In remembrance of Dr. Hossain Ardestani

From narration of operations to registration of oral history of commanders

Maryam Assadi Jafari
Translated by M. B. Khoshnevisan

2018-04-11


6th of Farvardin 1397 in the Iranian solar calendar (26th of March 2018) marked the first anniversary of the passing away of Dr. Hossain Ardestani, the late Head of the Center for Sacred Defense Documents and Research. He narrated the battle scenes and registered every moment of the events of the Iraqi imposed war against Iran shoulder to shoulder with the forces of the Political Office of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) since 1362 solar hijri (1983), taking strong steps for keeping and preserving the war documents. Eventually, he bore fruit book collections such as "Chronology of War between Iran and Iraq" through using the remained documents of the war narrators, and released the oral history of the war commanders and their wives by relying on studying this same treasury. For honoring years of scientific and research services of Dr. Hossain Ardestani, the correspondent of Iranian Orla History website has conducted interviews with Mohsen Rokhsat Talab, a war narrator and Hajar Ardestani, the son of Dr. Ardestani the result of which are as follows:

 

700 hours of interview of oral history of war

Mohsen Rokhsalkat Talab, a war narrator and a Sacred Defense researcher who was with the late Hossain Ardestani during the imposed war said about him, "Dr. Ardestani was the member of armored units and was involved in narration since 1983. He gained the first narrative experience in the Operation Preliminary Valfajr, in the 3rd Corps of Saheb al-Zaman (PBUH) and the 14th Division of Imam Hossain (PBUH). The Isfahani forces were very skilled and brave and very tough in the issue of war narration and recording of war history. Thus, they were not willing to change the division's narrator, but sometimes we had to move them on. When Hossain Ardestani became the narrator of the 14th Division of Imam Hossain (PBUH), he spent hard times, and because of this, he recalled his first time of narrating as bitter. Then he first went to Qods Headquarters before Aziz Jafari –Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Jafari – and then left for Khatam Headquarters and continued narrating till the end of the war".

He emphasized, "The revolutionary campaigns of Dr. Hossain Ardestani were accompanied by a series of ideological-social and political studies. He had a special will and commitment, and we never saw that he stopped reading books. These studies caused him to have mental skill and promote his knowledge, and showed his skill in narrating, dominating soon on the issues of war, methods of historiography and recording of the war history."

Referring to special abilities of Dr. Ardestain during narration time, Rokhsat Talab described him as determined and penman, and continued by saying, "One of the reports remained from the late Hossain Ardestani is the report of Operation Kheibar during which he was present in the operation's headquarters as a narrator. This report is considered among documented and reference sources. In the rest of the operations especially at the end of the war, he was still active in Khatam Headquarters and his detailed reports regarding the IRGC operations in northwestern Iran are also considered a reference source. Of course, they have yet to be released due to the documents' classification and are considered among the domestic sources of the Center for Sacred Defense Documents and Research. But on the whole, he has presented a good and coherent conclusion."

This oral history researcher evaluated oral history as a new subject in Iran's scientific-research circles and said, "The history of oral history in Iran may dates back to less than 15 years ago. Although interviews were conducted in the past and works under the heading of memories were published, we heard later that some books were published in the form of oral history of the war. When we referred to these sources, found that most them were weak and far from defined methods for oral history. Also some of them had been exaggerated and distorted the war issues, and the what had been said were not well-documented. One of the most important reasons for such weaknesses was that the interviewer did not have enough domination on the subject, so ordinary questions were asked and ordinary replies received. In fact, the interviewee was burnt and the main subject was not extracted. Since we took note of the weakness of the works in civilian and military subject many times, the Center for Sacred Defense Documents and Research interfered in the issue of the oral history of the war."

Mohsen Rokhsat Talab explained about how the oral history group of the Center for Scared Defense Documents and Research was shaped and said, "Studies and reviews were carried out for more than year for setting up of the oral history group and instruction were written. Reasons and a framework were compiled for research, interview and text compilation. We had many meetings with scholars such as the late Hadi Nakah'ee and Mohammad Doroudian in order to find a good method for string the work of oral history which eventually a manual of style was compiled under Dr. Hossain Ardestani. The center's oral history projects started with the interview of the late Ardestani with Brigadier General Mohsen Rezaee (former IRGC commander) and he founded oral history of the ear in the center. He held more than 120 oral history meetings with Dr. Rezaee. He then conducted oral history interview with Brigadier General Safavi. He also employed a number of war narrators and the crew of some armored units for recoding oral history of other commanders. The fruit of the eight-year activity of the Center for Sacred Defense Documents and Research during the life of Dr. Hossain Ardestani is the audio and visual recording of more than 700 hours of interviews of oral history of the war. The interviews have been conducted with the war commanders and authorities and the process is still continuing. Of course, with the passing away of Dr. Ardestani the oral history work of Mohsen Rezaee and general Safavi remained incomplete and the continuation of work was left to me."

Regarding the distinction of oral history method in the Center for Sacred Defense Documents and Research with other institutions, the Sacred Defense narrator said, "For recording oral history, we select the individuals who dominate the subject completely, have the experience of taking part in the war and narration and have lived with that commander during the war. Also, the interviewer has access to the collected sources during the war such as documents, the narrator's notebook and tapes, and conducts the interview based on studying these documents. We try to prevent any distortion and exaggeration and information gaps."

At the end, in describing the late Ardestani, he said, "By having three elements of "studying record before and after the revolution", "record of narration in various levels of the war", and "academic education in the field of political science", Hossain Ardestani was a unique personality in the area of war research. When we lost him, we were sure we won't find any substitute for him."

 

Methodological view on oral history of war

About the role of his father in advancing the goals of the Center for Sacred Defense Documents and Research, Hajar Ardestani, a war researcher and the son of the late Dr. Hossain Ardestani said, "During his 10-year management of the center, Dr. Ardestani brought about changes in the research structure of the center and set up the groups of war chronology, oral history, civilian studies, military group and society-oriented studies."

He continued, "One of the most important achievements of the group of civilian studies under the management of Dr. Ardestani was the use of scientific and academic capacities of the country in the field of sacred defense research. The center used the academic capacity of the entire country especially first level universities such as Tehran, Shahid Beheshti, Allamah Tabatabaee and Tarbiat Modarres, and in recent years, the works of such people as Dr. Zahrani and Dr. Ebrahim Mottaqi were published in the Center for Sacred Defense Documents and Research. Also, the quantitative and qualitative statistics of the publication of the books in group of chronology of the war, over the past few years, were either equal or more in comparison with the center's record. It should be noted that eight titles of the center's works were honored in the latest Festival of the Book Year of Scared Defense held in 2017."

The author of the book collection "Sacred Defense in Speeches of Imam Khomeini (God bless his soul)" explained about the activities of the translation group of the Center for Sacred Defense Documents and Research under the management of Dr. Ardestani and said, "The books were interpreted on the basis of reverse translation and even a few books were presented to Moscow Book Fair. We translated the foreign-released books about Iran-Iraq war into Arabic, French and English languages in order to be used by the foreigners."

Hajar Ardestani regarded conveying of the center's voice to beyond the borders as the most important concern of the late Dr. Ardestani, and pointed out, "Dr. Ardestani made utmost effort to take the center's works to outside the borders. Due to his studies in the field of political science, he was familiar with the first-hand sources of the field. Thus, he selected these books for translation."

He added, "The registration of oral history of the war commanders was another concern of Dr. Ardestani. Therefore, he set up the oral history group. He was of the view that the war commanders might not be alive 10 or 15 years later. So, his view on the subject of oral history was a national one, considering it as a historical opportunity. Thus, the project of oral history of commanders began with a high speed and depth."

This war researcher referred to the scope of oral history and the facilities it needs, and said, "Oral history projects needed forces and budget as much as a center. Even interview coordination with the commanders was very hard and heavy. Nevertheless, he was involved in this job with full might, and one volume of the oral history of Mohsen Rezaee and one volume of memoirs of Brigadier General Safavi have so far been released."

Hajar Ardestani stressed, "The distinction of oral history books of the center has been originated from the methodological view of Dr. Ardestani toward oral history of the war. He had defined a conceptual framework and dimension for oral history of the war which was based on a documentary and scientific work; a history loyal to the event. It means that we in the center did not follow the emotional or memory-telling parts of the war and have paid more attention to civilian-military and commandership history."

About the significance of registering oral history of the war, the son of the late Ardestani said, "We have a series of first-hand sources from the war period consisting of written and audio and visual ones. There is limited information in this field particularly in the first one or two years of the war because the war narration had not been started yet in that point in time. Thus, registration of the oral history of commanders will be very effective in filling the gap.”

At the end, Hajar Ardestani said, “I as the son of Dr. Ardestani say we cannot find any substitute for him. In addition to his management and scientific ability, he was predominant in the atmosphere of narration and communications in that level. My father donated his life to this subject and the prominent aspect was that he and the center of the documents in the area of war research were unknown.”                            



 
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