The Alternating Allegiances of the Ulama: Clerical Participation in the Iranian Constitutional Revolution of 1905-11
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In the summer of 1906, a group of theology students and other constitutionalists gathered in Tehran for what was expected to be a peaceful protest in favor of government reforms, a continuation of the nascent Constitutional Revolution. By the end of the first day's protests, a respected sayyed had been shot by police. In response, an even larger crowd of protesters gathered the next day, only for twenty-two of them to be killed in an attack by the Cossacks. Following these gruesome events, almost all of the ulama turned immediately against the Qajar government. Even for those who had been uncertain about Constitutionalism, this direct and inhuman affront to the clerical estate was more than enough to make the current government an enemy. Within days, many of the ulama and their followers had migrated to Qum, leaving the capital without religious leadership and clearly defining their stance on the revolution. In the years to follow members of the secular intelligentsia, merchants, and other reformers would continue to push for constitutional reforms with varying degrees of success; ultimately, though, support from the ulama began to waver as time went on.