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Cyrus, Proclaimer of Human Rights

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Qasem Akhteh 

There are few people in history of Iran, in particular, and in history of the world, in general, whose deeds and words have served the well-being of humankind regardless of time and place. What is currently covered by human rights such as freedom, equality and other human concepts according to which the rights of ethnic minorities as well as different nations and races are protected has been mentioned for the first time in the form of the law in the human rights declaration of Cyrus the Great.

Most historians and political leaders have either ignored or forgotten this important aspect of the Iranian history, but we are going to explain it so as to serve as a model for the present and future generations. Today, we see that some nations are using those concepts as a political tool to rule other societies, but the Iranians are ignorant of them. More surprisingly, governments that resort to those concepts do not really believe in them, but are using them to incriminate the very person who has presented them.

Most rulers of the world demonstrated cruel behavior and committed innumerable crimes when they conquered a new land. Examples include Alexander, Pharaoh, Crassus, Genghis or Tamerlane who destroyed the Iranian culture and civilization to satisfy their internal complexes. At the same time, all historians, including Iranian, Western and Arab, have appreciated the humanitarian conduct of Cyrus.

Xenophon, Herodotus, Plutarch, Plato, Achilles… among ancient historians as well as Harold Lamb, Albert Chandorf, Joseph Kenneth de Gubino, Hegel, Diakonov and many other scholars among modern historians have attested to this. Plato has described Cyrus as an honorable commander who had built an advanced nation. Emerson (a writer) has noted that all human beings will be delighted at crowning of such kings. Xenophon has stated that most people had only heard his name, but wished that Cyrus was their king. Griesmann has noted about Cyrus that God likes such people and they are kings from the birth. Diodore has also appreciated Cyrus as excelling his contemporaries in terms of qualifications and moral values.

Cyrus was the first person to take advantage of modern concepts of political sciences, that is, tolerance and lenience to run his country. If we consider politics as the science of using power in all times and places or the art of ruling others, then this aspect of politics is evident in the conduct of Cyrus as the first proclaimer of human rights.

Xenophon, the Greek historian and military commander who was close to the time of Cyrus and very much attracted to his personality, has appreciated his behavior as a good model for future kings. He writes, “He pursued a loftier and sacred goal all through his life. Cyrus loved humanity, promoted knowledge and freedom, enjoyed firm determination and managed to attract hearts of people.”

The important issue which has depicted Cyrus as a top commander, victorious king, promoter of justice, a prominent politician and harbinger of peace and friendship is his positive political and moral conduct.

Despite his predecessors, Cyrus did not seek to establish security in Iran at the cost of destroying other nations and taking their people into captivity, but recognized their rights as free people and abolished slavery.

Cyrus based real security on groundwork of social tolerance and respect for the rights of peoples and nations as well as the beliefs of enslaved human beings. It has been said about grandeur of Cyrus that the entire ancient world looked upon him as an extraordinary and unique man. Persians, who had helped Cyrus to kinghood, called him “father” and the Greek, looked upon him as an ideal king, though they had been defeated by him.

Herodotus, the renowned historian of ancient Greece, has noted that Iranians always remembered his mild manners and he was famous among them. It was for this reason that people were always thankful to founder of the Achaemenid dynasty.

Some characteristics of Cyrus, which made him one of the biggest and most prominent figures of ancient times and have continued into the present time, include: the power to make instantaneous decisions at the time of war, highly intelligent in fulfilling his duties, and his high ability in getting those he needed to help him. He was also characterized by patience and tolerance, forgiveness for friend and enemy, and mercy for the poor and the rich.

The conduct of Cyrus brought him global acclaim in the ancient world and even in the modern West. As put by Murray,

Cyrus has become an eternal figure in Western tradition because he emancipated enslaved Jews and let them rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. His successors, especially Darius the Great (522-486 B.C.), built the biggest ancient empire of the world on the foundation that he worked out. The empire extended from Aegean Sea up to India and from Saudi Arabia to Caucasus.

The charter of Cyrus was written on a clay column and shown to people upon conquest of Babylon. The points mentioned in his charter are so surprising and interesting that they have made the essence of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. More interestingly, no poem has been considered more suitable to be written at the head of UN Headquarters than the following poem by the Iranian world-famous poem, Saadi:

“The Sons of Adam are members of the same body
Because they share the same essence in creation
When a body part is in pain
Other parts cannot rest in peace.”

Cyrus had noted in his declaration, “Now that I have become the king of Iran and Babylon and neighboring lands with the help of Ahura Mazda, I announce that as long as I am alive and God has made me king, I will never humiliate customs of peoples whom I rule. I will respect all of them and those who obey me should do the same…. I will never impose my rule over any nation and every nation is free to call me its king or not and I will never fight to become their king. I will allow nobody to do injustice to others or to insult them. In that case, I will punish the wrongdoers and restore the rights of the wronged ones. I will never allow anybody be taken into slavery. Everybody who believes in a religion may choose a point to settle in provided that they won’t infringe upon the rights of others. Jews will be respected and will be free to choose their living place. Everybody would be held accountable for what they do and they will be punished or rewarded according to the power of selection and informed choice that they have…. I will allow no man to enslave or sell a woman…. I ask God to help me succeed….”

The charter has had 45 articles but some of them have been eroded in the course of time or destroyed through neglect of various people. However, the remaining articles have a lot to tell us. Nobody else has been able or willing to enact and enforce such a meaningful law in the ancient history of man.

طراحی و توسعه آگاه‌سیستم