This "truly horrendous" so-called "Iranian Holocaust" perpetrated with "British complicity" is alleged by Mohammad Gholi Majd in his book "The Great Famine and Genocide in Persia, 1917-1919." Fortunately, according to historians inside and outside Iran, it is mostly a figment of the author's shoddy scholarship.
Take, for instance, this report
on the "Roundtable to Examine the Great Famine" held in 2013 in Tehran. It was a session on a scholarly project started the previous year examining 4000 documents from the National Library and Archives of IRI, and the archives of Iran's Foreign Ministry and parliament. Dr. Elham Malekzadeh, chair of the session, said that, contrary to common perceptions, during the relevant period, there is essentially no significant evidence of looting or attack on the population by the British, and a preponderance of evidence of looting and attacks perpetrated by the Russians and the Ottomans, mostly in western Iran. She indicated that various documents put Iran's population at no more than 13 million at the time and the number of deaths at no more than 1 million, in contrast to the 8 to 12 million deaths alleged by Majd. Furthermore, much of these deaths were not due to famine, but causes such as contagious diseases and various ethno-religious strifes.
Majid Tafreshi, another scholar at the session, while agreeing that there was famine at the time, mentioned that Majd, whether deliberately or unknowingly, makes the mistake of counting any reduction in population in various areas of Iran as deaths, whereas much of those population reductions were the result of migrations within Iran. Dr. Ali Tetri, manager of the Documentation Center of the Iranian Parliament, indicated that 80-90% of the relevant documents at Iran's parliament regard complaints of Russian practices, while there are no complaints of British looting or attacks during the relevant period. There were also complaints of Ottoman behavior, while the Germans were the most popular.
Mahmood Taher Ahmadi, another historian at the session, ridiculed the figure of 8-10 million deaths at the time, putting the figure at below a million and mostly due to Cholera and Influenza. He addes that, in contrast to significant documentation on "Mongol-style" attacks by the Russians in northern Iran, there are no documents in the National Library and Archives of IRI indicating forceful grain confiscation by the British.
Historians outside Iran have also been dismissive of Majd's claims of an Iranian genocide. E.g., in an interview with the Iranian monthly Kheradnameh in 2007, Mohammad Tavakoli Targhi, Professor of History and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto, is quoted as "There's no doubt in the existence of famine and deaths. But how can it be believed that in the era following the Persian Constitutional Revolution 8 million Iranians are killed and in Persian papers there are no news of that "genocide"? Due to the worldwide importance that public health had attained since the beginning of the 19th century, even if that number of Iranian cows and sheep had been killed, we would have certainly found news of that in Persian documents and publications. Believing in an era of ignorance is the presumption of such a strange account." Encyclopaedia Iranica, a project of Columbia University, in its detailed "Famines in Persia
" entry, only refers to "serious episodes of famine ... during the two world wars" with no reference to Majd. Under "Demographic consequences," the article makes no reference to the alleged 1917-1919 "genocide."
As for the term "Iranian Holocaust," it shows poor judgement, given the background of Holocaust denial and anti-semitic propaganda that became an industry in the Ahmadinejad years. Many of the Iranian radicals, while dismissing the Nazi Holocaust as a myth, would claim that "real Holocausts" have been perpetrated by Jews throughout history against Iranians and others. But, semantics aside, this alleged "Iranian Holocaust" is a myth.