South Persia Rifles

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British-organized paramilitary unit in Iran during World War I.

The South Persia Rifles was a largely indigenous, paramilitary force of about 8,000 men trained and paid by Britain. Its headquarters was in Shiraz, with secondary bases in Abadeh and Kerman. Britain dispatched Major (later Brigadier General) Sir Percy Molesworth Sykes (18671945) to southern Iran in 1916 to organize a military force to counter the presumed pro-German sentiments of the Swedish-officered gendarmerie in Fars and Kerman provinces. It thus could protect British interestssouthern Iran was adjacent to British Indiafrom perceived threats by agents of Germany, Britain's enemy during World War I (19141918). The reluctance of the Iranian government to recognize the South Persia Rifles encouraged the largest and most militarily powerful tribal confederation in southern Iran, the Qashqa'i, to attack the force in May 1918. Sykes and his troops were besieged for several weeks at Shiraz before they finally defeated the Qashqa'i tribesmen. Following the 1921 coup d'état in Tehran, Minister of War Reza Khan, the future Reza Shah Pahlavi, ordered the disbanding of the South Persia Rifles.

see also pahlavi, reza.


Sykes, Percy Molesworth. A History of Persia, vol. 2, 2d edition. London: Macmillan, 1921.

jack bubon
updated by eric hooglund

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South Persia Rifles

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