Releasing an interview after 10 years

Narrative and Memories of Behrouz Esbati from Formation of the War Poem Congress

Maryam Asadi Jafari
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi


In the last days of winter of 2009, I listened to words of Sardar (Second Brigadier General and higher) Behrouz Esbati in secretariat building of the Festival for Quarter-Century of Holy Defense Book, in ​​Hafte Tir Square in Tehran. We first conversed a little about the quarter-century festival, and then, more than an hour and a half, of formation of the war poem congress. There was never an opportunity to publish this interview and it was remained in archive of my unpublished interviews. The sudden closure of Holy Defense Poem Congress and preventing its holing from 2013 occurred without any reaction by authorities. I kept this interview so that maybe the congress would be established again. But they seemed to have no incentive to restart it! My goal of publishing this interview was that remind spiritual and historical value of the Congress of holy defense poem to officials of the Foundation for Preservation of Relics and Publishing Values of Holy Defense so that they might try to re-hold it again. It sounded wind delivered voice of this interview before its release, and recently some news was heard about its reestablishing. I dare say that perhaps such an interview has not yet been conducted on history of the war poem congress. Many thanks to Sardar Behrouz Esbati, one of founders of the war poem congress and current commander of Cyberspace Station of General Staff of the Armed Forces, who gave us his time to review and confirm this interview. The following interview on the Iranian Oral History Website depicts ups of the sacred defense poem congress since the beginning to the end of 1387 (SH).


* Sardar, first introduce yourself completely. How old are you and where are you from?
I am Behrouz Esbati and I was born in Tehran in 1959.

* Tell us about your education degrees.

I graduated in Persian Literature at University of Tehran. In fact, reason of my acquaintance with field of literature is the same academic major. I entered the university in 1977 and graduated in 1986; because my education was coincided period of the revolution. I went about 7 semesters to the class. But, while I was usually in the war, my education performance was good and I passed each semester with more than twenty credits. Finally, I received my degree one semester sooner than the usual time. My MA degree was in major of Cultural Advertising in Imam Hussein University. Later the term "advertising" was deleted and is now taught titled "Cultural Management". But since Imam Hossein University held the first course in Iran, our master's degree was called Cultural Advertising; I postgraduate in 1993. I also passed Ph.D. degree titled Strategic Management, area of interest Threats and National Security, in IRGC's high course of war.


* Let's go back to period of the war. What was your post at the beginning of the war?
Well, there were so many posts. At the beginning, I was mostly responsible for advertisement in various areas of Kurdistan, such as Sanandaj. For about 4 years, I was responsible for propaganda of the front and war of region10 _brigades and forces of Tehran province, like 27th Mohammad Rasulullah (PBUH) Division the 10th of Seyyed al-Shohada (AS) Division and 21st armored_ and I also undertook IRGC publications since 1987. Practically after martyr Ahmad Zarei, I was responsible for IRGC publications for a year and a half after the end of the war.


* When did you become co-worker with late Ahmed Zarei?
I was familiar with Ahmad before the revolution, and we had worked in Kurdistan many times. For a few years, when I was in charge of the Front and War Advertising Office, we worked separately. About 1985-86, when I came to Tehran from the front and war, I became a successor to Ahmad for a six-month course in IRGC Publication. Then it was my responsibility until the end of the war.


* Did you meet late Zarei in Sanandaj?
Yes. I met Ahmad in Kurdistan. Ahmed was wonderful in various aspects, including in literature. In Kurdistan, there was an opportunity for Ahmad to deepen his poetic perspective that its result after his returning to Mashhad and Ferdowsi University was two student poetry congresses; one in Mashhad and another in Shiraz. I think the congress of student poetry in Mashhad was formed in 1983 or 84. A student team and, of course, Pasdars (IRGC forces), led the congress. Ahmad Zarei, Majid Zehtab and Abbas Ali Mehdi were students of Ferdowsi University. Mostly the three were active. Of course, Ahmad Safai was too. They returned to their posts again after graduation. Majid Zehtab and Abbas Ali Mehdi went to Isfahan. Zehtab was in the armored command. Ahmed also came to IRGC Publication. In fact, anyway the association disjointed, but it was only held physically, and in terms of friendly and poetry relationship, and Ahmed was center of these interactions.


* So the idea of initiating the war poetry congress started from here?
The same years of 1985-86 that I was with martyr Ahmad Zarei in IRGC Publication, we established the congress gradually. He always sought to create an intellectual and literary stream; until conditions for continuing education occurred. I went to Tehran University and he went to Ferdowsi University and we separated. But the guys of Ferdowsi University were linked by poem. Through this kind of relation, it sparked minds of these guys to organize a poetry congress called "the War Poem Congress". Of course, the deputy of war propaganda, who was working in literary and artistic fields in the fronts, became the main sponsor of the congress as a major field in the fronts. The serious discussion was arisen that potential of poetry as a logical carrier was used to convey emotional content - which was very high in those days- in the fronts. Where did the war poem congress experiment come from? To the two congresses they had previously held as student poetry congress. That is they had experienced there should be a secretary, a headquarter. Later, many poets such as Parviz Beigi Habibabadi, Alireza Ghozon and Hossein Esrafili were also added to this association.



* Was the first congress held in 1986 (1365 SH)?
I do not remember exactly, but I think it was in 1985 (1364). Ahmed Zarei analyzed the poetry congress. In those days, because of presence of Ahmad in Tehran -of course, Asghar Nosrati was there too, we were together from Kurdistan- the first communication network with guys of Hozeh Honari was established, such as Javad Mohaqeq, Seyyed Hasan Hosseini and Qeysar Aminpour. Qeysar was my classmate in University of Tehran. Somehow, IRGC Publication coordinated with Hozeh Honari, and gradually a kind of coherence was formed.

* Do you remember the first circle of attendants and supporters of the poetry congress?
In addition to professors such as the late professor Sabzevari, master Shahrokhi, Safa Lahouti and ... the first professors who came to the first congress of war poetry were professors of Ferdowsi University of Mashhad. If I remember right, Dr. Zaker Saleh had also post at propaganda station of Karbala headquarters at that time. He was there too. Majid Zehtab and the rest of the guys were in the commands too. On the other hand, IRGC Publication considers itself as responsible. Because it had budget, personnel, headquarter and building. This led to the first congress of war poetry. As a successor of Ahmad, I had also recently joined IRGC Publication. My participation was in those days when I joint the association. The first headquarters was formed gradually and the first program was held in Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz and it was a very good congress. Of course, those days it was called "Congress of Basij Poetry" and on November 26. From the very first meeting, I believed that I should be "poetry of war". But opinion of Ahmad and rest of the guys was different.


* So the first congress of poetry was held in cooperation with IRGC and Ferdowsi University?
The Congress was held and undertook by IRGC Publication and support of Karbala headquarters –that is, the guys of the front- Hozeh Honari and the Ferdowsi University of Mashhad; but IRGC Publication managed it.

* Tell about atmosphere of the first congress of war poetry.
The first and second congresses were the most Basij-oriented congresses I remember. That I say the most Basij-oriented congresses refer to several factors. Firstly, formation and management of the war poetry congress was quite basij-oriented. That is, it basically did not have today mechanisms. I remember Mr. Zaker Salehi interviewed after insistence of all the guys. This was the first interview in field of war poetry. I said Ahmad: "really you are doing all works", he said "Let a guy of the region to be introduced." I want to say approach of Ahmad. The second factor was presence of poets. At that very moment, views were not at all like current views. Our poets participated more Basij-oriented than all the guys. There were not immersed in pleasure, or in searching a particular fame. 99 percent of these poets, except one, let me don't name him because of his magnificence and that he has died, dressed Basij uniform. Like presence of the Basij forces of the operational battalions, with the same passion, flags, foreheads, and space-making and decoration etc. everything was Basij-like.


* Well, these features were according to atmosphere at that time.
Yes; as much as this atmosphere was Basij like that they wore Basij uniform. Although we prepared clothes and begged them to wear. But it was not in a way that if someone did not want to wear, he feel disdaining; no it was not so.

* Tell about participation of poets.
We always consider our capacity before request. Lack of place was always our concern. From the very beginning, we invited a few types: poets, university professors, media practitioners and fourth types, future talents such as MA and Ph.D. students. But later it expanded and young poets came too.


* Who were from the literature eminent?
We invited university professors such as Dr. Bahr al-Ulum, Dr. Lesan, Dr. Derakhshan and Dr. Sadat Naseri as guests.

* Did late Mehrdad Avesta also come to the congress?
Yes. Avesta was a great poet. God bless him. With that literary background, he composed about the war and was proud of it. At the same time, he was too gaunt and old in comparison to rest of the guys.

* I asked this question because we have heard more of names of Qeysar Aminpour and Seyyed Hasan Hosseini -among the late poets- in field of war poetry.
Many poets gave poetry to the congress. Of course, the two people you named heightened poem of the war. There is no doubt about it. But there were other good poets in field of the war.


* Did you have an academic and executive secretary from the very first congress?
We had no scientific or non-scientific secretary. Everything was done by one person. Now, unfortunately or fortunately, management model has evolved and there are executive and scientific secretary. At that time, we had one secretary. I was secretary for 8 periods. But some of the things we did are not among your accounting.

* Why?
For example, once we had a poetry congress special for Khorramshahr that the same team of Holy Defense Poetry Congress did all works. That is, we held two congresses in that year; one the congress of war poetry and the other poetry congress special for Khorramshahr. We hold two times poetry congress of Armed Forces. These congresses have not been counted as congresses of the holy defense poetry, but in sum I have been secretary in 8 or 9 periods. I do not know precisely. It was not important for myself to record them.


* Except for the poets -I will also ask about them- did the warriors participate in the congresses?
Yes. The guys of commands came. I never remember, the warriors came with that flag and foreheads, and these Basij guys of each battalion themselves would come. Of course, the headquarters planned, but it was not compulsory. For example, rearguard said there is a poetry congress; its subject is that some poets come and compose for the holy defense. Surely, you saw the films that Basij forces rushed back of these pickups and Toyotas, presented Noha (lkie mourning for Muharram) and came to campus of [Shahid Chamran of Ahvaz] University. Then they got off the car, held the flag, bragged and sit down in the hall. Even their interaction with the poets was interesting too. I remember the second congress was held at the same university of Shahid Chamran. Late Mohammad Ali Mardani was a strange poet and at the same time he was an old man. He was a mason. It means he didn't have any academic background and came out of religious poetry associations. He composed many modern poems, and some of his Ghazals are fairly lasting. He also composed war poetry very well. He had a poem. He read it. The presenter was Ahmed Zarei and I was secretary of the congress. Basij forces wrote a quest in which they wanted us to tell Mohammad Ali Mardani in order to read poem again. So Ahmad wrote to me what do I do Behrouz? I told him respect the rule. A poet reads poem one time. The second time they wrote another request. I wish I would keep those writing. Ahmad re-wrote: "Behrouz, if I do not invite Mohammad Ali Mardani these brakeless Basij forces rebel. Let me invite him." I said to Ahmad "it is ok; call Mohammad Ali Mardani." But I wrote under his letter: "Emphasize him to read only one Ghazal." God bless him, when he reads poetry, he reads three to four Mathnawies too! Ahmad invited him. He came and read poem. An hour later, another letter was arrived that tell Mardani to read poem. They forced me, who I am very disciplinary in my management, to call Mr. Mardani three times for reading poem. I do not want to say that Mr. Mardani was a great poet or not. I just want you to see relationship between warriors and poets.


* Do you have another case of these samples?
After the war, we had a congress in Khorramshahr. It was very difficult to hold a congress in Khorramshahr. There was not even an intact building to settle 200 poets. Then we went to different houses and got headquarters of IRGC and expelled the battalions. We had water problems too. God is my witness that the guys did not have water to do Wudu. Particularly we concerned about lady guests in order not to be in difficulty. We brought water from outside the city. We went to bring water from tankers in 30 kilometers far from the city. I remember late of Teymur Toranj, who was himself from Khorramshahr, was invited for reading poem. He also had read a Free Verse, but could not read a poem. Because he had gone and seen his house; after reading only two-three lines of his poem he began to cry. Until end of the congress, Basij guys made emotional connection with this state of Mr. Toranj; that is, they wrote consecutively letters why did not come Mr. Toranj? Why does not he read poem? They signed a petition so that Mr. Toranj to read poem. These methods were Basij-like methods. I mean this.


* So welcoming and attendance of audience encouraged you to continue the congresses ...
Welcome was wonderful. It is true that poetry is in essence of Iranians, but finally it has its own audience to hear. At that time, we wouldn't hold the program very limited. For example, we devoted 6 hours for reading poem.
*In how many days did you hold the congresses?
We usually have program for two days. But since there was no flight those days, the guys came by bus and it took a little longer. We became civilized recently [laughingly] and we went by train. We did not have money too! For example, we gave the guys on the bus bread and lunch meat for dinner. Once we went to get tickets for one of these congresses. I think it was congress of Abadan. It was new that ticket consisted food. I insisted we did not have budget for this service. I said: what is your cheapest food? He said chicken Schnitzel. Do you believe that no one of us knew what chicken Schnitzel was! We only selected based on price. We said ok bring chicken Schnitzel for our guests. The guys said: what's the food? I said: I do not know; that's a food that I do not know its name. One of those guys who were our guests played chess. He had asked train stewards who does like play chess in the train? They had said conductor is a chess player. He also picked up his chess under, went and came back one or two hours later with conductor. The conductor said: "Who is head of the group? We serviced you. We will give you specific schnitzel." Then we found out that they had played two or three chess games, and our comrade had said we were guys of the war poetry congress. Atmosphere of the congress was very popular. It was so much more popular than you imagine.


* The same events make the story of War Poetry Congress attractive. Tell us more.
When we held the congress in Kermanshah, we did not really have space. The city had been disintegrated due to bombardment. I remember IRGC's building was around Ferdowsi Square of Kermanshah. Next to the building, I took two buildings and the guys cleaned walls and swept them. Then our problem was that the two buildings were not connected. On the roofs, we laid two ladders. Imagine masters Avesta and Sabzevari had to pass these ladders. Now, when I think, I say myself, were you really unwise?! Well, you did not have to force the professor to cross there! The situation was such that I was very embarrassed. The first day of reading poem, a person from Kermanshah -that later we did not understand who was him- came and said: "Excuse me, I am from Kermanshah. I have a home. I can take some of your old men to my home and they will be my guest." I said, "If you do such a work for me I am grateful, because we are ashamed of our masters. He took seven or eight of our professors and hosted them. The congress was formed in this way. When we talk about the war poetry congress, it means everything was in these atmospheres. We all tolerated and had the least protests.


* Did ordinary people like the war poetry congress?
I remember in one of the congresses, a chorale came. They said, "We found out that you have a poem congress; we also came to sing for the fighters." You know that if today 20 people add to a congress audience, how much worry would be created for secretary. There was a hall next to the congress place where we had carpeted. We said very relaxingly, "the guys, can you settle the chorale? They said yes! We are devoted to you too.

* Narrate a little about gathering of poets after reading poem.
At the war poetry congress, poets came to Professor Ali Moallem until mid-night, he admired the guys and read poem. One night he slept at 3 a.m. tiredly and whacked. I remember that a Basij friend went to the master for a morning prayer and said: "Brother! Brother! Wake up, your morning prayer is going to be delayed! "The dear had also said, "I pray. OK. Aye aye sir." He told again, "Brother! Wake up, your morning prayer is going to be delayed! "I looked and laughed. These relationships were so special and strange. Maybe now it's not very appropriate for people with this social status to sleep with a blanket upon land and a Basij force, as a task, goes to wake up someone for pray. These are value phenomena that were found only in those years. We had the most popular environment of interaction between publicist and audience, poet and listener, artist and viewer in the war and models of the war management.


* When you hold poetry congresses during wartime and in war-torn cities weren't you worried about safety of the poets?
The congress of Khorramshahr, which I spoke about before, was after the war. But other congresses, like Kermanshah, Ahvaz and Abadan, hold under bombardment. I remember, we had taken the poet's friends to Al-Faw. Friends forced us to get off at Besat Bridge. Well, since Ahmad Zarei and I were military man, we figured out what would happen. In that situation, a bus next to Besat Bridge was the best target for Iraqi aircrafts. I said: guys! Gentlemen! Take! A Basij guy was sitting behind defense of 23 anti-craft (ZU-23) and saying, "Brother, come on! If there a plane came I would pay it back! I knew usage of 23 anti-craft. I knew he could not struggle the aircraft. But the 16-17 year-old Basij guy words provoked all of us. The poets did not go to the bus too. They made my blood boils. I shed tear to take them finally somehow. The river Arvand was attractive for them. They wanted to cross this bridge! We had captured Al-Faw recently and it was amid the war. I really became grey-haired so that they all took and we went. I should loaded lunch from Ahvaz and brought to give them in Al-Faw. No one understood that our car was being shot by Iraqis. Now we did not have lunch for 200 people; we searched in the divisions and collected in half an hour canned fish and beans to equip these 200 people in Al-Faw. But if now we want to give lunch to a 200-person congress how much does it cost? Again I focused that I don't want to insinuate today endeavors. Even if I hold a congress today, I would do the same. I myself was secretary of the first congress of armed forces in Sanandaj. I reserved hotel and food. God bless Ahmad Zarei. I think it was one of the last works that I did with Ahmad in field of congress of poetry. Now we should not expect a great poet to sleep under a tent! But then, concerns of a secretary were as different as night and day to today's secretary; from content to the smallest things. The poets said: Let's see Qasre-e Shirin. At that time, Qasre-e Shirin was a polluted area. I said: I coordinated with the guard and they only agreed on the condition that Mr. Esbati and his friends don't leave the bus. Because the area is full of mines and we still have not cleared the area. We went to show Qasre-e Shirin to poets so that they saw the border. With all emphasis, doors were opened and ladies came down. In a few congresses, I had worked with Miss Rakei. I begged, "Lady Rokei in God's name take these ladies; I fear." Miss Rakei said, "Why do you differentiate women and men?" I told, "I do not differentiate between men and women at all. This area has mine. They're just going!" Finally, we talked much so that they got on. I want to say that in circle of war poetry congress concerns audience and publicist were as much as intimate that they did not feel the threat much.


* Of eminent today poets, which did emerge from the war poetry congress and were introduced for first time?
The war poetry congress progressed alongside new experiences and people. Gradually some names were seen that helped us a lot later. For example, Alireza Qazveh was a young in1985-86 years without any fame and name. But he was a Basij force. Alireza Qazheh is always in my mind a slim young with a long shirt and soldier trouser who engaged more than me in executive works, and when he took microphone in his hand, he read a shocking poems. Ahmad [Zarei] and Majid [Zehtab] were the same.

* Did all of the poets you have mentioned, had passed academic studies in field of literature?
We always had a lot of people. But the ones that have been product of the war poetry so far are those who, along with that passion, could study a major too. But this science and education is not necessarily a university degree. For example, Parviz Beigi Habibabadi was an Army Air Force officer. He had passed a DĀFOOS course, but not a literature course. He was a military officer who had passed air combat courses. Hossein Esrafili was the same. He was a military man for a period. Of course, when we worked with him, he had just left the army. Shirin-Ali Golmoradi, who was also an officer of pre-revolution gendarmerie, progressed in the congresses.


* There are no specific a special order for holding year and place of the war poetry congresses. Do you remember?
I do not remember all of them now. But the first and second congresses were in Ahwaz. I think the third one was in Kermanshah and the next in Abadan. After the war, we went back to Khorramshahr, Ahvaz and Sanandaj. Later the congress expanded and was held in Tehran and Isfahan too.

* Was the war poetry congress held every year since 1986?
Yes. Of course, in a period, it became the congress of Basij poem. When the war ended, IRGC's headquarters began to decrease its support. In other words, they could no longer sponsor the war poetry congress, and since the congress system was executive, it was stopped.

* How many years was gap of holding the congresses?
One year, in 1991 or 1992. Majid Rajabi, who was also responsible for IRIB TV5, was then involved in Basij. We went to him and said we have had such a congress that has been stopped. Majid Rajabi said I can only hold the congress as a Basij Poetry Congress. For two or three years it was held on November 26 named Basij Poetry Congress. Of course, from the very beginning, we organized the war poetry congress from November 24 to 26 on the occasion of Basij Week. It was in Ilam congress in 1994 or 95 when Majid Rajabi said, "We have a budget problem and we can no longer continue. By chance, Mr. Mehdi Chamran, responsible for the Foundation for Preservation of Relics and Publishing Values of Holy Defense, was our invitee. Mohammad Qasem Foroughi, Majid Rajabi and I went to Mr. Chamran and said, "Neither IRGC nor Basij can longer support this congress. Mr. Chamran said, "What can I do? We said, "The Foundation of for Preservation of Relics undertakes the war poetry congress. He agreed. The congress has been hold by the Foundation for Preservation of Relics since 1996.


* How long did you cooperate?
The last time I was active in the congress was 2002. I was both teaching and studying at the time, I was also responsible both for Basij advertising and for selecting the Year book of Holy Defense. I also felt that team of 1360s (1980s) had grown and had ability to do all measures. For example, Qazveh was no longer the Basij young of period of the war. Even for two or three periods, he became my successor as secretary of the congress. Parviz Beigi Habibabadi, Hossein Esrafili and Seyyed Zia Shafiee, all of them had been made tough. I was not poet; so I pulled myself out.

* Are you still in keeping up with the poetry congress?
Yes. I was along with the kids.

* It is very interesting that renaming from "Student Poetry Congress" to "War Poetry Congress" and "Basij Poetry Congress" has not damaged its nature and coherence.

Conditions of the poet, management system and literary audience conditions were changing. So I think these changes were a logical phenomenon. This demonstrates strength of the congress that adapted itself to the environment, and this is the reason of its durability until now. In the holy defense poetry congress of Bandar Abbas that I sit alongside Parviz Beigi Habibabadi, we counted from 1986 to 2008 and found that we had hold 26 poetry congresses. In a country that had passed 30 years of its revolution until then, holding 26 poetry congresses is highly valued.

* We did not talk about style of arbitration in the war poetry congress. How did you evaluate poems?
The first congress was not very sophisticated. But from the second period, we began to collect poems. That is we called poets. The more we progressed, the stronger became our work and judgments were more serious. That is, gradually from the second period, we formally determined the poetry committee. The poetry committee only reviewed and selected the lyrics. Nature of poetry was that it was more arisen in time of war; because there were all elements of creation of a poem at that time. It was the event itself. It was excitement and affection. Continuously, the poetry committees became more active in which practical role were played mainly by Ahmad Zarei, Parviz Beigi Habibabadi, Alireza Qazveh, Abdul Jabbar Kakaei and Hossein Esrafili.

* Did you give reward?

No. They just read poem. Of course, we gave them low-cost gifts. The poets did not expect too. But as the congress progressed, our situation got better and we gained budget. We provided better gifts and gave to the poets.

* At that time, which forms did the poets use?
There were all forms. But Rubaʿi, Ghazal and Mathnawi were most welcomed.

* How about Modern Poem?
There was also Modern Poem. But it was much less than today that there is more Free Verse. In comparison with today congresses, reverse the equation.

* What were majority of subjects?
Theme of most poems was defense, Basij and the war. Of course, at the same time, we had a lot of problems now and then. I remember that in the second congress, we invited a brother who had read the most Basij-oriented poems of the war in the first congress. He was from Khorasan too. This time his face had changed much; he had shaved his beard with a razor, a thin mustache and elevated his hair. The word is for 1986 and 1987 in amid of the war. He came and read a poem titled "Zan-e Sharghi-e Man (my oriental woman)", in which he highly shook the congress. At the first I did not want to let him to read a poem, but Khorasan guys were a team. Ahmad was also their head. Ahmad said, "I know him." I told, "Ahmad! This face does not work at all! Ahmad said: No, I know his poem. In short, we went to stage and read his poem. Ahmad always stole a march on me. I went angrily to Ahmad. He told, "What's up? Well, his poem was so strong! [laughingly]. I said: his poem was strong, but what did he say? But in general, subjects of Basij, martyr and martyrdom, especially in congresses of the war era, were more prominent, and then epic themes were used.


* When did the war poem enter nostalgic atmosphere?
This phenomenon began with poems of Qazveh since 1991. Parviz Beigi Habibabadi, Abdul Jabbar Kakaei and a generation who had emerged out of the congress and themselves were also Basij force and veteran began to create this atmosphere. But famous poem of "Gharibane" by Parviz was one of these poems that were read at the first congress.

* In your memories you talked about participation of women in the war poetry congress. When did female poets enter to the congress?
Ladies attended from the first congress. Late Sepideh Kashani, Mrs. Simindokht Vahidi, Fatemeh Rake'i and Zohreh Narenji were also present. Poetry of women has always been prominent in Iran.

* What were sources of inspiration for women poets who were not on the battle scene?
They saw martyrs and were informed about the warfare. At the same congresses, they also had conversations with Basij forces and, and as I have said, they were on the fronts too. Furthermore, participation of poets was not limited to the congress. The divisions invited them for reading poem. They also read poem in another ceremonies.


* Did poetry of Congress also reflect in the fronts?
Certainly; that Basij forces requested reading poem, showed their interest in poem. Even a lot of these poems became Noha. Like poems of Hossein Esrafili and Parviz Beigi Habibabadi who progressed by Noha. Essentially when Parviz composed Gharibane had a headache and he was not in good mood for reading poem. One of the poet's guys who traveled from Ahvaz to Abadan Front, turned the poem into Noha in minibus, and the poet's guys also did Sinazani (chest-beating) with it. This poem was transferred to the front, and then Koveitipoor read it, it became a chant, a symphony, and a melody ... The fighters really were accustomed to poem. When we went to Operation Beit Ol-Moqaddas I read for the first time verse of "Miravam Madar Be Jebheh, Karbala Mikhanadam (I'm Going to the front mother, Karbala call me)" for the combatants. I did not know at all that this poem was for Congress. I later realized that it was also read in the congress. Finally, poetry was always with the fighter guys.

*When was it start releasing selected poems of the congresses?
Poems were released in the media; because, from the very beginning, bringing journalists and the media to the congress was of our measures. All of these media had a page for poetry and literature. Poems were published in magazines and newspapers since the first congress. Usually they all published a report on the congress and then selected poems. The poems were also collected and published during year in newspapers. Because of the war, journals also needed the materials, and the war poetry congress was the best source for them. When the poets themselves began publishing their poetry notebooks, they also published congress poetries in their books. In fact, the secretariat published specific book of the congress too late; because that time we thought it wasn't need. We do not have reason to do that because the congress poetry were everywhere; in newspapers and in poet books. Gradually from 1994 to 96, when atmosphere of war poetry receded in comparison to the holy defense era, we also concluded that had to begin publication of book of the congress poems and put it on the agenda.


* When did you start the measure?
I really can't remember it right now, but it was after 1996. In 2002, at the Tehran congress, we published poems before the congress which was our first experience and we were able to give audiences verses before the conference. Of course, it also became a troublesome. Some poets did not read the same poems. At the other hand, this book was also in hand of audience. They said: Why did not they read these poems Esbati? I would say: it is microphone temperature anyway!

* Regarding your presence in all congresses, you are definitely well-informed on content process of the war poem. Some believe that today the war poets show a kind of disappointment in their poetry, and they compose poems on subjects such as society neglect to disabled veterans and place of martyrs. What is your opinion about this?
These poems are expressing a kind of nostalgia.

* How can young poets in my age who haven't experienced the war can be depress for the war?

This is very natural; because there are still traces of the war in society. We all still live with disabled veterans. Incidentally, I consider this a natural thing and I'm sad. Not because of its naturalness, but because we could not publish other manifestations of the war. Now satire, social and nostalgia poetry of the war are most of themes, and it is proper too; that is, a progressive poet artist has a quest. This is a problem of for the poets that what is our responsibility in the society for someone who has been deprived of blessing of breathing? This is a social demand of poets. Of course, poetry in Iran has a sine movement. Once it ascends and a time descends fully. The ups and down has been the same for its length. But our poetry has a feature and that is creation themes from social environment.


* I was present at several congresses as a reporter and I found that a constant circle of poets participated in Holy Defense Poetry Congress every year. Is not this a weakness that we have not yet been able to add new poets to this circle?
I do not accept this. We have a congress, a poet, a community and a management. Firstly, when we talk about congresses of war poetry, at the same time, there were many circles of dissident poetry in Tehran. Really number of the poet who came during the war and read poetry on the front was maybe equal to the current number. I want to say, because we do not have a scientific study and, on the other hand, because I am a teacher and believe in scientific discussions, I have to emphasize that we can talk about these ratios when we have done a scientific study. When we design a research, measure and analyze data. We did not do this, which is the same management weakness. Secondly, essentially, in my opinion, that there are the same poets in every congress is a positive point. Because in poetry as an art, continuity of presence is a condition, and that every period we say we changed our poets, what is its goodness for our society?

* I did not mean to change poets. I intended to add new poets and expanding this domain.
This is because of our poor management. I do not mean the congress managers. As a teacher in field of culture, I have a serious critique about macro-cultural management of the country; considering that I myself am one of creators of this management. In field of culture, we failed to create a logical management model and pattern appropriate to conditions of the revolution. In these years, our management system should grow in field of culture. We are weak in field of cultural management, and this is not just related to field of poetry.

* I want you to tell in final part of the interview also about capabilities and potential of period the imposed war in field of art and poetry.

The Iran-Iraq War has all dramatic capabilities of cultural and artistic arrangements. Our war is very special in terms of duration and sides of the war. On one side, 40 countries, and on the other side, Iran was alone. But we did not lose. The model of our war is national and has all indigenous and ethnological values. All people from women and children, to old and young people were mobilized. The internal potential of Iran-Iraq war is very strong. No event in Iranian history has been like the eight-year war.

*And perhaps because of the special values ​​ poets must care it in order not to be harmed, and red lines of the war story and poetry are for this reason; although, in recent years, satire poetry about the imposed war has also increased.
Persian literature has always had a problem between invective (Hajv) and satire (Tanz). Satire poetry means expressing phenomena in a language that cause others to think. Satire is not comic. I do not know why we always mix satire with joke. Joke is Western. We had Latifeh in the past. Latifeh means a point that cause a person think; when we talk about satire that is criticizing society itself.

* So, how can satire enter the war poetry?
It has just entered. It's like a poem about a person who was six seconds in the front and has a memory for six months! In this critical view, no one would be offended.

* Finally, what is your red line in poetry?

In invective; we have some principles that militants resisted for them. We should not challenge them. We are not allowed to challenge ideals of the sacred defense. But areas beyond this can be challenged; but again regarding to the situation. Today, there are many phenomena in field of war that has empty space for satire and criticism.

*Give an example.
Like performance of current managers, field of economics, contrast between basic ideas of life means how to live and what the fighters fought for, and even relations of warriors with each other.

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This Lady Called the "Captive", "Freedman"

As reported by Oral History Website of Iran Behjat Afraz died on January 12, 2019. According to notification provided by the organization in which he worked, "The late was invited by Dr. Seifollah Vahid Dastjerdi, the current head of Red Crescent Society of the Islamic Republic of Iran, to work as the officer in charge of the bureau for captives and missing of the imposed war. She worked from the beginning of ...
Two hundred and ninety-eighth night of reminiscences

Shrine Defenders like Sacred Defense Warriors

According to Iranian oral history website, Two hundred and ninety eighth night of reminiscences of sacred defense was held at Art Center Andisheh Hall on Thursday, December 27th 2019. Masoud Nouri, Abbas Boostani, Hassan Arabi and Mohsen Safai spoke about their memories of shrine and sacred defense defenders.
Biannual Journal of Oral History

We Have Not Yet Approached a Common Expression in Oral History Practice

Gholamreza Azizi, director of NLAI Research Institute, talked to the Iranian Oral History Website correspondent about some weaknesses that oral history field faces, "books which are published in field of oral history show that we have not still reached a common language in oral history practice and there has not been still a common understanding. The reason for this is that oral history has not yet been accepted as a scientific discipline in universities.
The Most Recent Words by Hedayatollah Behboodi

Documentations Are Not From the Same Genus

As reported by Iranian Oral History Website, closing ceremony of 11th period of award of Jalal Al-e-Ahmad was held in Ghalam Hall of NLAI on December 8, 2018. In documentation part of the award, two works were jointly selected, "Alef-Lam Khomeini" by Hedayatollah Behboodi published by the Institute for Political Studies and Research, and "Pedaling for Seeking Shams: From Tabriz to Konya, from Konya to Damascus" by Hasan Karami Qaramaleki published by Sotoudeh Publication.