which indicated the incompetence and weakness of the Qajars against foreign powers more than ever and the growing public disgust with the influence of the foreigners.
This interesting story did not last more than a few days (in mid January). This post tries to rebuild the affair according to document available in the Institute of Iranian Contemporary historical studies.
The incident began on Sunday night, 19th January, when two Iranian guards of the Hatz commercial company, based in Isfahan, died suspiciously. When the news of the death of two people was published the next day, affray and riot began in the city. Religious school students and shopkeepers protested against the company and took to rebellion and gathered in front of the mosque where the dead bodies were kept and asked for clarification of the issue. The government believed that the death of two people was due to coal gas poisoning and that it was unintentional. As it is shown in a telegraph to Zillolsoltan, Shah wrote: "Of course people should be informed of the truth; it is certain that they had perished because of coal and oil smoke, otherwise How an European or Armenian might kill two Muslims.
However, the people backed by Isfahan clergies insisted on their belief that the agents of the company had poisoned the guards, and that this case should be examined in an Iranian court.
Your majesty are well informed that all people know of the truth of how these two men were poisoned at the place of the company... and that the five subjects should be prepared for the full legal research or that in the presence of your highness in the forum of Justice a complete investigation should be carried out.
Initially, the Shah wanted to peacefully resolve the issue and consented to the formation of a Commission for investigation, but considering the issue of consular jurisdiction decided to act very cautiously:
… Especially that this man is not Iranian subject and the investigations should be carried out according to the mutual treaties and any conclusion the commission reached out will be respected and that we are responsible for the accuracy of the legation's decision and will not allow the blood of these two guards to be trampled underfoot.