Reign of Kareem Khan
Kareem Khan, chief of Zands, a tribe of Lors in western Iran, was only known as Khaloo Kareem before becoming an important figure in the country’s politics. When Kareem Khan was young, Nadershah moved the Zand tribe form their home in Lorestan to the eastern steppes of Khorasan. After Nader’s death, the Zand tribe, under the guidance of Kareem, went back to their original land.
Kareem Khan, who was a very sharp and wise person with nationalist ideas, decided to organize the country after the civil wars that was caused by Nader’s assassination. As we said before, He and two other local tribes chose a grandson of Shah Soltan Hossein as Shah Esmail III and began to rule under his name, after a while, Kareem Khan managed to become the only ruler. He was not very much interested in the royal costumes and unnecessary court etiquette’s, so he did not accept the title of king and only called himself “Vakil Ol Melle”(Agent/Deputy of the People).
When Kareem Khan managed to conquer and organize the central parts of the country, he appointed Shiraz as his capital. At this time, Kareem Khan’s biggest opponents were Azad Khan-e Afghan in Azerbaijan, Shahrokh Shah in Khorasan, and Mohammad Hassan Khan Qajar in Mazandaran. Kareem Khan did not try to depose Sharokh Shah out of respect for Nader. Azad Khan was a strong and wise opponent, he had a strong military and also some popular support. Kareem Khan sent his greatest commanders, Ali Mardan Khan and Allah Gholi Khan Zand to invade Azerbaijan, those two, after several battles and some occasional defeats, finally managed to capture Azad Khan and bring him to Shiraz. Kareem Khan made him promise to be loyal and then set him free and gave a him a government job. Azad Khan, a man of his word, stayed loyal and lived in Shiraz until he died.
The strongest and biggest enemy of Kareem Khan was Mohammad Hassan Khan. Mohammad Hassan Khan Qajar Ghovanlou was son of Fath-Ali Khan, commander and regent of Shah Tahmasp II who was executed after Nader’s rise to power. In the period of anarchy, Mohammad Hassan Khan decided to restore the power that Nader took away from his father, so he gathered a relatively large army and invaded Mazandaran, Eastern Khorasan, Gilan and even Tehran (then only a small town). By growth of his power, Kareem Khan became rightly worried, because soon Mohammad Hassan Khan declared his desire to conquer Esphahan and possibly Shiraz. Kareem Khan once again sent his commanders, but the Qajar Khan was far more experienced than Azad Khan. So the Zand army was defeated , and Mohammad Hassan Khan came closer to Kareem Khan’s territory. Finally, after several years of battles, in one battle near Gonbad, one of Mohammad Hassan Khan’s commanders betrayed him. Mohammad Hassan Khan was killed and his family were captured. His head was sent to Kareem Khan along with two of his eldest children, Agha Mohammad Khan and Hossein Gholi Khan as hostages. The rest of the Kareem Khan’s reign was spent ina relatively peaceful state. The only war after the defeat of Qajar Khan was a battle with Ottomans in which Kareem Khan invaded Basra, a city in south eastern Mesopotamia. Kareem Khan started construction works in his capital of Shiraz and founded Vakil Bazar, Vakil Public Bath, and several Vakil palaces in different cities, all named after the title “Vakil Ol- Melle”.
The Successors of Kareem Khan and Rise of Qajars
Kareem Khan lacked the futuristic view of educating a good heir. When he died in 1779, he was succeeded by his eldest son, Abol Fath Khan. This son was not a sharp and courageous ruler like his father, but rather lazy and weak. His whole reign was over shadowed by his powerful uncle, Zakki Khan. Zakki Khan, half brother of Kareem Khan, was a symbol of corruption and political mischief. His administration as the chancellor of the And territories led to the anarchy of next 20 years.
Abol Fath Khan died of a heart attack. He was succeeded by three of his cousins and also his brother. These four rulers governed the country on and off for twenty years. It seemed almost like the Zand dynasty has ran out of brave and wise rulers, until Lotf Ali Khan came along.
Lotf Ali Khan, grandson of Kareem Khan’s youngest brother, Sadegh Khan, was a very brave, patriotic and handsome warrior. There are countless number of accounts about his looks. He was also very brave and master of fighting arts. One thing that he lacked was political knowledge. Unlike his granduncle, he did not became the ruler as a result of his own hard work, he just inherited it! He was brave, but he did not know how to get close to his subjects and be friendly to them, a gift that Kareem Khan was master of.
Lotf Ali Khan faced a great problem when he became Vakil Ol Melle. This problem was called Agha Mohammad Khan. It was not a form of rare disease like cancer, or any kind of epidemic, but it was equally life threatening. Agha Mohammad Khan was the eldest son of Mohammad Hassan Khan Qajar, murdered chief of Qajars and Kareem Khan’s sweared enemy. When his father died, he and his younger brother Hossein Gholi Khan were sent to Kareem Khan’s court as hostages to ensure peace. Agha Mohammad Khan was castrated when he was very young, possibly by Aadel Shah Afshar, who was of course mad! In that time, seemed like he has no chance of re-gaining his fathers lands, but Agha Mohammad Khan never stopped planning. He counted seconds for the time of Kareem Khan’s death, and when he died, he fled Shiraz and did not stop until he reached Estar-Aabad, his birth place and traditional seat of Qajars. His brother, Hossein Gholi Khan was murdered earlier when he was sent to Ghoochan as the governor.
When Agha Mohammad Khan got to his hometown, the first thing he did was to gather all of his brothers (there were quite a few of them) and the remainder of his father’s army. Qajars were so excited that they did not notice Agha Mohammad Khan’s lack of, well...manhood! He invaded Mazandaran in the first month of his arrival, then continued to the south and captured Qazvin and Tehran. His brother, Abbas Gholi Khan conquered Gilan, and this was when he noticed the obvious, why not he himself as the chief? Why should it be Agha Mohammad Khan? He began a rebellion against his older brother, and god knows that Agha Mohammad Khan never wasted anytime in calming rebellions. The result of this “calming” was around 50 corpses, one of them Abbas Gholi khan’s. With the help of his now faithful remaining brothers, notably Jafar Gholi Khan, a tall, fierce, and dumb commander who was famous for cutting horses in half! Agha Mohammad Khan conquered most of northern Iran and came as far south as Isphahan.
This was where he faced Lotf Ali Khan. They fought, as you can say, not once, but close to ten battles. The last of them just outside the gates of Shiraz. Here, Lotf Ali Khan got the dagger in the back. He did not make sure of whom he is living in charge inside the city, and the person he left was not a big icon of faithfulness. This person, called Ebrahim Khan Kalantar, drew the conclusion that his master would loose the battle to the Qajar Khan, so he just did not open the gates when Lotf Ali Khan tried to come back to the city to get re-enforcement. Lotf Ali Khan did not have time to fight two enemies, so he and twenty of his followers went to Kerman, around 300 Km east of Shiraz. Agha Mohammad Khan of course followed him, and when he captured Kerman, he did some of the cruelest things in the history of humankind. He arrested the Zand Khan, after several street fights in which all of Lotf Ali Khan’s followers got killed. He ordered some unspeakable things to be done to him, and then he killed him. After this, he ordered each of his soldiers to bring him the eyeballs of twenty Kermani citizens. With this, he put his name up in the list with some of other famous evil guys such as Ghenghis Khan, Teymour, and Alexander. Kerman was known four years as the city of blinds.Back to Iran's History