How many Iranians were killed during the first world war? Was there fighting in and around Iran that caused these casualties? Was the famine in Iran during 1917-1919 attributable to World War I or other causes? Are the British (who were the occupying power) responsible for it?

Who is responsible for the majority of Iranian casualties during the first world war?

closed as too broad by Pieter Geerkens, American Luke, choster, Gwen, DVK Dec 23 '13 at 21:56

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  • These three sources, for which I can see no obvious reason for bias, show no evidence of a major famine and are all in rough agreement for 1890 through 1920: books.google.ca/…; populstat.info/Asia/iranc.htm; looklex.com/e.o/iran.demographics.htm. – Pieter Geerkens Dec 10 '13 at 3:38
  • Let's assume the population in 1920 is roughly 11.5 MM, and is well attributed. What evidence exists that the population in the 1910-1915 period exceeds this by 9MM? Without some credible evidence of a dramatic population drop between 1915 and 1920, the claim of a famine on this scale is simply not supportable. – Pieter Geerkens Dec 10 '13 at 3:52
  • @PieterGeerkens agreed, I seriously doubt Persia would have been able to support a population of 20M+ at the start of the 20th century, being mostly a tribal nomadic society with some cities depending on outlying villages for food supplies. – jwenting Dec 10 '13 at 9:55
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    Even after the updates, this is a terribly bad question, amongst other reasons because it's several questions. – Lennart Regebro Dec 11 '13 at 9:48
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is too many different questions; and lacks any showing of research effort. – Pieter Geerkens Dec 12 '13 at 5:38

There was indeed fighting in what is today Iran during WWI. It is hard to say exactly how many died in that fighting, most sources just list casualties for the Ottoman Empire as a whole, which is below 3 million, and that includes around half a million war dead and 1 to 1.5 million that died in the Armenian genocide. (sources)

But I can't find any sources on how many that dies in the Persian campaign, or how many Persians died.

However, the question seems to not actually or at least originally be about this. Instead it's a question about how many that does of a famine during the war.

The claims of a major famine in Persia comes from the book "The Great Famine and Genocide in Persia, 1917-1919". I can't find any references to a famine in Persia that doesn't trace back to that book.

In this book Mohammad Gholi Majd claims that the population of Iran in 1900 was 12 million, and in 1910 was 15 million. He then draws the conclusion that the population in 1920 therefore should have been 18-20 million by "natural progression", a conclusion that can not be made, and is contradicted by sources. But since the population in fact were 11 million, not 20, he claims that 8-10 million must have died from starvation.

Not only does this reasoning not hold up to scrutiny, there is nothing that says that the population should have increased to 20 million by "natural progression" in that way. In addition other sources contradict his population claims. All other sources agree that the population of what is now Iran was slightly below 10 million in 1900 and slightly above 10 million in 1910. (see Pieter Geerkens sources from comments: 1, 2, 3)

There does seem to have been a severe lack of food in 1917-1918. Lack of food is a common effect of war, and in this case it seems to have been compounded by drought. But it is quite clear that the gigantic famine with millions of dead in Iran that Majd writes about isn't something that really happened.

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    A death toll of 9MM, 40% of the claimed population at outbreak, is comparable to the Black Death in the 14th century, and in about half the time period (2 years instead of 4). (see Death Toll section here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Death.) This would of necessity result in widespread abandonment of small towns and villages, just as in 14th century Europe, and a significant increase in wage rate for manual labour, for starters. There is no reasonable way that an event of this scale and short duration could have escaped observation for decades. – Pieter Geerkens Dec 12 '13 at 2:23

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