Mullahs Tremble as Iran's People Honor Cyrus the Great at Pasargad

This past Oct. 29, Iranians marked 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 not only a master military strategist, he differed from other conquerors of the time in his tolerance of the customs and cultures of those who came under his rule. He 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.

Iranians commemorate this day by gathering at Pasargad, the tomb of Cyrus the Great, which is located in the Fars province. Siasat Rouz, one of the state-run Iranian newspapers said, “The cyberspace is filled with pictures of Cyrus’s tomb and invitations to attend the commemoration ceremony!”

But recognizing Cyrus as a just ruler does not register with Iran’s mullahs, whose own rule compares quite poorly to the ancient Persian king. Terrified of large gatherings and potential protests against the government, the Iranian regime resorted to military exercises on the day Iranians remember Cyrus and increased suppressive activities in different cities in the Fars province, especially regions that surround the Pasargad tomb.

This year, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and state security forces established a virtual military curfew in the surrounding regions.  They blocked all roads that lead to Pasargad and prevented vehicles from going to the site. The Revolutionary Guards distributed an announcement to all vehicles and people who are 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.”

Despite all these measures, large groups of people defied the mullahs and gone to Pasargad to pay their respects to King Cyrus II by foot and vehicle

People from all over the country headed for Pasargad on Friday, Oct. 27, in a show of unity against the regime and in commemoration of Cyrus the Great. Worried about protests and uprisings against the regime, state officials expanded their suppressive measures a few weeks ago in order to prevent any gathering from taking shape. These measures have further escalated in the past week and day.

From sources in Iran, these actions are listed as:

  • Revolutionary Guards, state security forces and plain-clothes agents gathered into the Fars province and controlled the roads and pathways that lead to Pasargad, in order to prevent people from entering the area.
  • Some of these forces are patrolling the area in black vehicles. All of the roads and parking lots surrounding the Pasargad site are swarming with security forces.
  • Revolutionary Guards and state security are patrolling the area with helicopters.
  • Parts of the Isfahan-Shiraz highway has been blocked by Iran’s City and Road Construction Office under the pretext of repairs and maintenance.
  • On Friday, Oct. 27, security forces forced a number of people at Sa’adat Shahr (25 km distance from Pasargad) to leave the city. A number of people were arrested in this area.
  • State security forces set up a long succession of motorcycles to patrol the area, in a bid to cause fear and panic.
  • Between 5,000 and 8,000 anti-riot forces were dispatched to the area.
  • Regime forces made widespread arrests in the past few few days in order to cause fear among people and create the impression that anyone participating in the Cyrus Day event will be convicted of political crimes.
  • Iran’s Revolutionary Guards blocked all roads that lead to the area. State security threatened people who were heading to the area, telling them, “If you’re going to Pasargad, you’re with the Mojahedin (MEK),” referring to the regime’s main opposition group, which has been banned since 1981.
  • Despite the blockade, people found alternative ways through the mountains in order to reach the site. Regime forces have arrested and beaten some of the people who have tried to reach Pasargad through the mountains.

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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