Iran’s regime increasingly fears crises at home undermining its existence. This fear was evident last week as people were preparing to gather in Pasargadae, near Shiraz, southern Iran, the site of the tomb of Cyrus the Great1 to celebrate the anniversary of announcing his declaration known as the Cyrus Cylinder on 29 October. Unsurprisingly, the regime took every measure to prevent the gathering of Iranians in Pasargadae to commemorate Cyrus the Great who wrote the world’s first charter of human rights. Iran’s regime has been condemned by the United Nations year after year for human rights abuses including the execution of minors and suppression of ethnic and religious minorities. Its bleak record includes the execution of 30,000 political prisoners2 in 1988. Last year, a relatively huge crowd gathered, chanting anti-regime slogans such as “Iran is our country, Cyrus is our father” and “clerical rule is synonymous with only tyranny, only war.” This year, the regime issued a number of public warnings to discourage and even frighten the people from going to Pasargadae. The Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and other security forces were on alert in the region and were ready to crack down on the people. However, despite all warnings, a large number of people from all over the country took the risk to go to Pasargadae. The regime closed the main highway and all national roads in the countryside to prevent anyone from reaching the city. As many people tried to reach the city on foot through the mountains, the suppressive forces used helicopters to prevent them from reaching Pasargadae. Despite closing off the whole city, the large participation of people was a humiliating defeat for the regime as a number of gatherings took place on the roads leading to Pasargadae, with people chanting anti-government slogans, including "Death to the principle of Velayat-e-Faqih (supreme religious rule)". A significant aspect of the event was the combination of popular participation and the organized nature of the protest - a fact that was acknowledged by the state-controlled outlet blaming the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK) for its role in organizing the protest.
The regime’s clampdown included:
1- Prior to last Sunday’s “Anniversary of Cyrus the Great” a large number of senior Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), Basij paramilitary force, police and army commanders were dispatched to the site and nearby areas to prevent the formation of any kind of gathering.
They included deputy IRGC chief Hossein Salami; Brigadier General Hossein Nejat, deputy IRGC intelligence chief; Brigadier General Mir Ahmadi, deputy intelligence chief of the Armed Forces Headquarters; Brigadier General Kazemi; Brigadier General Hashem Ghiathi; Brigadier General Kushaki, commander of the “Fajr” Corps in Fars Province; Brigadier General Jazani, Colonel Ali Zolqadri, deputy police chief of Fars Province as well as a large number of IRGC commanders from various provinces were at the scene wearing plainclothes.
All schools, mosques, religious centers, and even home and the office of the Pasargadae’s Friday prayer imam as well as tents erected around the site were occupied by 6000 personnel from IRGC and other forces who had been dispatched from surrounding provinces.
2. In a statement signed by the police, it was absurdly stated that anyone participating in the rally would be subject to Article 610 of the Tazeerat Law (Book 5 of the Criminal Code of the clerical regime in Iran). According to this article, "whenever two or more people gather and collude to commit crimes against the security of the country inside or abroad or to provide means for that, they will be sentenced to two to five years' imprisonment if they ae not considered Mohareb (at war with God)."
3. The Basiji Battalion 302, known as Komeil, in the city of Tabriz, held a combat camp named “Fajr 4” from October 27 to 29. Most of these forces participated in this maneuver with plainclothes.
4. The army was on alert in Fars province and all personnel leaves were canceled.
5. The repressive forces blocked the agricultural lands of the area and deployed armed forces around the villages.
Queue of cars, as long as 20-30 km according to eyewitness reports, trying to get to Pasargadae
6. At some checkpoints, the passengers of cars were asked to sign a written commitment and commit not to go to Pasargadae for up to 24 hours.
7. At the last checkpoint to Pasargadae, the regime closed the road with obstacles similar to large nails, so that no car could traverse.
8. A crackdown took place against locals who helped travelers arriving in Pasargadae.
9. Hossein Shariatmadari, the Supreme Leader’s representative in the state-run Kayhan newspaper, ludicrously wrote, "The supporters in the days of Cyrus were the same forces of Hezbollah today." Shariatmadari, a former IRGC officer, who couldn’t hide his anger at the anti-government slogans, added, "If the participants really were pro-Cyrus and they were true to their claims, they should have chanted the slogan of "Death to America and death to Israel. "