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intended to outline the causes of their emergence and outcome; instead
they are meant simply to highlight the Tehran Bazaar™s role in them and
its modes of collective action, and inaction.

Social movements and the mosque“bazaar alliance
The historiography of modern Iran frequently notes the close relations
between the clergy and the bazaaris and the crucial leading role they
have played in uprisings and revolutions during the past hundred years.
For instance, it is claimed that bazaaris ˜˜from time immemorial have
been linked to the clergy,™™4 or that they enjoy a ˜˜historical coalition with


4
Wilfred Buchta, Who Rules Iran? The Structure of Power in the Islamic Republic
(Washington DC: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Konrad Aenauer
Stiftung, 2000), p. 15.
Networks of mobilization under two regimes 231

the hierocracy.™™5 It is said that the bazaar and mosque are ˜˜inseparable
twins™™6 or ˜˜two lungs of public life in Iran™™,7 or that the relations
between them are ˜˜close, constant, and organic,™™8 constituting a
˜˜corporatist coalition of traditional middle-class groups led by the
˜ulama™ [clergy] and supported by the bazaar.™™9 Most examinations of
the bazaari mobilization frame, if not explain, bazaar political activity
against the state by positing that the clergy shape the political actions of
bazaaris as much as they shape their normative worldviews. This is
generally referred to as the ˜˜mosque“bazaar alliance.™™
In the strongest formulations it is implied that Islam ideologically and
spiritually determines the actions of the bazaaris.10 In his analysis, of the
Islamic Revolution, Arjomand claims that the bazaaris were one of the
˜˜social groups who were genuinely moved by the myth of the Islamic
government and Islamic Revolution as proposed by the militant cle-
rics.™™11 Postrevolutionary accounts by conservative Islamists also tend to
read bazaar activism in purely religious terms. The arch conservative
newspaper Resalat describes the ˜˜uni¬ed and religious™™ bazaar as the
˜˜executive arm for the clergy.™™12 In the keynote speech at a conference
titled ˜˜The Bazaar in the Cultural and Civilization of the World of Islam,™™
Asadollah Badamchian, one of the leading ¬gures in the Islamic Coalition
Association (ICA), described the bazaar™s political activities as natural
expressions of religiosity and loyalty to the clergy.13

5
Said Amir Arjomand, The Turban for the Crown: The Islamic Revolution in Iran
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 107.
6
Ahmad Ashraf, ˜˜Bazaar-Mosque Alliance: The Social Basis of Revolts and Revolu-
tions,™™ International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 1 (Summer 1988), 538.
7
Roy Mottahedeh, The Mantle of the Prophet: Religion and Politics in Iran (New York:
Pantheon Books, 1985), p. 34.
8
Mehdi Mozaffari, ˜˜Why the Bazar Rebels,™™ Journal of Peace Research 28 (November
1991), 379.
9
Robert Bianchi, Unruly Corporatism: Associational Life in Twentieth-Century Egypt
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 210.
10
See also Chapter 2.
11
Arjomand, The Turban for the Crown, p. 106. Nevertheless, Arjomand follows this
statement by spelling out the bazaar™s economic grievances, rather than demonstrating
how and why bazaaris were ˜˜moved™™ by Khomeini™s message.
12
Resalat, 20 Esfand 1365 (March 11, 1987). For representative comments by Khomeini
see ˜˜Khomeyni Addresses Merchants of Tehran,™™ Foreign Broadcast Information
Service, South Asia, January 16, 1981, I 3, FBIS-SAS-81“011. For example,
˜˜Throughout history, whenever Islam faced any problem or the great Islamic ulema
faced any problem it was suf¬cient for the bazaar to close down for half a day in
response to see the problem resolved.™™
13
˜˜The Bazaar in the Culture and Civilization of the World of Islam,™™ Tabriz University,
Tabriz, Iran, September 28“October 1, 1993. Also see Asadollah Badamchian and ˜Ali
Banai, Hayatha-ye Motalefeh-e Eslami (Tehran: Owj, 1362 [1983]), pp. 2“34; ˜˜Bazar,™™
Daneshnameh-ye Jahan-e Eslam (Tehran: Bonyad-e Dayerat al-Ma˜aref-e Eslami, 1372
[1993]), pp. 377“88.
232 Bazaar and State in Iran

The more common conceptualization of the mosque“bazaar alliance
is one of mutual cooperation and interest. Ahmad Ashraf in his com-
prehensive analysis of clerical“bazaari relations writes, ˜˜The bazaaris
have been allied traditionally with independent Shi™i ulama (those who
had no of¬cial appointments) in their mutually held belief that the
patrimonial domination, though often recognizing as legitimate on a de
facto basis, was in fact only quasi-legitimate. Recognizing this political
weakness strengthened their need to work-together.™™14 Their capacity to
act in consort was based on several commonly cited factors: their phy-
sical proximity, kinship ties, interaction via the educational and judicial
systems, ¬nancial relations, and participation in religious events.
To begin with, the bazaar, main mosque, seminary, and sometimes
shrine are found adjacent to each other and in the historical heart of most
Iranian cities. This allows for daily and routine contact between the
bazaaris, clerics, and seminary students and an awareness of each other™s
public activities. At times of foment, the physical proximity became part
of the bazaar™s repertoire of collective action through the long-lived
practice of bast-neshastan, or taking refuge in inviolable places, wherein
mosques and shrines are used as a sanctuary by those who fear govern-
ment persecution.15 This physical proximity was buttressed by a rela-
tional closeness created through kinship ties. Many of the ˜olama came
from bazaari families, were related through marriage, or as children had
their religious schooling ¬nanced by merchants.16 Education and con¬‚ict
resolution constituted another arena that historically brought merchants
and clerics together. The older generation of bazaaris was educated in
religious elementary schools and sometimes received some training in the
seminaries.17 The other important occupation of the Shiite clergy, the
legal profession, also connected the two groups. Up until the 1930s the
˜olama ran the entire judicial system, and after that continued to help in
arbitrating disputes in the bazaar.18 Thanks to their legal expertise and
because the ˜olama traditionally had constituted a large percentage of the
literate and educated population, merchants hired them as accountants,
14
Ahmad Ashraf, ˜˜Bazaar-Mosque Alliance,™™ 541.
15
Farshid Mehri, Masajed-e Bazar-e Tehran dar Nehzat-e Emam Khomayni (Tehran:
Markaz-e Asnad-e Enqelab-e Eslami, 1383 (2004)).
16
Gustav Thaiss, ˜˜Religious Symbolism and Social Change: The Drama of Husain,™™ in
Scholars, Saints, and Su¬s: Muslim Religious Institutions in the Middle East since 1500, ed.
Nikki R. Keddie (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), p. 361; and Michael
J. Fischer, ˜˜Portrait of a Molla,™™ Persica 10 (1982), 232. Michael M. J. Fischer, Iran:
From Religious Dispute to Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), 1984,
95.
17
Gustav Thaiss, ˜˜The Bazaar as a Case Study of Religion and Social Change,™™ in Iran
Faces the Seventies, ed. Yar-Shater (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971), p. 195.
18
Ibid., p. 190.
Networks of mobilization under two regimes 233

clerks, and notaries. The most frequently cited link between the bazaar
and the mosque is economic. In many respects the bazaaris and guilds
were the patrons of the Shiite hierarchy. They supported the religious
institutions both via tithes19 and spontaneous donations for the con-
struction and restoration of mosques, seminaries, or charitable founda-
tions. The ¬nal dimension of this multifaceted relationship between the
clergy and the bazaaris is religious practice. The obvious function of the
Shiite establishment is to provide religious services such as Friday prayers,
special holiday ceremonies, marriage and burial services, and the private
informal weekly meetings described in Chapter 3.
This cooperation has been argued to be the basis for the ˜olama and
bazaaris™ confrontations with the state. The prominent role enjoyed by
both the clergy and the bazaaris in all of the major social movements
across the twentieth century have been taken as evidence of the exis-
tence of this alliance, which has persisted despite economic moder-
nization and ideological innovation. On closer examination of the
recorded history, however, the robustness and utility of this approach
becomes questionable. In reviewing these episodes of contentious pol-
itics I will now demonstrate the dif¬culties of mapping the collective
action of the bazaar as an articulation of clerical inspiration or religious
motivation.

Bazaar mobilization with and without the clergy
The twentieth century has been a century of social movements in Iran.20
The century has included two revolutions (1906 and 1979), two coups
(1921 and 1953), and a number of national movements that seriously
challenged the regime™s hold on power (e.g. 1951“3 and 1963). The
ideologies and discourses of movement leaders differed within these
movements as much as they did across them; they included con-
stitutionalism, nationalism, anti-imperialism, and various interpreta-
tions of Islam, Marxism, and republicanism. These seemingly disparate
social movements share a number of characteristics: they were all
national in scope, were thoroughly urban, had heterogeneous social
footings that cut across vertical and horizontal social cleavages, and
challenged state power.

19
Mottahedeh, The Mantile of the Prophet, p. 346; and Mohammad Shanehchi, interview
by Habib Ladjevardi, tape recording no. 3, Paris, France, March 4, 1983, Iranian Oral
History Collection, Harvard University, 13“14.
20
For a useful comparison of Iran™s numerous social movements see John Foran, ed.,
A Century of Revolution: Social Movements in Iran (Minneapolis: Minnesota University
Press, 1994).
234 Bazaar and State in Iran

The existing bazaari networks were an important factor in creating
many of these features. First, these commercial relations integrated
multiple cities across the country into a single web of ongoing ties, which
ultimately led back to the wholesalers in Tehran. Second, bazaaris,
especially those in Tehran, have had ties with a variety of social groups
(e.g. clerics and industrialists), and through their socioeconomic
standing and middle-class sensibilities they (or their children) have been
in contact with multiple urban realms (universities and intellectual cir-
cles) and ideological trends (nationalism, republicanism, and Islamist
politics). Thus, they can mobilize or be mobilized by other sectors.
Finally, as a propertied class, the bazaaris™ economic interests often
brought them into direct confrontation with the state™s development
agenda and economic policies.
Despite the bazaar™s penchant for mobilization, it should be noted
that in all the cases we are about to examine they acted in partnership
with other social groups “ clerics, intellectuals, and students. It is
important not to overestimate the political role of the bazaaris; they have
never single-handedly changed a regime and their resistance strategy has
been defensive and in the spirit of an ˜˜avoidance protest,™™ rather than
an offensive and confrontational movement.21 Their critical role in the
movements has been organizational, acting as a liaison between classes
and groupings and giving political currents a (very) public visage.

The tobacco protests (1890“2) and the Constitutional Revolution
(1905“11) While not formally colonized, during the nineteenth cen-
tury Iran underwent a transition from dependent development to a
commercial regime, which as in many other parts of the region and Asia
undermined local merchants and artisans. Among the staple exports that
were subject to foreign interests was tobacco.
At the end of the nineteenth century, the Qajar monarchy granted a
tobacco concession to a British company conceding to them a monopoly
over the buying, selling, and manufacturing of all tobacco in Iran for
¬fty years in return for an annual rent.22 In response, merchants,
wholesalers, and retailers in all the major cities protested by sending
letters and telegrams to the Shah, distributing lea¬‚ets throughout the
21
Douglas Haynes, ˜˜Merchant-State Relations in Surat, 1600“1924,™™ in Contesting
Power: Resistance and Everyday Social Relations in South Asia, ed. Douglas Haynes and
Gyan Prakash (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).
22
Nikki R. Keddie, Religion and Rebellion in Iran: The Tobacco Protest of 1891“1892
(London: Frank Cass, 1966); and Mansoor Moaddel, ˜˜Shi˜i Political Discourse and
Class Mobilization in the Tobacco Movement of 1890“2,™™ in A Century of Revolution:
Social Movements in Iran, ed. John Foran (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press,
1994).
Networks of mobilization under two regimes 235

cities, taking sanctuary in mosques, offering to pay a higher tax to the
Shah, and even burning their tobacco “ incidents that remind one of the
Boston Tea Party. The merchants™ resistance was endorsed by moder-
nizing reformers in the court and the Russian Empire, which at that time
was dueling with its British counterpart in the region. The bazaaris also
solicited the backing of the clergy by arguing that the concessions vio-
lated the Islamic principles of free trade and were an affront to the
independence of the nation and Muslim community. While many clergy
remained indifferent or sided with the government, a number of clerics
encouraged the protests out of political conviction or economic calcu-
lation (tobacco was an important cash crop grown on land held as pri-
vate property by many clerics or as trusts bequeathed as support for
religious institutions). Finally, a number of clerics, including one of the
leading Ayatollahs, issued religious decrees forbidding the consumption
of tobacco. The tobacco trade in the bazaars ceased and its consumption
in the coffee houses and homes came to a halt; the Shah was forced to
rescind the concessions.
A decade after the successful opposition to the Shah™s economic
policies, the bazaar community played a central role in Iran™s
Constitutional Revolution (1905“11), which furthered the dual
resistance to monarchical despotism and European imperialism. The
intellectual critique of absolute monarchy came from western-educated
and -inspired thinkers and segments of the Shiite clergy who were
sympathetic to tenets of consultation and the rule of law. Together they
introduced the urban population to the principles of accountability,
representative government, and political participation. Along with
pressure from the urban population this coalition was able to formally
end the arbitrary rule of the Qajar monarchy by establishing an elected
parliament and drafting a constitution. The movement, however, failed
to entrench a full-¬‚edged constitutional monarchy with robust institu-
tions to protect substantive civil and political rights or limit British
and Russian interference in Iran™s domestic politics, which continued,
and even expanded.
The social force behind the movement was very much the urban
bourgeoisie, in particular the commercial sector based almost exclu-
sively in the bazaar. For the mercantile class, the monarchy™s granting of
economic concessions to European states and companies and their
capricious taxation and customs policies were reason to rally against the
Qajar dynasty. These grievances came to a head in 1905 when the
governor of Tehran bastinadoed two prominent merchants for protest-
ing against orders to lower the price of imported sugar. The Tehran
Bazaar closed and hundreds of bazaaris took sanctuary (bast) in a shrine
236 Bazaar and State in Iran

in southern Tehran where they called for the establishment of a House
of Justice. This event in fact sparked the Constitutional Revolution. In
the coming year, bazaaris again turned to their repertoires of contention “
drafting and distributing lea¬‚ets, holding sit-ins in sanctuaries, and
pressuring sympathetic clerics to support the foundation of a repre-

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