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Keikhosrow Shahrokh 

Prominent Zarathushtis

Dr. Khosro Mehrfar



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"Given that on this vast planet, every nation is pursuing her own course and at the same time trying to recognize and appreciate her children who have contributed to her success, I as a regular lay-person would like to talk about one of the greatest men ever to walk on this earth.  Although I feel I am too small to talk about him, nevertheless it is my wish and my hope to share my tribute to him with you.  My comments are about Ferdowsi and his services to this land - a land that had almost lost its name, language, culture and even identity.  This great man of our history, with his immense and powerful conviction, almost single handedly resurrected the old glory of Iran and helped save her true identity.  And although he did not receive any material reward in return, he left his name as an ever-fresh, everlasting icon of our Persian history.  

Keikhosrow Shahrokh as a young school teacher with his students 
in Zarathushti school in Kerman.

It has been a while since some distinguished Iranians, including Mr. Moshir-ol-dolleh, Mostofi-ol-mamalek, Zaka-ol-molk, Alaie and Taghizadeh, decided to recognize and appreciate the contributions of our ancestors to this land.  Thus, the society for the preservation and protection of national treasures, which has always paid special attention to the revival of our identity, has decided to build a dignified mausoleum that is in keeping with the stature and prestige of such a national and beloved figure.  As we all know, at this time, except for a handful of dust, there is nothing else covering the grave of this great man to whom we all owe our very identity…”

It was with these simple and yet effective words, that Arbab Keikhosrow Shahrokh, as he was known in the elite Iranian society of early 20th century, started a personal crusade to commission the planning, design and construction of a mausoleum for Ferdowsi at his burial site in the city of Tus, Iran, which was also his birthplace. This speech, given by the great Iranian patriot Arbab Keikhosrow Shahrokh, at the 121st meeting of the 6th Iranian congress on Tuesday 30th of Khordad 1296 Yazdgerdi, became a national milestone.  

For Keikhosrow Shahrokh, the love of Iran ran deep to the core of his existence.  One of its manifestations was his resistance to the notorious 1919 concession imposed on the Iranian nation by the imperialistic forces of the British and Bolshevik governments. Contributing to this concession was the lack of leadership, ownership and accountability in the higher echelons of the Iranian government.  This deal would have given those two powers exclusive rights over the development of some of the most precious natural resources of the nation.

Keikhosrow Shahrokh 
as a young deputy of  Parliament. 
Source: "The Strangeling of Persia" 
by William Schuster

At the time, Keikhosrow Shahrokh was in the U.S. and it is believed that he was the very first person to mobilize a popular uprising against the 1919 concession.  At first he made several speeches in the US congress and asked for help from that body.  His appearances at the US capitol were arranged with the help of his acquaintance, Mr. Morgan Shushter, an American financial consultant, who had been employed by the Iranian parliament years earlier in an effort to put Iran’s financial house in order. 

Once Shahrokh had secured the support of the US congress, he interrupted his stay in the US and went back to Iran, where he helped to mobilize a popular uprising against the imposed concession.  This carefully planned effort started when Shahrokh invited the MPs of Iran to his home in Naderi Street. Eventually Shahrokh coordinated the whole process.  The tremendous effort paid off when, by the power of the people of Iran, the notorious 1919 contract was cancelled.  The original document cancelling the contract, which was kept in the office of the archives during the past regime, was created and crafted by Keikhosrow Shahrokh and is in his own handwriting.

In 1289 YZ, when, due to a hidden agenda and a vast effort, the national imperial jewels of Iran were being exported illegally outside of Iran, it was Keikhosrow Shahrokh who uncovered the treacherous plot and with bold and brave moves, presented it to the Iranian parliament. These courageous actions of Keikhosrow Shahrokh, cancelling the contract and saving the crown jewels, will remain in our history forever, an example for generations to come.

Keikhosrow Shahrokh
presenting Zarathushiansgifts 
at Reza shah's coronation.

Iranians in general, and Zoroastrian Iranians in particular, owe a lot more to Keikhosrow Shahrokh.  This article attempts to shed some light on a few of his achievements in his fruitful and very active life of 63 years.

Keikhosrow Shahrokh was born into one of the very well known families of Kerman in 1243 Yazdgerdi (YZ).  His great grandfather was the astrologer of the king of Iran at the time and his grand father continued in the tradition of the family and extended his services to the public.  His father, Shahrokh was assigned as a teacher to an elementary school in Kerman by the late Manekjee Limjee Hataria.

Keikhosrow Shahrokh lost his father when he was 6 months old.  And so it was his iron willed mother who planted the seed of  “Love for Iran” in his mind from a very early age and made him what he came to be, a strong and powerful man of conviction, helping many others to halt the downward course of Iranian social, economical and cultural life.

Keikhosrow Shahrokh started his elementary education in the same school where his late father used to teach.  At the age of 9, the family moved to Tehran and he continued his education for another 3 years.  It was on the advice and sponsorship of Manekjee Limjee Hataria, that at the age of 12, Keikhosrow Shahrokh and his younger brother were sent to Bombay, India and started a new life under Sir Dinshah Manekjee Petit of the Akaber Society of the Parsees of India. 

In Bombay, Keikhosrow Shahrokh pursued higher education and after graduation moved back to Kerman, Iran where he was assigned as a schoolteacher.  His yearly salary was fixed at 90 tomans, which was a modest salary at that time.  However, the Zoroastrians of Kerman, knowing full well the contributions and the long history of service that his ancestors had made to them, collected money among themselves and increased Shahrokh’s salary to 300 tomans a year to provide him with a better living.

Keikhosrow Shahrokh’s first assignment as the teacher of that tiny school was the start of a life full of service and contributions to his community and nation.  Here, I quote a statement published in one of the periodicals of that time, “Andisheh MA” or  “Our Thoughts” about Keikhosrow Shahrokh.

“His years in Bombay and the study that he made about the Parsees of India had a profound impact on Keikhosrow Shahrokh’s mind and soul.  Those years opened his eyes and heart to the glories of the past, and the dignity and pride of a humane nation. Perhaps it was the awakening of those deep feelings that began the inspiration and pattern of a life which was selflessly dedicated to the progress and success of his beloved country of Iran.”

One of the first things that Keikhosrow Shahrokh did, upon his return to Iran, was to change the way he dressed.  This was part of a greater attempt to educate the laymen of his country about the progress of the world around them. It was also an attempt to decrease the amount of bigotry and prejudice that had saturated the society, paralyzing every aspect of Iranian life. This bigotry and prejudice was one of the main reasons for the spiral downfall of a great nation with a rich heritage and culture.

His attempts to change the society and elevate it into a better state of life started with a series of reforms that he made to his school.  He started to move it from the old outdated “Maktab Khaneh” to a schooling system with better services and more qualified teachers who knew more than just reading old manuscripts.  He then started to collect money to fund a Zoroastrian high school in Kerman.  Parallel to this effort, he had initiated the building of the very first Zoroastrian girls’ elementary school, working with the investment of the late Jamshid Jahangir.

Keikhosrow Shahrokh standing with members of parliament
awaiting Reza shah's arrival.

After his success in these early stages, his focus was turned back to what I described above as “Changing the Way.”  He noticed that all Zoroastrians had to wear different clothing than their Muslim neighbors, even though the two groups had lived together for hundreds of years.  The special garb was intended to distinguish Zoroastrians from Muslims and therefore was a symbol of prejudice.  Although there were some Muslims who lived in peace and friendship with their Zoroastrian countrymen and women, the majority of them, due to lack of knowledge and intentional misinformation, treated the Zoroastrians very poorly.  It was ironic that in a land which logically and historically belonged to them, Zoroastrians were not considered regular citizens. They were often hurt, prosecuted and many times even murdered because of their ancestral belief. 

Keikhosrow Shahrokh started the sequence of liberating events by mandating that all the students of the Zoroastrian educational institutions, which numbered 2 or 3 schools in Kerman, should wear the same clothes as anyone else in the country. Though this seems like a small step to us, it violated a major taboo of the time. And it required a man of the stature of Keikhosrow Shahrokh to initiate this policy. During all his time in Kerman, he was in constant battle with unjust governors, mayors and local bigots. After a few years of brave service, when he recognized that his efforts had paid off and things were changing for the better in Kerman, he decided to go to Russia to broaden his scope of knowledge. 

He stayed in Russia about 18 months, after which he left for Tehran and gained employment as one of the managers in the vast financial empires of the late Arbab Jamshid Jamshidian. This man was a well-respected, powerful investment giant of Iran, who practically had the full financial heart of Iran in his hand with his networks of banks all across the country. In fact, Jamshidian ran the first and only banking institutions of the country. Unfortunately, the foreign powers of the time, the British and the Russians, finally executed a plot to topple this man’s banking system by each creating their own banks. It was against their imperialistic interests for the banking system in Iran to be run by a native Iranian.

While working as a manager in one of Jamshidian’s banking institutions, with the encouragement and support of the late Foroghi, Shahrokh started to write a book, which was later titled “The Reflection of the Mazdayasnian Religion.”  Jamshidian provided the financial support for publishing the book, which for its time was unique in style and presentation.

During the same years, the Iranian nation was awakened to the promise of freedom and the yearning for democracy, manifesting itself in the “Constitution of the Mashrootiat.”  Keikhosrow Shahrokh, along with many other elite persons and intellectuals of his time, joined the movement which, although short-lived, finally after many sacrifices resulted in the very first democratic establishment of Iran after more than 1200 years.  It was due to the sacrifice of Keikhosrow Shahrokh and others like him that the people of Iran tasted the brief sweetness of democracy in their country. 

Keikhosrow Shahrokh became a member of the Iranian parliament in the 2nd period of its existence with full consent of the people, and continued to be re-elected by the people until the 12th period.  I would like to mention that the late Mehraban Mehr, the distinguished father of the professor emeritus Farhang Mehr of Boston University, who was himself head of the “Shiraz” university before emigrating to America, was instrumental in most of the achievements that Keikhosrow Shahrokh accomplished during his lifelong career of selfless dedication to the Iranian community. This was especially apparent during the long years of Keikhosrow Shahrokh’s service in the Iranian parliament. The late Mehraban Mehr was the treasurer of the Parliament for about 45 years. This was a critical and sensitive position that no one except Mehr, a man everybody trusted and respected, could have managed so truthfully and honestly.

There have been many achievements that either came about through the direct involvement of Keikhosrow Shahrokh or under his vision and leadership. I have saved the telling of one of his major accomplishments for the end of this account, an achievement of unbelievable magnitude and far-reaching impact.  And that was the change that he brought to the Iranian calendar.

This was truly one of the greatest achievements of this man of power and conviction. Prior to Shahrokh’s reform, the Iranian calendar was one of Arabic origin starting with the migration of Prophet Mohammad and known as “Hejri Ghamarei.” Keikhosrow Shahrokh, with his intense belief in Iranian culture and Persian identity, along with a group of Iranian intellectuals, initiated a motion in the congress to change the calendar. It was a daring and unusual move for anybody to challenge the thousand-year-old calendar system of the country. Those bold actions made Keikhosrow Shahrokh one of the shining examples of Iran’s recent history.

Reza Shah Pahlavi (1) standing with several prominent figures 
including Keikhosrow Shahrokh (2).

Keikhosrow Shahrokh passed away at the age of 65 in Tehran after a productive and fruitful life of selfless dedication and conviction.  May his beloved soul rest in comfort and peace in the abode of the Supreme Intellect, Ahura Mazda.