Interview with Abbas Raisi Bidgoli, Author of Memories about Martyr Hossein-Ali Fakhri

An Interviewer without Question is like an Unarmed Soldier

Faezeh Sasanikhah
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi


Abbas Raisi Bidgoli, one of Sacred Defense fighters, is working a few years on memory writing in field of Sacred Defense. "Amo (Uncle) Hossein", includes memories of martyr Hossein-Ali Fakhri which was released into the market in 2016, is his first work. Publishing the book became an excuse in order to Oral History Website interview with him. Result of interview with Abbas Raisi Bidgoli is memory writers and enthusiasts of memory writing to be more familiar with his method in writing the book and other his works that are writing and publishing.


When did you start memory writing in field of Sacred Defense?

I started writing memories since seven years ago. However, before that, I also wrote about different subjects in field of Sacred Defense. 1984 I wrote biography of martyr Hossein Mokhtasi, who we were together two years in the front, in a volume of about twenty to thirty pages and gave it to his sister and was published in a journal. Fortunately, in the Journal was not a name I me. We, fighters, do not want to be too known and shown, but the remark of Supreme Leader, that today keeping alive memory of martyrs is not less than martyrdom, led me into writing in field of Sacred Defense. However, starting the activity was because of a dream. I was at the front from spring 1982 to February 1989. When the war was over in 1989 and came back my city (Aran Va Bidgol), I was invited to telling my memories among pupils, students and ordinary people. We went from Kashan to Arvandkenar in Abadan with a convoy included eight buses people in 1389 SH (2010) and there I remembered my memories of martyrs like Haj Hossein Kharrazi and Ahmad Kazemi. At the same night, I dreamed that one other soldier, whose name was Abbas, and I were together and a young guard sat behind a desk and a laptop in front of him. Haj Ahmad Kazemi, who had martyred a few years ago, came in; we said hello and greeted each other. Haj Ahmad was very happy and smiling. I told him: "What's Haj Agha? Fancy meeting you here!" Haj Ahmad replied: "I came to see you", I was very happy. He asked me: "You were studying in Tehran University, did you continue MA too?" I said, "No Haj Agha! I participated in MA exam, but IRGC did not agree. Haj Ahmad ordered a Pasdar (guard) sitting behind desk: "Write an introduction letter that according to it Abbas go to university for MA degree!", then I woke up. The dream had busied my mind for three months and I thank about its interpretation. After three months I said myself, "Imam Khomeini said University is front and I was in front." When I was at Tehran University, I was at BA and Haj Ahmad Kazemi educated for MA. We educated in a same major and each week we talked together for a short time. I decided realize Haj Ahmad recommend through entering area of writing in field of Sacred Defense. I wrote my diary in three years; then I met Morteza Sarhangi in book fair in April 2013 and I talked him about my memories. He told I send him my memories. After reading memories, he guided me what to do. Dear experts in Office of Sustainability Studies and Culture in provincial affairs of Hozeh Honari, Mr. Mohammed Ghasemipour and Sasan Nateq, Ms. Qasemi and one of other experts studied the text and expressed their comments. Work of the memories lasted two or three years and they asked me to tell untold words; for example I hadn't written anything on my marriage during the war, nothing about my injure in the hospital, of vacations, laughs and jokes. Under guidance of experts, I added these cases and in four/five steps, I rewrote my memories.

During this time I participated in workshops. After some times participation in the meetings Mr. Sarhangi told me: buy a small tape recorder and as you wrote your own memories, interview with another fighter and write his memories." After his suggestion, I started interview with one of my comrades named Hossein Assarian, alongside reforming my own memories. Assarian work lasted nearly two years. Sometimes I did my own work for three months and after that I gave it to the experts, I continued the interview.



Writing memoir has some problems, for example, because the narrator knows some subjects he/she thinks the audience also knows, so he/she does not scrutinize them enough. Some points to be neglected or narrator do self-censorship and extreme highlighting himself or get in trouble due to words, and these damage works. How did you manage these issues that your memories to be immune from these damages?

I was involved in the problems too. My memory book is 350 pages, if I was interviewed, it was approached 700 pages. But when I started writing my memories, I was not thinking about publishing them in form of book. The spark for making them book was after visiting Morteza Sarhangi. Frankly I did not like present and show myself. Even now that I am talking with you I'm reluctant and I do not want to show myself, but anyway it happened.


When did you start memoirs of martyr Hossein-Ali Fakhri[1] or Amo Hossein-Ali?

February 2013 I wanted one of my friends, a university professor, to entrust me writing memories of this martyr. I knew the martyr. He was my father's old neighbor and was at his age and he was officer of logistics in our battalion at the front. My friend agreed and I started the work. At first I wrote my own memories of him and then shared it with his family, who were very happy. Martyr Hossein-Ali Fakhri that we told him Amo Hossein-Ali was dispatched the front in 1983. The martyr had eleven children. At first, I interviewed with his wife and two sons. According to my plan, I began with the martyr photo gallery and found narrators through photo gallery and I asked, what is kinship of the person who is next to Amo Hossein-Ali in the photo? Then I took call number of that person. In fact, in every house that I went for an interview, I pleased at the end of interview to bring for me his/her photo album. In addition to identifying new people, I borrowed martyr's photos, scanned them, and again I came it back owner of photo. Some were from Kashan and some from Esfahan. It did not matter. I spoke persons on the phone and explained him the plan. Then I let him one to two weeks to think and take notes for interview. After that I made an appointment for interview.


Did interviewees easily cooperate? If they refuse to cooperate, how would you negotiate?

I negotiated with 200 persons in the work. But at the end 52 interviews were published. I arranged with them the interview appointment through telephone or in-person contact like going to a party, mosque, confraternity and their workplace in Isfahan, Aran Va Bidgol and Kashan and I had always my notes with myself. If necessary I went with my laptop. I treated them humbly. I talked with those who weren't agree for interview and told some statements of Supreme Leader like these "today, keeping memory of martyrs is not less valued than martyrdom and the war memories are endless treasures for descendants. However, some people refused and said next week, two next weeks and three next weeks, and delayed it. One of these was someone who we were together at the front. I saw him early months in a mosque. He narrated his memory in two minutes. At that time I had no tape recorder and paper. I asked him to make an appointment for next week and we met each other over a year and half several times, but he did not agree for interview. Someone else wasn’t agree to interview for six months. I convinced him with a special technique. He said, "I do not remember anything. I believe what you write." I told," I want to introduce the martyr based your view and by your name." he was older than me. One day I said him, "Come to our house and see what I have done." We make an appointment. I turned on the laptop and read memories of other people about that martyr in forty minutes, at the same time the recorder was also on. But he did not know. Once he was close to tears and said: "Mr. Abbas, if I tell, will you remember them later to write?" I said, "Yes." Then while he was crying narrated his memories in twenty minutes and repeated several times that "will you remember these words?" after publishing the book he was very happy and prayed me.

Every week I coordinated with a number of people for interview and surely I did one or two interviews and remained days of the week for setting down and arranging the interviews and consulted with others. Some weeks I hadn't any progress anyway and people weren't agreed for interview, I visited martyr tomb and wanted him to help me.


How did you separate collected data?

I was searching for narrating martyr performance in the front. I started by the questions, "what time are you familiar with this martyr?", "how was his behavior in your first meet?", "how did he treat you when he brought food for you in the front?" Because Amo Hossein was officer of battalion's logistics, I wanted to know how was his behavior when a typical soldier went to his room? I asked them did you see any incident that logistics car was hit by bullets or mortar? Some talked for half an hour, during time I was searching for usable memory. Praise is good, but that characteristic or admiration should be explained by an example. In fact, I had 60 interviews that 52 interviews were usable. Another thing that I did was verifying. Every memory that I set it down, I got help of other friend's memory that whether such narration that one narrated had happened in that area and time? Of course I didn't tell the narrator that I verify his narration. That's why I put aside some memories and didn't publish. For example, in my opinion fasting in battlefield is not a narrative to be cited; because commanders did not allow their troops to fast. I was seven years at the front. I was twenty days in the front in Ramadan. During Jihad you are traveler and travelers cannot fast. For fasting we had to get permission of commander of Imam Hossein (AS) Division. Our commander Haj Hossein Kharazi did not allow his forces to intent and fast. During years that I was in the front I fast three days by permission of martyr Kharazi. It was important in terms of safety and the enemy wouldn't be aware that the division stay here and it had to assume that maybe the division to leave here. So if one narrator told me that I saw some fast and Amo Hossein-Ali brought breakfast for him, this narrative is faulty. I don't say he lies but it is not usable.


You did not start memories of martyr Hossein-Ali Fakhri form his childhood and the first memory was told by his wife. Did you want quickly address war memories or it is also related to your interaction with the subject?

My plan was to start form Amo Hossein-Ali's childhood, but since peers of martyr Fakhri were all old men, it was difficult. One of them was my father who is 82. I talked a few of them. But memories were for fifteenth age that they played together and went mosque. I took memories of martyr's sister too, but I did not find resources of before fifteenth age. Because of this, memories of the martyr were started twenty years lately.


Your book feature is using simultaneously photos and text, unlike a lot of books that photos are located at the end of book. Was this model your suggestion or experts?

Shahid Kazemi Publications (the book publisher) offered. I also had a glance at the subject. During interviews for making interviewees active I used photos. In the book, I also wanted readers to see them on the same page that they had narrated their memories.



Do you know at first that you progress memory by memory or later you decided?

I had several models, but this was the easiest way. I read different books and I came to a conclusion. I resulted in several methods in all studies; one of them was segmentation, another was that I do all interviews and then give them someone to write an incessant narration. I chose the first method.


You experienced three kinds of work in memory writing: write about yourself, about martyrs and people who are alive. Which one is more difficult?

Writing about martyrs needs more expertise than others because martyr does not speak with you, and you have to search for books and resources related to him. But the fighter is in front of you, and I open his speech through my experience of the war. Writing about yourself is also hard; at first, you constantly struggle with yourself, is this panache or not? Put it aside or not? Is it for God or self? After that you get in trouble with words and the original point to be forgotten, but in an interview with a fighter, if you're skillful, you can easily encourage him to express his memoirs.


Are you working now on a new one?

I did an interview 22 hours with a veteran fighter who left his foot in the front named Mohammad Karimzadeh Fini In 2016. I presented his memories from childhood to Revolution, going to the front, injury in Talayeh and after that and gave it Isfahan's Hozeh Honari. Another plan is on another fighter who like me was about 80 months in the front and now is active in cultural field; 25 hours of the interview was done but due to sickness and then death of the narrator's father, the work was stopped one year. It was decided to restart the interview soon.


Is your selection based on previous kinship with topics or did you become accidentally familiar with people whom you addressed their memories?

So far I have worked with people according to previous familiarity because I can interact with them. For example, Mr. Assarian and I were together in many places. So in an interview, we get each other hands and go forward; bulwark by bulwark, region by region, and operation by operation, we progress according to our schedule.
One of professor says one who wants to interview must enter interview session with a question. If he enters interview without any question he is like an unarmed soldier. I often have interviewed with a militant that in variety of operations in different areas run side by side, whenever he cannot continue I have a ready question and ask it. Because of my knowledge about geography of the fronts and operations and my narratives in last 28 years, I have the capacity to ask questions.


In fact, you start interview purposefully and consciously, but firstly you let narrator to express his memoirs and if necessary, you guide him.
  Yes. It is true. Sometimes he has memory, but does not know name of the region. I say name of the region. When I feel some information is not exact, I stop interview and bring correct data in terms of my calendar that operations and areas names have been written in it and help him in next meeting.


So library researches are one of essential tools for your work?

Yes. Over the years, I have studied most of memory books of Sooreh Mehr Publication and some other publishers, but in writing books, I have used my own cognitive and knowledge capacity of the fronts.


What is your assessment of state of memory writing in Aran Va Bidgol? Are you in touch with a special institution or group?

Yes. There are several groups. For example, Rahrovane Vessal Group that my comrades like Mr. Karimshahi guide them. I speak with some of them and tell features of writing. They have published seven to eight books about martyrs, but they have been written very short. Mother, sister, brother and a fighter have narrated their memories about that martyr, but the battlefield has not been described. Other books have been published too that are in 50 to 100 pages, but the interviews didn't consider various aspects of martyr life.


How is situation of work with publishers?

Working with Shahid Kazemi Publication was good, but my memory book has not yet been published in Sooreh Mehr Publication. If I want to publish my book it is because of that there are 18000 fighters in our city who have not told their memories. If my book to be published, it would encourage other fighters and it is a good development there and it is a positive start point for Kashan. Many friends say what happened for your book that was going to be published?

Thanks for dedicating your time to Iranian Oral History Website.

[1] Oje Bandegi (highest point of bondage) 5; a glance at life and utmost bondage of kind father of fighters, great martyr, Hossein-Ali Fakhri, interviewed and compiled by: Abbas Raisi Bidgoli, Shahid Kazemi Publication, 2016, 356 pp.

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