Iranian Jewish Culure
Samuel Haim
Jewish Representatives to the Parliament

Samuel Haim

Shemouel “Samuel” Haim, a.k.a. Mister Haim or Monsieur Haim, was born in 1897 C.E. in the city of Kermanshah (later Ghahremanshahr) in Western Iran. His father, Yehazghel “Ezekiel” Haim was a prominent businessman. Samuel received his elementary and high school studies at the Alliance Israélite “Ettehad” School of Kermanshah, although despite the shortage of educational facilities outside the Iranian capital, his education was not limited to that institution. Haim graduated high school with honors. A young man devoted to sophisticated philosophical, historical and social studies, he spent most of his time on reading, and what he earned on books.

Besides English and French, Samuel Haim knew Hebrew well. He mostly studied books in foreign languages almost exclusively on historical, political and philosophical subjects, especially the works of Montesquieu, Tolstoi, Nehru and more.

Upon graduation, given his mastery of English and French, Samuel Haim was readily employed at the customs office of Kermanshah. He made fast progress, and despite being Jewish, he was chosen soon as the president of the Customs Office of the Kurdistan region.

Samuel Haim was distinguished by his free spirit and his love of humanity. He often spoke fearlessly, never afraid of debating with who belittled Judaism.

During WWI, the feudal figures of Kurdistan conspired to hoard the wheat and cause famine. By the order of Samuel Haim, the chief of the Customs Office of the Western Iran, the secret silos were opened and large amounts of wheat were provided to the poor and hungry sectors of the society.

But Haim was a lonely man. The landowners tapped into the dormant prejudice among the fanatics, spread false rumors about Haim, caused riots, and forced him to resign from his services and flee Kurdistan.

Between 1917 to 1919 C.E., as World War I raged, Iran was fully occupied by the British forces. With his mastery of English, Samuel Haim was employed first as a translator, and then, as the Advisor to the British Military in Bureaucratic Affairs, Qazvin, Iran. This was a fresh new start for him, and a chance to form close relations and friendships with Colonel Pouladin, the Chief of the Qazvin Gendarmerie, and Mr. Sarkeshik-zadeh, the mayor of that city, due to Haim’s influential, strong and ambitious personality. Later on, when both Sarkeshik-zadeh and Haim were elected to the Fifth Parliament, the two men would join the ranks of the supporters of Modarres, while sadly, his friendship with Colonel Pouladin would provide an excuse for the accusations of treason committed by Haim against his country.

Having fulfilled his mission in Qazvin, he was transferred to Zanjan, and then to Tabriz, where he resisted the ominous intents of the British, rejected their demands, decided to cease serving in their organization, submitted his resignation, and left for Tehran.

Mr. Haim arrived in Tehran in the early 1290’s of the Persian calendar, ca. 1912 C.E. This coincided with the reign of Ahmad-Shah the King of Qajar, and the peak of anti-Semitic crises, including the trespass and violations committed against Jewish properties in the Sarpoulak neighborhood carried out by Kazem Attar. Also, preparations were made by the thugs and hooligans to persecute and plunder Jews over “an insult to Sheikh Abedini’s donkey” (sic!) around the Grand Bazaar. Meanwhile, the representative of the Jewish community in the Parliament, Dr. Loghman Nehorai, refused to interfere in this matter, as he was burdened by an overload of work.

In the meantime, Jews were faced with increasing problems, especially outside the capital. The trouble of anti-Semitism in Khorram-abad and Azerbaijan, the Kolah Jalli (Jalli Hats) affair in Shiraz; the murder of several Jews around Hamedan; the issue of closing Jewish stores in the Grand Bazaar of Tehran; insults to Jews in other locales; and so forth; they led many Jewish families to immigrate to Tehran. Numerous such issues made a large number of Jews more dissatisfied with the status quo, particularly with their representative at the time, Dr. Loghman Nehorai, who seemed unable to bring order and resolve the situation.

Samuel Haim’s heart was still aflame with anger and revolt ignited by the damaging consequences of his resignation from the Kurdistan customs office, the later abuses of the British occupiers, and many other forms of discrimination imposed on Jews which violated their rights. He was waiting for a chance to kindle a light in the minds of his fellow Jews, and to guide them in a movement to free themselves from such inequalities, humiliations and miseries.

Thus, he intended at first to penetrate the socio-cultural institutions of the community and earn himself a hold on power. But before long, he realized that the rising disagreements would not let him achieve his goal. Therefore, facing such organizations, he shortly established the Hobyeh Zion Association and the Omid “Hope” Committee. He then obtained the required permit and published the Haim Newspaper.

The Haim Newspaper earned him a worthwhile and admirable place among Persian publications. Despite competition from Hageoula Newspaper, which often opposed or criticized Haim, Samuel Haim managed to reflect much of his opinions and visions via his publication as well as possible. The newspaper was part written in Hebrew, and all significant news and events of the Jewish community were fully reflected in the paper.

An intellectual figure, Mister Haim soon connected to all leading figures and public servants of the Tehran Jewish community, thanks to his determination and unceasing efforts; and thereafter, he befriended the statesmen, influential people, and others in charge of the country. Later, it was rumored that Mr. Haim had close relations with some important Iranian publications and the British Embassy, and certainly, he could solve many a problem with ease. Also, His sudden emergence on the scene in the days of youth, especially during some of the most tumultuous years of the Jewish life in Iran — the end of the Qajar Dynasty and the regime change in the country — had been verified.

Furthermore, the current socio-political transformations in the country as a whole — the effects of WWI, the consequences of the Constitutional Revolution, and scattered uprisings — had an incredible impact on the Jews of Iran at that historic juncture. These made Mr. Haim determined more than before to boost his activities as a philanthropist and benevolent figure.

To realize his visions, he now viewed membership at the Parliament as an institution of hope, because earning this position would mean to sit at the height of power over the affairs of the Jewish community. Besides, he would also obtain the presidency of the Tehran Jewish Association.

People were dissatisfied with Dr. Nehorai’s three terms as their representative to the Parliament. All the while, Mr. Haim was earning fame as a young and energetic power, so far as he was known to some of his followers as the “Promised Savior.” Thus, as predicted, Mr. Haim decided to run for the office in the elections for the Fifth Parliament. He earned the majority of the votes — more than 80% — and hence, defeating his opponent Dr. Loghman Nehorai, he joined the Fifth Parliament as the Representative of the Iranian Jews. He assumed the position on the 22 of Bahman, 1302 of the Persian Calendar, winter 1924 C.E., and he continued to hold his seat until Ordibehesht 1304, spring of 1925 C.E.

Samuel Haim’s mastery of Persian, Hebrew, English and French quickly earned him much influence among the members of the Parliament, and the matter caught the attention of the most beloved member of that period, Modarres.

Modarres did not withhold any efforts to persuade Mr. Haim to form a minority faction. Although his plan failed for this term, he eventually managed to recruit Mr. Haim as one of his followers. Most often, Haim consulted with Modarres especially in matters of politics. He deemed their friendship to be a great honor and had a special respect for the elder’s ideas. However, their connection and friendship had some unpleasant effects on Haim’s political fate. On the one hand, it provided his opponents with the favorable conditions in the upcoming elections, while on the other hand, it would raise the suspicion of Sardar Sepah, the Chief Military Person, namely Reza Pahlavi, and provoke him.

Once in the Parliament, Mr. Haim re-established the Zionist Association. He attended the Founders’ Parliament and voted in favor of dismantling the Qajar Dynasty to establish the reign of Reza Shah Pahlavi; and Reza Shah expressed his immense satisfaction with Haim’s move. He also attended Reza Shah’s coronation ceremony in the spring of 1926, which allowed him to get closer than before to the highest ranking statesmen of the country.

Among his achievements during the Fifth Parliament, Mr. Haim requested assistance for the Jewish schools from the business taxation revenue. He also requested to reduce taxation on Jews, especially the Jews of cities outside the capital.

During a life cut too short, Samuel Haim, did much for his poor, oppressed, and impoverished fellow Jews, especially since he arrived in Tehran and during his years as an active member of the Parliament. Thanks to his persistent efforts, he took many successful steps to rectify the affairs of the Jews. He believed that the Jewish Neighborhood known as Oudlajan, a.k.a. the Tehran ghetto, with its dissonant composition, was not worthy of the Jewish life. He further believed that it was due to their own indifference that Jews had yielded to such a coerced life in a most contaminated part of the city, deprived of a minimum of life necessities, such as water, lighting and hygienics.

Thus, he emphatically reproached the city over the sanitation issues in the Alley of the Oudlajan neighborhood; and in a published essay, he asked the authorities to seek a fundamental solution to clean up the district. He also took on the business of butchery, which had always enjoyed special privileges and much influence in the Jewish communities. To that end, he took several initiatives, and even sent the violators to jail. To teach hygienic principles, he went so far as to ask a group of educated youngsters among his supporters to dress up in clean clothes and white overcoats, appear in the new clean and hygienic spaces built with white ceramic tiles, and sell meat for awhile.

Such actions increased Mr. Haim’s popularity by the day, although he had no few enemies. The latter accused Haim of holding radical ideas, that he lacked in political skill and experience, and that this weakness would lead to irreparable damages. Moreover, they reinforced the rumor that Mr. Haim was a spy planted by a foreign government. However, many Jews believed that he was intelligent and politically savvy, and that given his democratic spirit, he most deserved to represent them in the Parliament.

In the heat of the elections for the Sixth Parliament, Mr. Haim’s supporters showed an unequalled passion and activism, and his victory appeared to be guaranteed as with the last election. He was supposed to speak at the largest synagogue in Tehran, the Ezra Yaghoub “Jacob” Synagogue. A large crowd had gathered inside and around the temple, in the area known as Sar-e Chal Square, and the security forces were there on grounds of maintaining peace and order. The moment Mr. Haim appeared at the scene of the temple, the crowd’s jubilant voice echoed in the space. However, as he walked to the podium to present his speech, suddenly by prior arrangement, two bands began to argue and started a pretense fight. Next, the police forces walked in to control the crowd and restore order. They scattered the people, but arrested Mr. Haim and sent him to jail. During the seven days that the Jewish elections were in progress, Haim was in jail, allowing his opponent to win the elections in his absence and join the Sixth Parliament instead to represent the Jewish community. Haim was released from jail after the elections.

Despite failing in the elections, he did not cease to work. He knew well that this conspiracy had been arranged in advance and carried out by his enemies; and yet, he pursued his social activities with more determination. He tried to prove his innocence by providing facts and documents to refute the accusations laid against him by his enemies. But lacking experience in politics, and underestimating his enemies and the statesmen of his time, his noble effort instead reinforced the hostility and increased the suspicions against him. Also, playing such a sloppy political move, he fell unwittingly into a political game that would claim him as its sacrifice.

Shemouel “Samuel” Haim’s enemies carried out a conspiracy to remove him out of their way. They obtained the order of his arrest and sent him immediately to the Ghasr Prison. In the year 1926 C.E. the newspapers announced that a group of displeased military figures, headed by Colonel Mahmoud-khan Pouladin, intent on striking a coup d’état against the regime had been arrested, and their conspiracy had been frustrated. “Monsieur Haim’s” name too had been included among the coconspirators.

Shemouel “Samuel” Haim spent more than five years in prison. During this period, nothing was published on him to the newspapers. No one spoke of the charges against him, of the investigation or the trial, the name of the defense attorney, or how he was defended. Merely, some scattered information or contradictory gossip and rumors could be heard among people, especially amongst his fellow Jews.

On the 10th of Azar, 1310 of the Persian calendar, the 15th of December, 1931 C.E., early morning at the dawn, Samuel Haim was placed before a firing squad at Bagh-Shah, and he was executed. Before he was executed, he recited aloud and eloquently the verse the shema’ yisra’el prayer. His only request was for them not to hit his face, and only shoot at his body.

On that very day, the Ettela’at Daily published the following few lines:

“Haim, who was elected to the Fifth Parliament as the Representative of the Jews, and who spent time in prison for collaborating with the secret committee, was executed today morning at Bagh-Shah.”



Sources, in Persian:

(*) Moshfegh-Hamedani: The Memoirs of Half-a Century in Journalism; (Persian)

(*) Banayan, Jahangir: Notes.

(*) Levi, Dr. Habib: A Comprehensive History of Jews of Iran.

(*) Bina Publication, No. 8.


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