Time Archive report on violence in Abadan of 1948: //www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,7...
August 12th, 1948
Heads Up. On a blistering morning last month, a small army of Tudeh pickets deployed at the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co.'s plant in Abadan on the Persian Gulf, and paralyzed one of the world's biggest refineries, chief source of the British Navy's fuel. Their Communist-trained leader, Najafi, had just given officials a 16-point ultimatum asking better pay, housing, transportation and hospitalization for the company's 70,000 workers (about half of Iran's industrial labor). When the company refused to talk, the pickets beat up would-be strikebreakers, confiscated company cars and held some 2,000 British employes and a score of Americans virtual prisoners in their compounds. A group of Soviet "visitors " was not molested.
Through the day, more & more workers joined the Tudeh men and tempers rose with the mercury, which hit a Zoroastrian 160°. By nightfall, when officials still refused to negotiate—the mob's fury burst like a rogue oil gusher.
Local police quavered impotently as gangs overran the town, stoned, knifed and clubbed Europeans and non-Tudeh Persians, and pillaged and wrecked their homes. Then, at the riot's height, a band of 400 desert pirates crossed the muddy Shattel-Arab, raided the bazaar section and fled back across the river with their loot.
Heads Off. Promptly Iranians forgot their anti-British grievances. For the rest of the night they ranged the streets bent on murdering their age-old enemies, the Arabs. Wealthy, pro-British Hussein Gazi, local Arab leader, was clubbed to the pavement, then beheaded on the spot. Sheik Hadji Haddat and his wife were snatched from their car and burned alive in a bakery oven.
Knife-wielding Tudeh toughs slew three other sheiks, impaled heads of victims to inflame the mob. By the time an infantry battalion got Abadan under control, a score were dead, 150 wounded.
Major Fateh, commanding the battalion, clamped down martial law, seized Najafi and his chief aide, and ordered them shot. But as dawn broke, Fateh's superior officer, mindful of Tudeh influence at Teheran, stayed the executions. After three tense days of negotiations, a temporary compromise was patched up and the plant reopened.
Cards Down. The Abadan strike was not an isolated instance of Russian use of native grievances against the British. At the Kirkuk oil plant, Moscow-trained leaders had presented demands similar to Najafi's; when officials agreed, the leaders simply upped their demands.
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