Monday, May 6, 2013

Death of Yeprem Khan - May 6, 1912

Armenians participated simultaneously in the Ottoman constitutional revolution of 1908 headed by the Young Turks and in the Iranian Constitutional Movement of 1905-1911. In both cases, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (A.R.F.) had a leading role and in Iran, its actions were led by a young but veteran militant, Yeprem Davtian.

Known simply as Yeprem, and later as Yeprem Khan, he was born in 1868 in the village of Barsum (in the province fedayees (freedom fighters) in the late 1880s. He participated in the ill-fated expedition of Sargis Kukunian in 1890, which failed to cross the Russian-Ottoman border, as it was simultaneously attacked by the gendarmerie of both countries. Yeprem was arrested by Russian Cossacks among the surviving participants, exiled to Siberia (1892) and then to the island of Sakhalin, in the Russian Far East. He escaped from exile in 1896 to Tabriz, in the north of Iran. He participated in the punitive expedition of Khanasor in July 1897 against the Kurdish Mazrik tribe that had executed a massacre of Armenians. He married Anahid Davtian in 1902.

Yeprem was one of the main organizers of the A.R.F. branches in the Iranian towns of Rasht and Enzeli. The activities of the party in the country were primarily directed against the Ottoman regime. He convinced the party to participate in the revolutionary movement that exploded in Iran in 1905 and brought the ailing shah Muzaffer-ed-Din to sign a Constitution in late 1906. The A.R.F. officially entered the movement in February 1907. Yeprem had an active participation in the resistance to the counterrevolutionary movement led by Muzaffer’s son, Mohammed-Ali Shah (1907-1909). He occupied Rasht and Enzeli in February-March 1909. In July of the same year he was among the leaders of the occupation of Tehran, which ended with the dethronement of the shah in favor of his son. He was designated police chief of Tehran by the second Iranian Parliament in 1909 and police chief of the country in 1910. He reorganized the police force and formed a gendarmerie, introducing European uniforms and training. He led a series of successful military campaigns against opponents of the constitutional regime between November 1909 and April 1910.    

He had a crucial role in the defeat of another counterrevolutionary movement in September 1911. He was rewarded by the government with a gem-studded sword, a pension, and the title of sardar (military commander). Six months later, Yeprem directed a second expedition against the forces of the ex-shah Mohammed-Ali, but he was killed during a successful battle on May 6, 1912, while trying to rescue the body of a comrade. He was interred in the courtyard of the Armenian Haigazian (now Davtian) school in Tehran.