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Hey, Khamenei: Why Are You So Afraid of Cyrus the Great?

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Effigies of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L) and Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (R) march with the Organization of Iranian-American Communities during a rally in support of "the nationwide uprisings in Iran for regime change" on March 8, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo: MANDEL NGAN / AFP / Getty Images)
Effigies of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L) and Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (R) march with the Organization of Iranian-American Communities during a rally in support of “the nationwide uprisings in Iran for regime change” on March 8, 2019 in Washington, DC. Why did the regime suppress the celebration of Cyrus the Great Day in Iran this year? (Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Oct. 29, Iranians marked the annual international day of Cyrus the Great, the ancient ruler of the Persian Empire whose legacy is credited with forging the Iranian national identity.

Ironically, 600 years before Christ, Cyrus the Great announced what would be a prototype for a global human rights charter.

“Today I announce that everyone is free to choose their religion. People are free to live in all regions and choose a profession, provided that they never violate the rights of others,” he said.

He also declared, “I would not reign over the people if they did not wish it.”

King Cyrus II is held in great regard in Iran for creating the largest empire of civilized nations then known in the world.

Cyrus the Great was not only a master military strategist, but he also differed from other conquerors of the time due to his tolerance of the customs and cultures of those who came under his rule.

Cyrus the Great 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.

Iranians commemorate this day by gathering at Pasargadae, the tomb of Cyrus the Great, which is located in the Fars province.

Every year, Iranians from all ethnicities — no matter if they are Kurds, Lors, Turks, Arabs or Fars — gather in Pasargad to celebrate Cyrus the Great Day on October 29.

Yet, this year, hundreds of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and plain cloth members of the dreaded secret services were deployed to lay siege Pasargad and prevent any celebration.

All roads and paths leading to Pasargad were closed by riot police on motorcycles. A curfew was imposed on the city and its surrounding areas.

State security forces block the entrance to Pasargad (Photo: Courtesy of author)
State security forces block the entrance to Pasargad (Photo: Courtesy of author)

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

Worried about protests and uprisings against the regime — especially after the uprisings in Iraq and Lebanon — state officials began their suppressive measures a few weeks ago. The measures further escalated in the week leading up to Cyrus the Great day.

Despite all these measures, a show of unity against the regime and in commemoration of Cyrus the Great was indeed on display in different cities.

People held signs reading: “No to Mullahs, No to Ghazagh (Reza Shah), Hail to Cyrus!” and shouted, “We will fight and die, we’ll take back Iran!”

 

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Hassan Mahmoud

Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate specializing in political and economic issues relating to Iran and the Middle East. @hassan_mahmou1

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