Aqa Mohammad Khan (Shah) Qajar

Founder and First Shah of the Qajar Dynasty



Aqa Mohammad Khan (Shah) was the son of Mohammad Hassan Khan, and grand-son of Fath Ali Khan Qajar. Both his father and grand-father were already local rulers, his father even tried unsuccesfully for several years to wrest power from the Zands to establish paramountcy over Iran. Aqa Mohammad Khan was captured at age seven by a rival of the Qajars (Kadjar), Adel Shah Afshar and tortured and mutilated (not castrated) on the orders of that vassal of the Zands. When Aqa Mohammad Khan finally manages to escape from captivity, the pent up rage of many years of captivity and pain, unleashes a wave of terror and destruction on the land. With a hand of iron he conquers and devastates his enemies, but in the process forms an empire, united, for the first time under one king since the time of the Safavids. He even manages to reconquer lands for Persia that once belonged to her but had been lost after the collapse of the Safavids. After ascending the throne as Shahanshah, he was killed by his own bodyguards during a siege of the Georgian capital Tiflis (Tbilissi) in his second campaign against Georgia, in 1797. During his short reign he established Tehran as the capital of the Qajars, and chose as his heir, his nephew, Fath Ali Khan (a.k.a. Baba Khan, later, Fath Ali Shah), for whom he had also chosen a wife from the Davallou-Qajars to solidify the bonds among the two main and rival Qajar clans, the Qovanlou and the Davallou.

Aqa Mohammad Khan is remembered for his cruelty and his capacity as a warrior most. There is no denying either fact. His wrath was fearsome and devastating. But he was also a great military genius, nation-builder, and founder of a dynasty. Though many Iranians have not been taught much else about him, for reasons that were too obvious during the reign of the Pahlavis, his actions and his short reign need to be looked at in a different light also and not simply as a retelling of the great amount of casualties he inflicted on his rivals and enemies.


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