Saturday, August 27, 2016

Persian Letters

Historic Cyrus Cylinder Called 'A Stranger In Its Own Home'

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad examines the Cyrus Cylinder at the National Museum in Tehran.
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad examines the Cyrus Cylinder at the National Museum in Tehran.
Iran’s President Mahmud Ahmadinejad on Sunday attended the unveiling in Tehran of the Cyrus Cylinder, which is on loan from the British Museum. The cylinder dates from the 6th Century BC and is thought by many to be the first charter of human rights. It will be on public display for four months.

The unveiling took place at a ceremony at Iran’s National Museum that was turned into a platform for Ahmadinejad and his controversial chief of staff Esfandiari Rahim Mashaei to promote their brand of religious nationalism. (Read here for more about the recent attempt by Ahmadinejad to promote new religious nationalism and hard-liners' reaction to it.)

The ceremony -- during which Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire, was described by Ahmadinejad as the King of the World and Mashaei suggested that the ideas and status of the ancient Iranian king were like those of the prophets -- was highly unusual in the Islamic republic, where in the past 30 years there's been a decided lack of interest in the country’s pre-Islamic past.

The Cyrus Cylinder
At Sunday's ceremony, which was reportedly attended by a number of Iranian officials and foreign dignitaries, there was an obvious attempt to connect Iran's ancient past with some of its current history. (For pictures of the ceremony, click here.) Ahmadinejad was apparently trying to appeal to a new constituency among nonpolitical types and tap into discontent with the clerical establishment, while at the same time trying to keep his hard-line supporters happy.

During the event, the Iranian president put a keffiyeh, which is part of the uniform of the pro-government Basij militia, around the neck of a man dressed as Cyrus the Great. In a dispatch titled “Cyrus The Great Becomes A Basij Member,” the hard-line Fars news agency wrote that when Ahmadinejad decorated "Cyrus the Great" with the black-and-white keffiyeh, all the foreign ambassadors and other guests present at the ceremony stood up.

Two men, one dressed as an Achaemenid soldier and the other as a member of the Basij, were also honored by Ahmadinejad with keffiyehs, described by official news agencies as “the symbol of the resistance and honor of the Iranian people."

The move was criticized by some Iranians, who said it was ‘insulting," "humiliating,” and  “painful" to watch.

Blogger Enteghad (Criticism) questioned the move. "Why is Cyrus the Great, the symbol of Iran, being decorated with the symbol of another country -- Palestine?" asked the blogger.

Another blogger, Andishe, was also angered by the “insulting and unwise” move, saying, “How can one mix two very different symbols that go against each other? Keffiyeh is the symbol of bloodshed, war, and terrorism in Palestine and Lebanon. Keffiyeh is the symbol of the Palestinians. Look at what Cyrus the Great and the Iranian civilization have to say and look at what Ahmadinejad and Velayar Faghih (the rule of the Supreme Jurist) have to say.”

Others were outraged that Ahmadinejad, internationally criticized for human rights abuses in Iran, praised the cylinder as the embodiment of human values.

"The Cyrus Cylinder represents respect for human beings' greatness and basic rights," he said. The cylinder, he said, emphasizes that everyone is entitled to freedom of thought and choice and also underscores the necessity to fight oppression.

The opposition Jaras website reacted by calling the cylinder "a stranger in its own home" and writing that Cyrus the Great has the right to be shocked to hear Ahmadinejad saying that "Cyrus said that every nation is free to accept me as their leader or not.” The opposition accuses Ahmadinejad of massive fraud in last year’s presidential vote.

The Cyrus Cylinder is on loan to Iran by the British Museum in London after a dispute in which Iran threatened to cut ties with the institution. The cylinder was last in Iran in October 1971.

Iran’s hard-line daily “Kayhan” suggested over the weekend that Iran should keep the cylinder and not return it to the “thieves."

"There is an important question: Doesn’t the cylinder belong to Iran? And hasn’t the British government stolen precious ancient artifacts from our country? If the answers to these questions are positive, then why should we return this stolen historical and valuable work to the thieves?!”

-- Golnaz Esfandiari
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Hamik C Gregory from: Reno, NV USA
September 14, 2010 14:17
The Cyrus Cylinder is not "a stranger in its own home" because the Iranians in Iran are unwilling to forget their glorious Zoroasterian past. It is only a stranger in a human rights sense which looks frouningly upon the Islamic Republic political system. For as long as the cylinder is in Iran, Cyrus the Great will be vicariously admonishing the leadership in Iran to “Let my people be free”.

by: Hamik C Gregory from: Reno, NV USA
September 15, 2010 17:57
This is what God is saying about Cyrus the Great in the Hebrew Bible!
“ Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut ;
I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron:
And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel”.
“… I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.
I have raised him[Cyrus] up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city [Jerusalem], and he shall let go my captives [The Jews of the Babylonian captivity], not for price nor reward, saith the Lord of hosts”. Isaiah 45: 1-3, 12-13.
There are many instances where the Persian kings and the Persians are mentioned in the Bible. Read them carefully. They are very moving!

by: usa from: Billy Bob Pendelshire
September 16, 2010 02:56
...and by "a new constituency", we refer to the new Persian friendship with Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Moving along nationalist lines, making a nationalist appeal. Tomorrow, when he wants Iraqi friendship, he will talk up some Shi'a symbols.

Not a bad thing, not really. To me, this shows Iran is retracting from its adventures into more traditional alliances. I think the Turkish flotilla scared the hell out of them.

by: Anonymous
September 16, 2010 15:41
Ahmaghinejad shouldn't even be allowed to go near the cylinder! it is indeed painful to watch.

by: Amir Ali from: Guildford, England
September 19, 2010 12:59
Mahmood Ahmadinejad has honoured Korosh-e-Kabir (Cyrus the Great) The cirlce of Iranian leadership is complete.

Ahmadinejad's actions towards the Korosh cylinder symbolises the connection to Iran's Achaemenid dynasty. This is a historic moment where the present strong righteous fighting government of Iran has officially established a link to their ancient Achaemenid leadership.

Before a viewer or this typical Nordic (Western) news website which feeds the Nordic agenda criticises me of my views, know this, I am not concerned.

1. It was the courageous AHMADINEJAD who stood up to the shameful US Hollywood for creating monsters from the Fars (Persians) in the theatrical cartoon '300'. Where was your Radio Free liberty BEFORE he made his defensive statements? Where was your VOA?

2. I hope Iranians and other West Asians (Middle Easterners, Central Asians and South Asians) are enlightened or they can continue to follow the distortion and misinformation of the West.

3. Know this: Iranians, whether they were the Fars (Persian), Turk, Kurd, ... have always stood for peace and justice in our region. So if we were the leaders in voicing and acting on the protection of the Jewish people and Assyrians in Babel (Babylon, present Iraq) it is not uncommon the we are acting as the same protectors of the people of our region. Only now, we voice and act on the Palestinian people AND the Jewish people in the Zionist occupied Palestine (Israel), Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Armenia and Pakistan.

Throughout history Iran's role has been absolute as the guardians of our region. Just look at the Seljuk dynasty of Iran. They were the first dynasty to fight the murdering invading Western Crusaders and they beat them and deported them.

If you like to be more informed and aware about misinformation you can contact me and I can direct you to a whole list of interesting articles which reveal the truth and expose misinformation OR you can go to

My email is amir_surrey'at'
In Response

by: Hamik C Gregory from: Reno, NV USA
September 29, 2010 14:40
Mr. Amir Ali-may be you have a Pakistani name or may be not. The Achaemenian Persians did not give us a “leadership”. They gave us Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great. At the mean time, eat your heart out! There will never be a President Ahmadinejad the Great or a Shia Jurisconsult Khamenei the Great. A just Shia Islamic political system can be established only after Emam-e Zaman, Emam Mehdi, inaugurates his age on our planet. A just Islamic Republic can not be established before the above mentioned significant event. Out of respect for Emam Khomeini, the distinguished Shia theologians in Quom and Mashhad do not accuse the regime in Tehran of fraud. They keep a dignified scholarly silence because the government in Tehran does not deserve any justified attention.
In Response

by: Hamik C Gregory from: Reno, NV USA
September 29, 2010 15:11
By the way, the focus of the Iranian regime should be the Iranian oppressed instead of the Palestinian oppressed whose incompetent leadership gladly accepts the Iranian petro-dollars but surreptitiously encourages Saddam Hussein’s beloved Palestinians to call The Persian Gulf the Arabian Gulf.
We know one thing for sure! If the British and Americans were developing the oil fields in southern Iran, they would have never given one cent of the Iranian money to the Palestinians. We are talking about a group of Muslim Arabs who did not shed tears for thousand of martyred Iranians who were being killed by Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons.

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Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.

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