Pari Khan Khanum (1548-1578 AD) was a well-known princess and the daughter of Tahmasp, the Iranian Safavid Shad. Highly educated in Islamic sciences and an accomplished poet, she proved herself to be an influential politician.
Though engaged, she never married, preferring the bureaucratic life in the capital. When Shah Tamasp became ill without choosing a successor, the powerful Qizilbash, who had brought the Safavid monarchs to power, had to decide who should rule next. Some favored Haydar Mirza, the Shah’s third son, while others including Pari Khan Khanum favored another son, Ismail Mirza, who wrongfully accused of treason had been imprisoned by his father.
In their eagerness to bring Haydar Mirza to power, his supporters tried to kill Ismail Mirza in prison but Pari Khan Khanum uncovered the plot and sent a group of musketeers to safeguard him. Two years later, the Shah died and Haydar Mirza prematurely announced himself king, creating a series of events that finally led to his downfall. Attacked by his brother’s supporters, he took Pari Khan Khanum as hostage in the palace. She convinced him to release her, promising him her support. But upon release, she broke her oath and opened the gates to his enemies who finally killed him.
As the supporters of the brothers struggled for the throne, Pari Khan Khanum became the de facto ruler of the country. The chieftains of all clans took orders from her—whether fiscal, financial or political. And it was she who ordered top ranking members of the realm to gather and confirm Ismail Khan as the new Shah.
But Ismail Khan showed her no gratitude. After being in prison for almost 19 years, he had become a bitter angry mad who did not like his authority questioned. He forbade officials to visit Pari Khan Khanum’s palace, dissolved all her duties and seized her properties. Furious at his behavior after the support she had given him, she planned her revenge. A year later, Ismail Khan died abruptly, and the court physicians announced that he was poisoned.
The Qizilbash decided to pass the crown to Khodabandah, Ismail Khan’s older brother, who was nearly blind and unfortunately also quite incompetent. The agreement was that he would remain Shah in name only while Pari Khan Khanum ruled. However, over time, weary of her incredible influence, the Qizilbash decided to put an end to her rule. One day while she was walking home, she was seized and strangled. Thus, ended the rule of one of Iran’s most powerful female politicians.