|Stamp of Ahmad Shah with Overprint|
Who are the Tangistanis?
Tangistan (Persian تنگستان) is described in J.G. Lorimer's great geographical opus on the British imperial era in the Gulf, Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, Oman and Central Arabia (which I wrote about in 2012) treats Tangistan in Volume II ("Geographical and Statistical," Calcutta 1908), Part IIB, pp.1859-1871. He's the rare British source in this period to use the spelling Bushehr.) In his usual detail. He says the region along the coast consists, in his day, of a population of "various little known tribes [which he then lists] . . . but they are generally spoken of in the aggregate as Tangistanis." He details the characteristics of the tribes and notes all are Shi‘a and speak a dialect of Persian. He sys the tribal traditions trace several of their origins to central Persia or Afghanistan and one tribe claims an origin in central Arabia, "but are now completely Persianized." He discusses their fierce reputation (remember he is writing at the height of British Imperial power):
Notwithstanding their nearness to Bushehr Town, they still live in a rude and uncivilized state; blood-feuds flourish amongst them, and their name continues to be, in Bushehr Town, a synonym for lawlessness, brutality and ignorance. The houses in the villages are mostly date leaves plastered with mud, but some are built of stones. The people are poor in consequence of their perpetual wars There are about 2 rifles to every 3 houses.
|Ra'is ‘Ali Delvari with Tangistani fighters|
As for Dilwar/Delvar village itself Lorimer treats it [he spells it Dilbar (دلبار) and treats it together with the neighboring village of ‘Amari on pages 1864 and 1865 of the aforementioned volume of the Gazetteer], he describes the adjacent villages as having 70 houses,growing wheat and barley, grapes, and watermelons, and lists numbers of everything from date palms to donkeys in his day.He does not seem to have a count of people.
So these are the people, the Tangistanis, who pulled the tail of the British Lion on July 12 and were about to face invasion.
|Gen. Sir John E. Nixon|
|Ra'is ‘Ali Delvari|
|Wassmuss in Persian Garb|
When the British were not portraying the Tangistanis as mere brigands they saw them as instruments of Berlin. We also met the German diplomat/spy Wilhelm Wassmuss in my earlier post.
It is perhaps only fair to mention one of the players most conspicuous by his absence. Britain, Germany, and the Tangistanis were all playing the geopolitical games of the Great War, and they (and he Ottomans and the Russians as well) clearly with felt free to manipulate Iranian tribesmen and local sheikhs and khans with impunity.
All tended to forget that Iran was still technically a sovereign state and formally a neutral in the war. Ottomans and Russians fought on Iranian territory in the northwest; Britain occupied the south and the refineries at Abadan and were about to occupy Bushire, and Wassmuss had agents at work among the tribes.
|Ahmad Shah Qajar|
Part II will deal with the actual operations to occupy Bushire.