Wednesday, June 20, 2007

An Iranian hero from America

Howard Conklin Baskerville (April 10, 1885 - April 19, 1909) was an American teacher in the Presbyterian mission school in Tabriz, Iran. he is often referred to as the "American Lafayette in Iran". (J. Lorentz)

In 1908, during the Constitutional Revolution of Iran, he decided to join the Constitutionalists and fight against the Qajar despot King Mohammad Ali Shah. He was shot while leading a group of student soldiers to break the Siege of Tabriz.

The affection that many Iranians have for America perhaps may have roots in Tabriz, where this Nebraskan missionary was killed. Baskerville was a teacher in the American School, one of many such institutions created by the American missionaries who had worked in the city since the mid-19th century. He arrived in 1907 fresh out of Princeton Theological Seminary to teach at the American Memorial School in Tabriz, and was swept up in the revolutionary mood in Iran, fought a royalist blockade that was starving the city. On April 19, 1909, he led a contingent of 150 nationalist fighters into battle against the royalist forces. A single bullet tore through his heart, killing him instantly nine days after his 24th birthday.

Many Iranian nationalists still revere Baskerville as an exemplar of an America that they saw as a welcome ally and a useful “third force” that might break the power of London and Moscow in Tehran.
Iranians still pay tribute to Baskerville and consider him a martyr. He is buried in the Christian Armenian cemetery in Tabriz, Iran, a fact that impedes tourists and ordinary people to freely visit his grave. However, some anonymous admirers routinely decorate his simple tombstone with fresh flowers.

A sculpture of him is today located in the
Tabriz constitution House as a martyr.
A Persian carpet with his picture woven on it was also made by the carpet weavers of Tabriz and sent to Baskerville's mother in America, in recognition of his courage and sacrifice.

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