By The Free Iranian Staff
October 29th of every year has been celebrated by Iranians worldwide for some decades now as Cyrus the Great Day, in honor of the memory of the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, the first Persian Empire, on the anniversary of his capture of the city of Babylon in 539 B.C. After that event, Cyrus then proclaimed what the United Nations has described as the first charter of human rights in the world. Celebrating Cyrus’s legacy thus serves as a powerful way for Iranians to display their patriotism and pride in their cultural heritage.
Cyrus the Great Day has also been a day of political protests in the past, for Iranians to show their hatred for an Islamic regime that has tried to erase Iranian history and culture for forty years. In 2016, a large crowd spontaneously assembled at Cyrus’s mausoleum in Pasargadae, Fars Province, which the Ayatollah Khomeini had wanted to destroy after taking power in 1979, shouting patriotic chants and calling for the return of the Iranian monarchy.
Those demonstrations shook the regime, which considers the memory of Cyrus to be, as Grand Ayatollah Hossein Nouri Hamedani described it, “counter-revolutionary.” This year, to prevent such a reoccurrence, the regime’s security forces have closed and blocked all the roads leading to Pasargadae, enforcing a strict ban on any commemorations of Cyrus.
Security forces in Iran have closed major routes leading to historic Pasargadae, the site of Cyrus the Great’s tomb to prevent gatherings of people to mark the annual commemoration of the 1st king of Persian Empire.
Footage shows the security atmosphere on Pasargadae road.? https://t.co/eOgHWmtQAv
— Violet (@Daffodil27) October 29, 2019
A number of activists were also arrested on charges of organizing Cyrus the Great Day festivities. The Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) reported that Haniyeh Daemi, the sister of human rights advocate and political prisoner Atena Daemi, Bahman Ahmadi Amoui, a journalist and former political prisoner, and Mohammad Hossein Aghasi, an attorney, were arrested in Tehran on claims of planning a demonstration to honor Cyrus the Great. Amoui later revealed over social media, after his release on bail, that he and the others were forced by the police to sign a pledge stating that they would not attend or hold any special events for Cyrus the Great Day. Other Iranian activists are said to have been forced to sign the same pledge.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, however, Tweeted in support of the Iranians who were not allowed to celebrate Cyrus the Great Day, while also mentioning the influence that Cyrus’s ideas of individual rights had had on the American Founding Fathers.
Today in 539 BC, Cyrus the Great entered Babylon and freed the Jewish people from captivity. His respect for human rights and religious freedom inspired America’s founding fathers. The U.S. stands with the Iranian people, who are blocked by the regime from celebrating his legacy.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) October 29, 2019