Analyzing Situation of Oral History and Memories of Sacred Defense

Talk about the Most Popular Part of History

Faeze Sassanikhah
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi


According to Oral History Website of Iran, the professional meeting of situation of Sacred Defense's memories in cultural, social perspectives and various fields of Islamic civilizing was held in presence of Hedayatollah Behboodi, Seyyed Mohammad Mirkazemi, Amir-Shahriar Aminian, Mohammad-Reza Kaeini and Nosratollah Samadzadeh in Fars News Agency on Tuesday, August 29, 2017.


Functions of studying Sacred Defense memories in society

At the meeting, Seyyed Mohammad Mirkazemi, who was responsible for administration and holding the session, at the same time referring to be costly collecting and recording of the memoirs, he said: once we calculated costs of collection, implementation, and compilation of memories, we found out that for an hour interview with a narrator, recording, implementation and adjustment of that person's memory, about 10 million Rials to be paid. Most of producing the sacred defense memories is done in government or government-supported centers. What is advantage of numerous costs, using expert and semi-professional people, and all the time which has been consumed for recording memories of the revolution and the war? Has the measure only an archival function? Or is a brief distribution in form of book or through other media? Or are we going to do more tasks through this large and costly collection?

I studied during the time that the subject was predicted, and I saw the subject has not been addressed much. When I refer to functions of oral history and oral memoirs, I saw various functions has been regarded for the subject, but it has not been paid attention much to the part that whether we can refer to memories in social, cultural, and even political and economic and …. plannings. I hope that a door will be open by planners of the country in all areas in relation to studying memories of the sacred defense and using its experiences in Islamic civilizing which is one of the most important issues. Have been a place predicted for using memories in constructing the Islamic system, government, or civilization?


Need to spend for collecting and recording memories

Hedayatollah Behboodi, author and researcher of history and founder of office of Islamic Revolutionary literature of Hozeh Honari, started his lecture with two examples and stated: "The central bank is not tired of purchasing and accumulation of gold. Building a dam for saving water is not a futility. Downstream lands may not be prepared for planting, but it is not fault of the one who had built the dam. Other people should prepare the lands for planting. In work of memories and oral history what is most to be evaluated is not production part, but part of using content production. Expenditure to collect memories is an obvious and necessary issue. No country, government or power don't permitted itself to not protect and enjoy these resources, so costs, while sometimes were accompanied by trial and error and non-saving, are, on the other hand, necessary and essential.


Place of oral history among historiography documentations

Mohammad-Reza Kaeini, author and researcher of history, another speaker of the meeting, expressing his agreement with remarks of Hedayatollah Behboodi, told: Everything that is spent on oral history and obtaining it, although faced with failures, problems, injuries and pests, but is necessary and even working in this area seems little. Sometimes I receive a cassette of a person's memories which is for ten, twenty years ago. While the interview is unprofessional and questions are not study-oriented, and the person who is interviewed is aging and being forgetful, but I would be happy heartily, because it creates a connection with that person and his/her time. Therefore, in providing memories any cost is benefit and its losses and problems should be ignored. Of course, the damage should be reduced, and optimize in this regard.

He continued: oral history is not in the first category of historiography documentations. That is, written and visual documents are preceded in oral history. Of course, the documents could be fake, fragmented and incomplete, but they are more successful in representing the truth than memories which are much likely to be defective, error and forgetfulness. So, in ranking I prefer to refer first to written and visual documents, but in all areas it is not possible to access these documents. It is not possible to record a written and visual document in unexpected events. Here you have to use memories of those who were present at the event. Here oral history presents us itself and shows some parts of history. How should we use this oral history treasure? How do we identify opposite, contradictory and false news which are result of error or forgetfulness, environment or negligence and how to use this source? In this case, I recommend method of Usulis in quoting news. Using the same way that Usulis have in face of past news could be resolving. Usul is science of studying and concluding from quotations, and many parts of it like Khabar-e Vahed (unique narration), Hojiat-e Khabar-e Vahed (rationality of unique narration), Khabar-e Motavater (repeated narration) and such these can empower us in historical arena. Sometimes some news which is heart we see how much making stories and rumors surround us which are due to wrong quotations. When orals in real sense come to our history and politics, it may have different effects.


Impact of orals on historiography of the revolution

Kaeini then noted about influence of orals on historiography of Islamic Revolution and stated: I believe that there still not stream a strong and deserved wave in Revolution historiography that could use oral history properly. We do not have a proper and principally historiography in history of Islamic revolution, and Isra'iliyyat that sometimes to be heart is due to vacancy of this arena. I do not deny the work that has been done sporadic and in capacity of taste, capabilities, and personal interests of the researchers, but the fact is that we do not have a coherent, neutral historiography based on values ​​and necessities of this field. In this context, speaking about oral history is somehow difficult. Oral history is supposed to be in service of historiography. Many of events of Islamic Revolution history have not yet been written, and our historiography, in different kinds including written and visual, has not been organized at all. That's why when family of martyrs of Hafte Tir (June 28) meet the leader after 36 years, he says we still do not have a film on the event!

He emphasized that principle of extracting these memories is a good thing, but their output requires formation of proper stream and based on standards of Revolution historiography, and as long as we do not have the stream, we couldn't expect miracle from oral history.


Importance of penetration ratio of memories in society

In continuance, Amir-Shahriar Aminian addressed role of memories in modern Islamic civilizing and said: "I am glad that we entered a conceptual discussion in field of Sacred Defense memories. In civilization areas and in form of nations and tribes, we basically can say, with a genealogical view, that role of memories is unique. One of reasons for this important role is penetration ratio in society. The last ring that becomes civilizer is society. Civilization is result of equivalency and desired ratio of elements of culture, politics, industry, science and art. When this equivalency and balance is going to be formed, a set of tools and concepts would help.

The researcher added: "topic of memories of the sacred defense, nearly with a distance from memories that have been taken place in context of Islamic Revolution, contains various teachings and practices in transmitting lifestyles. These memories may be autobiography or biography, and as we move toward biography, naturally, their credibility changes, but they can, in general, aware society from behaviors that they themselves experienced in a historical period. Whatever the teachings that give information to the society through memories have a greater penetration ratio in society, lead the society more towards that top period of history which perhaps its civilization elements were equilibrium and balanced. From this perspective, memories of the sacred defense have a privilege and special place; because in these memories aspects of attitude or individual experiences and approaches have great importance. Many of the topics that part of them are of social and ethical behaviors and approaches, and a part is related to fields of science, technology and making creative, were as a special experience in that area; an experience that occurs rarely in a country over time. In this regard, investing in rehabilitation, reproduction them in form of written works and other relics is a lasting, useful and unprofitable investment.


The amount of using the sacred defense experiences

In continuance of expert meeting of place of Sacred Defense memories in cultural, social perspective, and various spheres of Islamic civilizing, Mirkazemi puts forward another issue in this area and presented the new issue with this question: Has the boycott disposed today, or since beginning of the revolution there have been experiences in this field? Do those who are considering a solution to boycott refer to our past memories and experiences? Does our planning system refer to archives and resources sufficiently or don't consider their selves in need of referring them?



Hedayatollah Behboodi answered the question, "One of our problems is that we may not accustomed to placing a brick on past bricks, and we always after undertaking a post have wanted to brick. The first volume of memoir of Mohsen Rafiqdost includes narrative of a kind of crisis management during the war and shows how he and his colleagues managed the war during the boycott. This is an experience and others can use it, but is it possible to oblige someone to read this book?

The writer and researcher then continued about place of memory after the Islamic revolution and stated: "After Islamic Revolution, memory is one of the most important cultural heritages of this country. We did not resort to anything more than memory for output of two major incidents, Islamic Revolution and the war. An event that is unique in Iranian history. Have a look at important events of contemporary history in your mind and see if there is this amount of telling and writing around them? I remember this as a memory-writing movement. After the revolution a movement was created. The reason of this was people who wanted to talk themselves about what they acquired and preserved and keep it, and from this perspective, memory got a special place. So we have to see it with respect. Memory is the softest and most popular part of history that contacts with society. History is a hard, insipid and grumpy phenomenon, but memory, which is one of ingredients of construction of history, reconciles society, and this opportunity should be used, as it has been used up to now. People welcome memory very well and we had many successes in this field and it could be find out through number of publishing books.

Behboodi said: We do not have power to continue life without historical memory. If memory can create a part of historical memory and keeps it, why we don't use it? So our problem is in area of memory penetration in society. One of the most common wrong questions which is asked in cultural events is that why book study per capita in our country is low? Why should a society which is in crisis and boycott to read book? Everything should be concurred so that the event would occur in society. Mental relaxation, economics, and other conditions must be provided so that cultural improvement to be resulted and percentage of studying to be increased too.

He added: literary function of memories that appeared after the revolution was that it put his weak shoulders under burden of literary problems and could load part of literary duties of the country with its prestige and completed it to some extent. We are not a society that has taken great and massive steps in terms of literary productions, but memories could change tastes of the people and provided it.

Mirkazemi also talked about place of memories and way of using them, "I do not think that cultural commission of Majles or Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution, which its enactments like enactments of Majles are irrevocable, and other influential institutions in research, social and educational fields and… be much interested in studying memories or inviting narrators. Undoubtedly interview with those who could manage, empty-handed, eight years of the war in social, economic and cultural spheres will create more motivation. When narrators know that their memories can be used, they would sit faster and with more motivation in interview table.


Ways to face with distortions in memories and oral history

Mirkazemi spoke on another topic and stated: Some say that the revolution is revolution when it is continuous and no end to be thinkable for it, like a train that begins to move to a distant destination and needs fuel. Part of fuel of train of the revolution is provided by the past memories. The point which is made by some of historian theorists is that: the awareness which is the outcome of the output of receiving memories of narrators have problems that can generally be referred as "distrust memories". In other words, memories or quotes of others are not valid historical evidence, and they may have issues such as self-expression, self-excuse in front of people or history, forgetting or not expressing deliberately memories and distort reality. What is extent of distorted reality in relation to real memories in our country? And what are our ways in order not to be entered in our main sources unreal memories?

In response to this question, Mohammad-Reza Kaeini said: "We need to define standards in oral history, and historians themselves have criteria to measure. That we say oral history however is more pleasant than written and historical documents, but it is lower, is due to sometimes people forget their memories and their memory doesn't work. They have no inherent motive for lying, but they are prone to forgetfulness. Error measurement is a technic and science and those who address oral history must learn it. Most of narrators do not seek to magnify or show their contribution. How much their performance memories affect? Or how much does it place them in a high position so that they do it for reputation. The memories which are written with this intention are minimal. However, these memories can also be used; because the person needs real meanings in speech to self-express too. However, I do not believe that most of memories have been told or written in this approach, although I do not deny their existence. I believe that if stream of the revolution historiography not be followed scientifically and based on its requirements and standards in the country, then we only would tell and write memories and increase number of memory books; although memory is well received.


How to treat paradoxes of abroad narrators

Mirkazemi presented the way to treat paradoxes of abroad narrators as another issue and said: some of those who have memory from the war and Islamic revolution live inside Nezam (the government system). Others are busy memory-telling and writing outside the borders, who aren't a few and have advanced systems and mechanisms, at least in cyberspace, to say, distribute and publish. Many of these memories are inconsistent with memories of narrators inside the country, and they aimed at neutralizing inside memories and experiences. How much can we rely on memories of outside the borders and how can we prevent from their damage?

Amini started his lecture that "from 2007 to 2010, I had the chance to have interviews with nuclear students which was prepared in form of a book," and said: During the last three decades, when nuclear activities were began seriously, there were so many issues in field of technology. The important thing was that we were faced with two active gamut, a number of young having good academic talents and graduated students from top universities and related disciplines such as physics, nuclear physics and industry, and others who were very good experienced in this field; as well as their deeper and richer experiences were in field of Sacred Defense. It could almost say that early branches that provided this technology were those who had experience in area of Sacred Defense and had transferred their experiences to the first group. Transferring experiences had two impacts; I think documentation of memories is unfaulting and links generations, and the second point is that these experiences have the ability to reverse engineering, modeling, benchmarking, and making model in difficult and hard conditions. A large part of our talks on nuclear production was ended in Sacred Defense.

He then referred to topic of memoirs of people outside Iran and added: in England and the United States, analytical, political and military works has been carried out on the sacred defense, and publishers have published thirty four or five works. But a lot of works has been done on history of Islamic Revolution; either by affiliates of Pahlavi regime or by groups that left the country after the revolution due to their antagonist nature toward Nezam (Islamic regime); all of them have activities in this regard. Some of these works go towards purging a stream. Of course, one cannot say all of these memories are wrong. Part of these memories is related to Pahlavi's affiliates, and others belongs Monafeqin (hypocrites) and move towards distortion and destruction. Some of these memories are also related to people who separated from these groups, which we see them in the middle.

Aminian continued: One of the ways that has been customary until the last decade was to prevent the memories entering the society. Then we were in a space that a lot of these memories could be released without exact scrutiny. These memories are important for historians and should be analyzed by historians and people who are studying in political arena, but in social context, we need to know, review and critique the works, then readers decide to read them or not. Lack of absolute access through legal way leads to be received by reader from other route without any analysis. These works should be criticized in a deeper insight and with their historical documentations. Many of these works have clear objections and distortions in rewriting obvious documentations and their distortions can be easily clarified by historical research and research approach. Credibility is important. We are confronted with a social fact in the sacred defense, and amount of productions is so much in quantity that we have dozens works on a person or a situation. But we have weaknesses in field of historiography of Rijal (prominent features and persons).


Social station of memory books of Sacred Defense

Nosratollah Samadzadeh, officer for expert library of the war, was another speaker of the meeting. He spoke about social status of the memories and cultural mission of these books and said: "We have to look at memories from different angles. Our expectation from art and literature is not like our expectation of history. Our expectation of literature is that it influences society. If we thought about fifteen, twenty years ago, we would produce memories for the future to know what had happened and historical aspect was more important, but it is for several years social weigh of memories has become more highlighted. The book "Da" was a successful example of this trend, and what happened afterwards caused to go to socialization of memories. Before then, we addressed more prominent feature and politics and history elders, and less addressed women or ordinary social body like ordinary warriors. Of course, the first stream of Office for Resistance Literature and Art of Hozeh Honari had moved towards warriors, but most of importance of memories direction was towards influential politicians and the military. We do not expect ordinary people historical information, but we want to know specific social conditions. So, gradually social aspect of memories became more highlighted. This does not mean, of course, that their historical credibility was diminished; for example, in "Da" historical information may not reach at 5%, but what it is important is social condition that a young girl enters and exits. In fact, it introduces a social character to us. We expect historical books effective in publishing as cultural media in society. First, it is important to influence because of lived conditions. We get some of our historical information in literary and artistic works such as Desiree or Les Misérables. That is, part of audience's knowledge on historical events occurs through studying literary and artistic works, and if we constantly keep the citation and documentation weapon above documenter as a hammer and say that memories may be such and such and have weak historical information, we would damage cultural life of memory. We have two pathways in path of a book called research life and cultural life. In cultural life, book is a medium and we expect it to be effective. So we also expect memory to be effective socially and affect in my life and my family. If memory book does not work well in its cultural direction, it is a dead media, but if it has research credibility, it could live in research life forever. Therefore, we use memory book as a documented literature; literature in terms of that we expect it to be socially effective.

He added: "don't present memory as a credibility and criterion against history. Memories sometimes can cover transferring generations. We look at memory as social training and education. So we publish memory book to be effective today and our goal for the future to be achieved automatically.

Another part of Samadzadeh's lecture was devoted to explaining topic of available books in war library of Hozeh Honari. He said: nearly thirteen thousand books on war between Iran and Iraq have been published. Of these, more than half are documentaries and biographies. Biographies are in a variety of ways, story biographies, monographs, and more than nearly two thousand biographical books. In memory-writings we have many books including oral memories, diaries, published memories in form of Q & A and so on. Other documents such as testaments and reports are in domain of documentation. In field of literature, story and poetry, we have nearly three thousand books, and research books have the fewest number. We have also historical, political, social and other books.

Mohammad-Reza Kaeini referred to place of critics and emphasized: "It is true that oral history and memories have social influences and social body may also very welcome them, but we shouldn't forget the first people who refer to these works and criticize them are historians. When we want to pass era of Reza Khani's transition, from tradition to modernity, we have no way but to study Foroughi's memories. The role of social effects of memories and also oral history and memories in process of history is undeniable. A large part of stream of memory-telling has been formed by monarchists outside the country and it is a kind of self-defense against Islamic revolution, even if they have invalid and inaccurate content and our situation is obvious against them primarily, they are still important and useful. Some of these works defend performance of Pahlavi, which, of course, also faced with a lack of popular acceptance and hadn't any echo and reflection; they are ordered historiography and their goal is to come out of defensive carapace.

He pointed out: have we neutral historiography? Because historian has reason and mind, we don't have neutral historiographer, because when he enters historical process, he chooses anyway and has orientation in concluding, but we have disinterested historiographer.


Place of memories in modern Islamic civilizing

At the end of the meeting, Mirkazemi raised the question and said: "The initial hypothesis is that we are on the path of Islamic civilization. We took two steps. That is, Islamic Revolution conquered and Islamic society was created and Islamic system and government is the path ahead. Now we want to know how much we can use historical memory of the war and postwar?

Having presenting issues such as which role is played by Sacred Defense, in terms of plurality and sociality of the subject, in production or advancement or strengthening Islamic civilization? If memory is producing experience and an event from perspective of a person which is written with social literature, how much it could be effective in structure of management and goals of the country and also in discussion of Islamic civilization?, Aminian said: Our discussion is that nature of Islamic revolution is civilizing and has its elements. These elements are evident in field of culture and technology, but when they want to be moved from the system to the state, they face a gap which is located at the end of the branch and in part of the society. Some of those who participated in eight years of the sacred defense made their experiences memories, but the government cannot apply the experience in process of administration of the country. The film "Che" is narration of events of one day of life of martyr Chamran. It seems that all the fighters who were in the fronts during eight years of the sacred defense had a few of such one day. We can have memories as number as these days and have great achievements in various subjects. If we want to talk about this officially, issued policies of Supreme Leader about Sixth Development Plan, in cultural part, in terms of pivotal aspect, it consists of three dimensions of Resistive Economy, elevating and empowering culture, and the current discussion on technology. He refers to five items in cultural section. The first part is the sacred defense in field of making culture resistant. The second article is lifestyle. Then, in definition of modern Islamic civilizing, as a vital center of civilizing, he points out lifestyle which forms core of this civilization in the society, and most of lifestyle could be achieved in the sacred defense part. So if we view memories of the sacred defense from this perspective that were addressed in fields of literature and society, and not from a historical perspective that is more common and general, and even there speaker, situation, personality and issues find their significance and compare to other documentations, status of the topics becomes important. But in discussion of social influence, subject of the sacred defense and its memories as cultural core of Islamic Revolution can easily connect the society to the state and change structure of the country's administration. As we see it in some issues and they can link elements of culture, economy and industry. Of course, here is a fundamental problem. In area of ​​civilization, we must reach an equivalence and balance between elements of civilization. Even in Safavid era, which we refer to as one of civilization areas of Iranian history, we see that various levels of civilization are in the same level or similar. You cannot be far from culture, in terms of defense and security or economics. In field of civilization, one of main elements controls other elements and adjusts the rest. For example, countries that have gone from direction of economy toward civilization, axis of other elements is economy. We believe axis of Islamic Revolution is culture, but culture has been delayed in relation to other elements. Why is book reading per capita low? Because if you look at share of written culture in the first established state after Imam Khomeini's death until today, its budget has not been increased since then. That is, amount of this share has not been upgraded, while we have increased in other areas. When you want to invest in culture, production is only a part of it, and the other part is that it must be in access of society. In countries like Latin America, according to research, for example, they invest a great deal for promoting culture of theater and cinema, and then produce. We have a lot of memories. Cultural policies were in direct support of production for a long time; then came toward the consumer, and kind of support became direct support that failed to show its effectiveness. As a result, we got a lot of difference in arena of supply and use of cultural goods. If we want to continue modern Islamic civilizing, which get part of its energy from the society and intergenerational freshness and freshness of new generations who emerge, we would require reproduction of useful historical experiences in future generations. One of the ways is memory-writing and memory-reading. For "Da" and "Paei Ke Ja Mand (a leg which was stayed)" and other books which had good social feedbacks, there was a good investment. Only attractiveness of these books did not work in this process, structure of Hozeh Honari also did its activity. We experienced this in other books too. We presented a book that did not seem to have much support in gabfest of audiences. Audiences distributed the work among themselves because of its attractiveness. This capacity of "Da" exists in many works of the sacred defense, but investment and direction of system and cultural system of the country is not toward this side. The views must change to bring society closer to the state and a desirable event would happen.

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