chapter  7
9 Pages

Crime, security, and insecurity: Socio-political conditions of Iran, 1875–1924


Qajar Iran has often been depicted as a despotic country with little in the form of a standing army or a bureaucracy. The weak central government often relied on a balancing act of rewards and punishments to maintain its control. Nowhere was the weakness of the central government manifested more clearly than in the general state of lawlessness that existed in the countryside and sometimes in the towns and cities as well. There are numerous accounts of criminals preying on civilians in memoirs and travelogues from the period. There are also lurid accounts of the extraordinary punishments that were meted out to criminals in these books, and yet we know very little beyond the general supposition that the country suffered from lawlessness and criminal activity on a scale little different than other countries of the region and period, despite the very low figures suggested by the intelligence reports discussed below, which, in the province of Fars, put the incidence of theft at less than six a year and robbery (or banditry) at ten a year.