Who drew first blood?

The first was the horrific murder of the Reverend B.W. Labaree in 1904


Who drew first blood?
by Fesenjoon

We've all heard that the reason Khomeini first planted the seeds of hatred against the USA, demonizing it for all eternity by his followers, has been its support of Israel, and "capitulation rights".

But did you know that Americans in Iran were subject to harassment and even murder, well before any Ajax operation, and well before Khomeini was even born? And this is while Americans were trying to help Persia. Do you know who the first Americans murdered in Iran was?

The first documented murder of an American in Iran was that of the wife of a missionary by the name J.N. Wright on March 23, 1890 by stabbing. (Yeselson, 42) The murderer was sentenced to life, but escaped, and was never pursued. Later on, when Wright, in conformance with royal decree bought some property, both him and the seller with threatened with death by mobs. 

In 1894, another American, George W. Holmes, was assaulted by a mob. Alexander McDonald, the American envoy, this time wrote of "the spirit of lawlessness" prevalent in Iran.(Yeselson, 47) Tigranes J. Malcolm, the American consul in Bushehr, also similarly reported his life to be in danger by mobs. (ibid.)

The first murder of an American to create uproar among American diplomatic circles was the horrific murder of the Reverend B.W. Labaree on March 8, 1904. He was stabbed near Salmas, 13 times, as part of a string of murders against Christians in northeastern Iran. (Speer, 260-264) The murderer, Sayyid Mir Ghaffar, was eventually never tried, due to his Sayyid status. Labaree's widow was given some money as reparation, and the culprits all left for Turkey. (Yeselson, 68-79) 

In 1894, when Reverend James Hawkes tried opening a school for minority students in Hamedan, Americans were attacked again, and the government stepped in preventing the school's inauguration. Thousands of Jews were harassed and assaulted that year in Hamedan.

On 20 April 1909 Howard Baskerville, straight out of school from Princeton, was shot by a Qajar sniper in the Tabriz constitutional tumult.

July 18, 1924, US Vice Consul, Robert Imbrie, was beaten to death while taking pictures for National Geographic, by a mob "led by a man in clerical garb", who accused him of being a Baha'i trying to poison the well of a Saqqa Khaneh, and taking pictures of women. A 16 year old kid smashed Imbrie's head while hospitalized in the infirmary. Melvin Seymour escaped death in the incident, as he was lying in the next room. (Ghani, 327-328) The Imbrie incident further solidified the notion among American financial circles that "Persia is a country that God forgot, as there is no such thing as stability, and order". (Ghani, 329) The New York Times called it "Imbrie Murder Laid to Religious Hate: Blindness of a Moslem" (See July 23, 1924)

The first incident of an Iranian attacking Americans on American soil was the incident on November 27, 1935, when the Iranian Minister to the United States, Ghaffar Djalal, was arrested in Elkton, MD, for disorderly conduct following the arrest of his chauffeur for reckless driving and speeding (Briggs, 773), and assaulting police officers. (Sen, 140) 


Briggs, Herbert Whittaker. The law of nations: cases, documents, and notes. Issue 22 of Library of world affairs series, edited by George W.Keeton and Georg Schwarzenberger. Publisher Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1952.

Ghani, Cyrus. Iran and the rise of Reza Shah: from Qajar collapse to Pahlavi rule. I.B.Tauris, 2001

Sen, B. A Diplomat's Handbook of International Law and Practice. 3rd Ed. UNITAR. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. 1988 

Speer, Robert Elliot. The Hakim Sahib, the foreign doctor: a biography of Joseph Plumb Cochran, M. D., of Persia. Revell, 1911  

Yeselson, Abraham. United States-Persian diplomatic relations, 1883-1921. New Brunswick, N.J., Rutgers Univesity Press, 1956.


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by Fesenjoon2 on

Has Iran apologized for climbing walls, violating diplomatic immunity and taking hostages?

Has it apologized for drawing first blood and killing Americans over 100 years ago?



payam s

So What?

by payam s on

The Boxer Rebels in china were killing british missionaries as well. And i dont blame them. The missionaries usually spearhead colonial conquests. They provide spiritual justification for it.

And every single incident has been taken out of context and abstracted as to demonstrate the "barbarism" and "backwardness" of the iranians. Well excuse us if your subjects, or your objects of civilizing missions did not behave passively. I admire those "mobs" who recognized the true face of colonialism when they saw it (whether in the shape of a cross or a suit and a tie).


Political assassination VS murder

by comrade on

Our lovely, soft-hearted Americans have always expected the peaceful surrender of indigenous people wherever and whenever they have decided to venture.   

Never increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything.


I despise fascists and stalinists

Capitulation did not apply to all

by I despise fascists and st... on

Great Article. It's always best to look critically inside before attacking the other side.

Sargord, you are lying again. Capitulation laws during Shah Mohammed Reza did not apply to all Americans, only to American military personnel in Iran.


Actually SP,

by Fesenjoon on

A better topic would be to write about how Islmaist Iranians in America pose a direct threat to the wellbeing of the public. Nobody wants to be a victim of someone like this.

Sargord Pirouz

As an American living in

by Sargord Pirouz on

As an American living in Iran during the 1970s, technically speaking, I possessed immunity from criminal persecution in Iran. 

Was that right?

Some of my fellow Americans flagrantly took full advantage of this above-the-law status.

I didn't think it was right then, and I still don't think it was right now.

How about writing on this subject, Fesenjoon? This issue was one of the brightest sparks of the 1979 revolution, which permanently put an end to this injustice.