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Why Iranians circumambulate Cyrus' tomb

Unlike previous years, the authorities did not ban this gathering

Published: Updated:

Thousands of Iranians have headed to the tomb where Cyrus the Great, the founder of Achaemenid Empire, is believed to be buried, to commemorate the Day of Cyrus despite not being recognized by any international institution.

They mark the day of Cyrus by performing tawaf, similar to the Islamic ritual of pilgrimage when pilgrims go around the Kaaba. They were set to begin their tawaf on Saturday, but thousands arrived earlier and began to gather on Friday, raising Persian nationalist and anti-Arab banners.



Unlike previous years, the gathering was not banned by the authorities. Analysts believe wasn't banned this year because the Iranian regime needs to mobilize people in favor of its expansion into the Arab world in any way possible. These national gatherings, such as marking the Day of Cyrus, reflect hostility towards Arabs whom Persian nationalists accuse of toppling the last Persian Empire in 651 AD, when Yazdegerd III, the last king of the Sasanian Empire, lost a 14-year struggle to drive out the Rashidun Caliphate, the first Islamic dynasty to rule an Islamic empire.


Following Yazdegerd III's defeat, and unlike the allegations of nationalist Persians, citizens of the Persian Empire, whose majority were non-Persians, converted to Islam. Many of them achieved great success in the fields of religion, sciences, philosophy and Arabic literature. Their significant accomplishments were not because they were smarter than others but because Arab Islamic caliphates allowed everyone to learn and seek education. The Sasanian Empire of Iran had only allowed three categories, the royal family, Zoroastrian clerics and high-ranking army officers, to study.

Most Iranians were Sunnis until the Safavid dynasty reigned and imposed the Shiite sect on everyone in their empires.

The Day of Cyrus in Iran is marketed on social networking websites by claiming that it is the UN which observes it on Oct. 29. However these allegations are untrue, as the day is not recognized by any international organization.