Thousands in Iran Commemorate Cyrus Day Amid Repression

Oct. 29, 2018 Iranians mark the international day of Cyrus the Great, the ancient ruler of the Persian empire whose legacy is credited with forging the Iranian national identity. King Cyrus II is held in great regard in Iran for creating the largest empire of civilized nations then known in the world, around 600 years before Christ.

King Cyrus was the author of the world’s first human rights charter. He is an honored figure in Judaism because he freed the Jews from Babylonian captivity, declared that the temple in Jerusalem be rebuilt, and allowed the Jews to return to their homeland. In Islamic holy readings, he is considered a just ruler.

King Cyrus’s Tomb

Iranians commemorate this day by gathering at Pasargadae, the tomb of Cyrus the Great, located in Fars province. Terrified of large gatherings and potential protests against the government, the Iranian regime resorted to military exercises on the day Iranians remember Cyrus. They also increased suppressive activities in different cities in Fars province, especially regions that surround the Pasargadae tomb.

thousands of iranians at king cyrus' tomb in 2016.
Thousands of Iranians at King Cyrus’ Tomb in 2016.

In 2016 Tens of thousands of Iranians, from various parts of the nation, gathered at the site of the tomb of King Cyrus the Great in Pasargadae.

This year, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and state security forces and plain-clothes agents established a virtual military curfew in the surrounding regions a few weeks ago. They wanted to prevent any gathering from taking shape and to control the roads and pathways that lead to Pasargadae.

These measures have further escalated in the past week. They blocked all roads that lead to Pasargadae and prevented vehicles from going to the site.

helicopter for rapid deployment.
Helicopter for rapid deployment.
security forces close pasargad highway.
Security forces close Pasargad Highway.

Closing Pasargad Highway

The Revolutionary Guards distributed an announcement to all vehicles and people moving toward Pasargadae. The note read: “The illegal gathering at Pasargadae on Oct. 29 was orchestrated by the dissenters and anti-state movements. All mischief-makers will be dealt with through law and the judiciary.”

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Despite all these measures, people held a show of unity against the regime and in commemoration of Cyrus the Great. Large groups of people and “Resistance Units” are going to defy the mullah’s suppressive organs. They go to Pasargadae to pay their respects to King Cyrus II by foot and vehicle or even through the mountains.

Regime forces have already arrested and beaten some of the people who tried to reach Pasargadae.

security forces going to deploy in pasargad.
Security Forces going to deploy in Pasargad.

Cyrus the Great was Kourosh II of Persia. Cyrus is the latin transliteration of his name. The Greeks called him Cyrus the Elder and in the bible, he was known as Koresh. He founded the first Persian Empire, the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East. There was vast expansion and it eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia, much of Central Asia and the Caucasus.

In 2003, accepting her Nobel Peace Prize, Shirin Ebadi evoked Cyrus when she said:

“I am an Iranian, a descendant of Cyrus the Great. This emperor proclaimed at the pinnacle of power 2,500 years ago that he ‘would not reign over the people if they did not wish it.’ He promised not to force any person to change his religion and faith and guaranteed freedom for all. The Charter of Cyrus the Great should be studied in the history of human rights.” [newworldencyclopedia.org]

According to the New World Encyclopedia, the administrative techniques created by Cyrus, and his successors Darius I and Xerxes I, were adopted by the Greeks and Romans. Cyrus also influenced the U.S. Constitution through The Cyropaedia of Xenophon. Thomas Jefferson had two editions of the Cyropaedia and George Washington also had one.

Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate and Social Media journalist seeking democracy for Iran and peace for the region.