By the middle of the 19th Century the city of Hamadan, once the capital of ancient Persia, had lost much of its commercial and political importance. Governors, appointed by the Central Government, vied for power with the immensely wealthy landowners,MoreBy the middle of the 19th Century the city of Hamadan, once the capital of ancient Persia, had lost much of its commercial and political importance. Governors, appointed by the Central Government, vied for power with the immensely wealthy landowners, the influential clerics, and the semi-independent chiefs of the neighboring tribes.
Their machinations were often at the expense of the helpless citizenry, including the relatively large Jewish community that had lived in the area for centuries. Beginning in the 1870s, and rapidly gaining momentum, a new factor was introduced into this mix: the conversion of some Moslems and many Jews to the Bahai Faith.
A reluctant and fragile tolerance among the various groups was often threatened or broken by seemingly trivial events. The author, Yuhanna Hafezi, was born into a Jewish family. His father and a cousin were the first Jews in Hamadan to espouse the new Faith, and Yuhanna himself remained an active Bahai throughout his life. His Memoir records not only the history of his extended family, but also the political and social settings in which these chronicles unfold.
The era covered was an eventful one that witnessed the Constitutional Revolution, the fall of the Ghajars and rise of the Pahlavi dynasty, and the World War I occupation of Hamadan by, in turn, Tsarist Russian Forces and Ottoman troops. There are detailed accounts, many of them first-hand, of the character and activities of important Moslem clerics. Among these is the Akhond Molla Abdollah Borujerdi, whose harsh treatment of both the Jewish and Bahai communities and clashes with the Sheikhieh Sect, necessitated intervention by the Shah.
Unvarnished stories of influential governors, tribal chieftains, and political figures like the rebellious Prince Salar-ol-Dowleh, reveal intimate details not likely to be found in other contemporary memoirs.
The development of a Bahai Community in Hamadan, to which the author contributed significantly, is recounted from both a historical and personal point of view. Against this overall background, the author tells his familys story, punctuated by tragedies and reverses, but ultimately leading out of a restricting traditional life.