Downhill since

Mongol plague and Shia take-over of Iran


Downhill since
by Arash Monzavi-Kia

The new Khan of the united Mongol tribes (Genghis) was rapidly expanding eastward into the Chinese territories, but apparently; he was considering Iran more as a potential trade partner towards Europe, rather than an immediate target. Therefore, Genghis was astonished when the riches of a Mongol caravan were confiscated by the border guards of Iran, and all the 200 merchants and guards were executed. He sent another group of emissaries directly to Khwarizm Shah’s court with a plea for retribution, but they too were killed! In response, the angered Mongol chief sent a massive army of 200,000 murderers into Iran.The first wave of Mongol invasion (1220 to 1224) destroyed most of the Khorasan cities (the cradle of Farsi civilization), killing millions and enslaving millions more! All eastern centers of Iranian culture, agriculture and business were irrevocably destroyed or devastated. Genghis wanted such a bloody revenge on the Eastern Iranians that the rest of the country would collapse in fear, therefore, his army spared no brutality on the general populace.

The second wave of Mongol carnage (1260 to 1275) was unleashed by Hullago the grandson of Genghis, who invaded central Iran all the way to Baghdad and Syria! He even killed the Muslim Caliph and destroyed all the Esmaeli castles. This carnage put an end to the ‘golden age of Islam’ and plunged the Muslim world into 200 years of darkness. The third wave (1365 to 1405) was carried out by another murderous Mongol descendent (Tamerlane), who this time under the banner of Islamic Jihad, ravaged Iran, Turkey, Syria and even parts of India; killing, burning, pillaging and destroying everything in his path.The total Mongol carnage and the ensuing famines and plagues are estimated to have killed about 50 million people, or half the population of the Middle East! That senseless barbaric blow destroyed most of the Arab and Iranian urban centers, and stunted the development of Islamic civilization for centuries. All that took place, just as the European countries were waking up from their long slumber and entering the Renaissance period.

After Tamerlane, Iran was again divided among feuding Mongol and Turkic tribes, who established several small khanates. Their fighting and consolidation took another 100 years, before a confederation of tribes (Ghezelbash) united around a spiritually mesmerizing Iranian family, the Safavids. The Safavids were a powerful Shia-Sufi cult, who had started in Ardabil and expanded into the rest of Azerbaijan and Gilan. Tamerlane who was also Shia, had granted them some land and thousands of Turkic slaves, whom he had captured during his Asia Minor campaigns.It took the Safavids fifty years and three generations of warriors to gain the control of north western Iran. Finally, their young and charismatic leader crushed the resistance of rival Turkic tribes and was crowned as Shah Esmael, in 1501 at Tabriz. The fifteen year old Esmael was so inspiring, courageous and heroic that many of his followers believed him to be the Shia messiah (Mahdi).

In ten short years, Shah Esmael captured all the traditional lands of Iran and became a neighbour of the Ottomans in west and Uzbeks in east, both Sunni Muslims.Unfortunately, instead of building trade, cultural and military alliances with the neighbouring Muslim nations, the fanatic Safavids attacked first the Uzbeks and then the Ottomans. This started 350 years of animosity that bleed all three nations’ strength, like a chronic infectious injury. At the beginning of those wars, the Ghezelbash were jubilant that their invincible messiah would soon take over the world! Indeed, Esmael looked unbeatable too, until the more modern Ottoman army equipped with rifles and artillery, defeated him in 1514 at Chalderon.After the defeat of Chalderon and the collapse of Tabriz, the Safavids had to flee and move their capital to Ghazvin and then Isfahan. The crazed and frustrated Ghezelbash took revenge on the indigenous Sunni population of Iran (approximately 75% of nation) and forcefully converted most of them to Shia and killed or harassed the rest.

After Esmael, Shah Tahmausp came to power, who imported many Shia clerics from Lebanon, in order to strengthen the Safavids ideological hold on the Iranian society. Those clerics soon proliferated in the central Iran and especially Isfahan, and established such a priestly caste that was unprecedented since the time of the Zoroastrian Moubads.After the half-century reign of Tahmausp ended in 1579, the country descended into fierce fighting among his many sons and successors. Finally, after eight bloody years, the young and energetic Abbas came to power, who built the fledging kingdom into a powerful empire.Shah Abbas (the great) revived the Iranian army through close ties with the emerging European powers, especially the British. He also curtailed the wanton hold of the rival Ghezelbash tribes throughout the country, and established a sense of normalcy and security.

With those improvements, the nation prospered and the Safavid’s military might grew. Abbas defeated both Uzbeks and Ottomans, obtaining more favourable border arrangements in Khorasan and Mesopotamia.Sadly, like most dictators, Abbas could not escape the corrupting influence of absolute power, and near the end, turned neurotic and suspicious. He killed and blinded so many of his sons and other male Safavids that after his death, finding a successor became a challenge. His suspicion and bloody suppression of the Ghezelbash nobility, also, alienated most of them from playing an active role in the kingdom. Hence, despite his many contributions to Iran and especially Isfahan, the Safavids started a steady decline after Abbas’s passing in 1629.

Reference: Iran under the Safavids, by Prof. Roger Savory.


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Arash Monzavi-Kia

Dear Salar

by Arash Monzavi-Kia on

Thanks for your reminder about the growth of sufism during the centuries of Mongol occupation. As you have mentioned, there was a significant differnce between the sufi-shia cult of the original Safavids and what was subsequently imported from Lebanon. The former was more of a personality cult and the latter an organized religion. 

Arash M-K

Anonymous Observer

Azadeh, You Are Absolutely Right

by Anonymous Observer on

These clowns say things that even Arab historians don't!!!  What Bazarcheh (I guess that would be a proper term for Bazargan's son) says goes against everything that Arab historians themselves, such as Ibn Khaldoon, Waghedi, Al-Buladheri and also Persian historians, such as Tabari have documented. 

It's a sad, sad situation.


Another historical fact

by Salar (not verified) on

Great concise article. I would just add another significant historical fact that even throughout Mongols invasion and devastation of iran, our culture managed to still continue producing some of the best “kherad gara” and sufi scholars and thinkers but Safavids by importing the shia brand of south Lebanon and their mullahs managed to entirely eradicate this culture and environment and replace it with culture of producing more and more “ zed kherad” mullahs so called “ olamah”, something that up to this day still goes on. The root of our many current problems and devastation of our country in 21st century was done by the very seeds planted during Safavids. This is what happens when you import a brand of foreign religion and shove it down the throat of your people. Unfortunately unlike some other parts of our culture like language and others, we never managed to fully complete the cycle of domesticating the foreign religion called Islam that invaded our culture. Sufism was probably the closest we ever got but thanks to Safavids and their brand of imported shiasm that chance was lost forever.


Downhill since

by Gougouli (not verified) on

These incomplete and partly incorrect accounts of history will not help Iranians to learn their true history in all its aspects instead of the semi-legendary. So long as misinfo is limited to a small number of LA Iranians, whose prophet, Nuriala, by his own admission, hurrahed executions carried out by the revolutionaries. Keep busy blogging so others can undertake serious study and work to save our tomorrows.


Thank you for this well

by bijan2 (not verified) on

Thank you for this well known fact. Hope we look carefully at the root of our problem, rather than blaming.

this is another invented Safavis Mullah.



A very moving target

by Alborzi (not verified) on

Its fascinating some people complain about Alexander who burned Persepolis, then some complain about Arab invasion (these people like the freedom of marring their sister) then this ridiculous thing, and finally the guys who think its IRI. This is just plain ridiculous, Iran had some of its best achievements under Safavid.


Iran "Welcomed" Islam??

by Azadeh on

Some Islamic fundamentalists, like the son of ex-Prime Minister Bazargan, are now trying to say that historically, Iranians were not forced to convert to Islam, but rather, they welcomed it with open arms. In this clip, Abdolali Bazargan expresses his opinion that Iran was much too strong an empire to have Islam forced upon it.

I'm shocked because it goes against every historical text I've read on the subject. I guess this is the new strategy of legitimizing the IRI by re-writing the history of how Islam came to Iran.





by Mehman on

Thank you Arash jan,

History is revealing and we need to know more and more about our past. 

Keep up the good job!

B. Mehman


Dear sickofiri:

by KavehV (not verified) on

I am afraid that I am not aware of the English translation of Mr. Nooriala's series on "Ertebateh Tarikhi-eh iran Ba Jonoubbeh Lobnan". You may want to contact his web site (below) to make sure.


Kaveh V:

by sickofiri (not verified) on

Kaveh v: Is there an English translation of Dr. Nooralia's essay on the connection of Lebanese shia mullahs in Iranian's affairs? thanks.



by answer (not verified) on

Ostaad: I think you are on to something. The answer is lies in the ethnic make up of Iranians!

I think too much multiculturalism and diversity leads to weak sense of nationalism...That is the only explanation!



by Friend (not verified) on

Tamerlane (Timur) was not Shi'a. He, like all Chaghatai turk nobility from central Asia, was a dogmatic sunni who at times even paid lip service to "cleansing" the "corrupt" muslim society through force.



by KavehV (not verified) on

This is quite a brief description of a long and bloody period in Iranian history (although all the rest has been bloody as well). My major regret is the fact that this was not taught to us under the Pahlavis and many of us have been unaware of the true beginnings of Shia Islam in Iran, for a long time. Unfortunately, the Shia Mullahs have falsified and distorted a great deal of our history in order to justify their Shia Islam, before and during Pahlavis. Were people allowed to discuss freely the true history of Islam and the ensuing genocide, there would have been no Islamic republic today.

More discussions of this history along with proper references are required to reveal and remove any doubts about the genocidal nature of Islam and the fabricated historical lies by the Jebel Amel mullahs.

Here are more details of the Shia conversions of "GhezelBash" Turks and their Lebanese accomplices, by Esmael Nooriala:



I do not think it is all accurate!

by choghok on

If it was true that he was a Shia he could very well have made Shia state religion. He had killed so many muslims and non muslims a like for much less so he could have killed them for not being Shia.

Another thing is that we Iranians do tend to bear grudges of mongols invading us a 800 years a go. People go around telling stories about their mass killings like it happened recently.

In Europe they have had Vikings, Huns, Mongols, Ottomans and Germans ravaging through the continent. In eastern europe and Greece you still find recentment towards the Turks but the rest of Europe does not think twice about all of these things. The past is the past. We must learn from it and do not repeat the mistakes.

/Bidar bash ke ma bekhabim


Great summery

by Tahirih on


Arash Monzavi-Kia

Why birth, growth and death?

by Arash Monzavi-Kia on

First of all, thanks for the nice comments.

Second; birth, growth and death of societies and civilizations are inevitable. It happens to every creature and creation. Say the Mongols; do you see any noticeable sign of their once mighty empire?

Third; actually in comparison to so many other civilizations, Iran has been very lucky to have preserved its unique cultural identity. E.g. Iran was one of the few Eastern countries that did not fall to colonialism. Therefore, the right questions to ask are: 1. how come we have survived & 2. what could we have done better?

The answer to question  #1 is perhaps inside us in the trinity of vital forces of nationalism, culture and faith. Nationalism has been kept alive by our warrior cults (from Rostam to Reza Khan), culture by our viziers and dabirs (from BozorgMehr to Foroughi), and faith by our religious inventors (from Zoroaster to Shariati).

The answer to question #2 is close to what you have guessed (cooperation and power sharing). Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely! Our inability to emulate a power sharing model (like the republics of Greek and Rome) has been the most obvious reason for our weaknesses and limitations.

The corrupting effect of absolute-power has consistently turned our kings and leaders to murderous maniacs, or at least out-of-touch lunatics. Power is a curse on the leader who would not share it! Similarly, the corrupting effect on society is subjugation, fear, suppression of innovation, and delinquency.

Arash M-K


nice summary

by My Name Here (not verified) on

A very nice summary of Iran’s history during that era. Thanks.


This is a nice story.

by Ostaad on

There must have been more than meets the eye. This is certainly a accurate narrative what the events. I wish someone would tell us why these events occured and what were the social conditions that caused the demise of the the Iranian society the way this article depicting history. I have found out every time the people who attacked Iran and won did so while being united with others. Even this article mentiones the "united Mongol tribes". Even the Arab tribes who attacked Iran and gave it Eslam after defeating it, were united also. Iran, on the other hand had consisted a myriad of ethnic, religious and social divisions. Those shortcomings seem to me to be more important factors in the Iran/Islam demise than the poor innocent Changiz Khan, or Holagu and Taymour. I hope someone can shed some light on this. 

ebi amirhosseini

Arash jaan

by ebi amirhosseini on