The Second National Conference on Oral History of Holy Defense-3

Engineering Collective Narrative in Basic Narrative of Oral History

Maryam Rajabi
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi


According to Iranian Oral History Website, the 2nd National Conference on Oral History of Holy Defense was held in Ahle Ghalam Hall of NLAI on March 3, 2019. In the first part of report of the conference, you read speeches of the Second Brigadier General Pasdar (IRGC's officer) Gholamreza Alamati, head of the Organization of Holy Defense Documents and Proofs and secretary of the conference, Basiji Sardar (General) brigadier, Bahman Kargar, head of the Foundation for Preservation of Relics and Publishing Values of Holy Defense, and head of NLAI Ashraf Boroujerdi and in the second part read words of Rear admiral Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council.


Seventy days of the Tinab front
In the course of the conference, Morteza Nouraee, a professor at the University of Isfahan and a specialist in field of oral history, spoke: "What I offer to friends at this opportunity is a report of a research and different narrative of the holy defense in oral history process. That I present another narrative is because of that its results might be different. It is about three months this project has been started and is intended to bring different results.
Myth making expression in the sacred defense should be shifted slightly towards rule of the warriors. Infantry in eight years of the war and holy defense means that wherever infantry is involved, the most important part of the war is; so giving energy is important for recording their oral history. This project has been started from a different view. The name of this project is "Seventy Days of the Tinab front," and analysis of engineering collective narrative in basic narrative of oral history. Keep the word Tinab in your mind. This word means dream. The gendarmerie was active in this region. My speech is in three parts. In the first part I will explain geography and history of this event, which has been investigated for its seventy days. Tinab is a place between Dehloran and Mehran. Our period is three months from November to January 1981, when Mehran was occupied from Konjaan-cham dam to 50 km outside Mehran to Dehloran, and we were located on Tinab highlands, where it was dominant upon the strategic road. I squealed on myself unconsciously because I am one of the people involved in the phase. Engineer Sajjad Haghighat, Mrs. Hajar Mehrjoyan and Ms. Somayeh Sajjadi follow up this project and do interview.

Place of the event is a nomad area near Dehloran. People of this region are Kurd. The other point is that among people whom in the area were going to be interviewed with us six persons were surely involved in these seventy days. It is expected that number of interviewees will rise to thirty. Interestingly, there are some documents. For example, one soldier wrote his own memoirs in the same year of 1981, and at least some of memoirs that he had done took place at the same place of Tinab and this is important. In his memoir, he wrote movements and words and emotions in details. In addition, there was an opportunity, and many parts of the area were recorded by camera and there are many photos. Being numerous photos and written documents, in addition to the fact that newspapers had recorded three to four operations of the area, and on the other hand, capturing the two Iraqis at that time helped us much; so necessary documents are available for seventy days so that reconstruct an acceptable narrative of life of gendarmerie's military service during the wartime. We expect that detailed interviews to be conducted, as several people have been interviewed so far and style of interview was different from the beginning. The reason was that those who went to military service in the gendarmerie on December 1980 were no one volunteers. Everyone went to military service so that after that their path would be open for other activities or administrative vocations. The important thing is that all of these people are exactly same age and have around 57 years old. They have an active mind and have a visual mentality from the whole area. One of the interviewers said that when one of the narrators talked about Tinab and that area, he illustrated it for us in a way that for we who did not see that area, the whole situation was clear and obvious. This was a brief introduction of this project and its position. This area was never an active front. There was no front that a confrontational warfare like Operation Valfajr-8 would take place there. The operations we carried out were altruistic operation, and it was intended when rears of the enemy's came for rest, we would put an end to their order in that area.

Technically, the second part of my talk is that we in terms of expert are facing narrative in oral history. This narrative should turn from individual experience to collective experience. Most of today's conversations were that we should provide correctness of oral history. That is we do not go toward myth making and emotions in the interview, and that' why it is also said that interviewer in oral history should direct interview toward a collective experience that can be verified. This case itself can be notable one because of the fact that we are faced with many people. So there are many people who narrate. I have seen today in some organizations that they have replaced a method that is referred to it as co-narrative, that is, some people comes together and talk about an event. This is generally true, but operationally, in the first phase, co-narrative causes many of the issues that individuals remember alone to forget and it would be impossible to analyze actively their minds. Our recommendation is that practically first each of the people who are involved in the event to be interviewed individually, first and foremost, and when their interview is completed, to consider them also in a co-narrative form. It means they gather together and talk and provide background of reminding. The sensitive point is that it is individually and empirically said that how we turn collective narrative into a basic narrative? That is, we know that every historical text contains a narrative, from the first to the end. It is said that what do we do with multiplicity of narrations? Which dimension is preferred? What seems to be that interviewer's mind, after conducting an interview with several people, can finally decide how he/she turns this collective narrative into a basic narrative. Imagine there are having multiple conversations and multiple reports from one story. They are thrown in a can and they want to extract a narration from one hole. Extracting in this mode requires experience. We may face with contradictions, and famous sentences that are needed. This part of collective narrative has not been given technical attention in current Iranian research, and it is limping here and have defect. That is, what is advantage of one person's narration in relation to another? Is this information of that person? Is it memory of that person? Is this the documentation of that person? Therefore, our advice is that in oral history of the holy defense, especially for combatants and infantry who, like commanders, had no opportunity to record their own memoirs, the best solution is the same collective narrative. But this collective narrative requires an additional reflection to be transformed into a work, which we have named "refinery". That is, we bring the total number of narratives into a refinery to give one narrative. This is one of nick of time of conversing collective narratives. Of course, this is done for workers and women, for example in oral history of factories, and more or less they believe that it can be successful.

The important point is that in a collective narrative, it seems to me that interviewer has an essential role to adjust. So narrator and interviewer can tell a story with together. We are going to tell the story of seventy days. What was reported to me from these interviews, I realized that there is confusion and that is some people say something and others violate, or that they raise new arguments or in some events they themselves become center, and in some other issues they permute date that, in any case, presenting these multiple and intermittent topics alongside each other can provide base of accuracy of the work. My young friends suspect that they have interview for one year. What was interested for me about outcome of interviews is that there is a turning point of view among soldiers in relation to Basij force and type of warfare. I was in IRGC before military service and after that in Basij. When I was in Basij, I participated in several operations like Valfajr Moghadamati, Valfajr-5 and in area of Dehloran. Therefore, this different view in presentation is important for me, since we considered most of the writings on the holy defense in oral history. Firstly, the war was among soldiers for the purpose of life. For soldiers as an infantry and simple force, the war would be part of their life, not all of their life! That is, they participated in operation in order to bring that operation to an end, and then they continued their lives. Some time ago, I saw that instead of a soldier and compulsory military service, it was set to be free and volunteer people to form the country's military force; anyway, it was a spirit that we discovered. This spirit can be interact and balanced with attitude and aspiration and high thinking of seeking martyrdom and self-sacrifice, and bring new forces into the realm. Anyway, one of our inquiries about what is said by Sacred Defense authors is to extract mechanisms for different designs and tastes rather than just go to a particular direction. In most parts that the war happened, soldiers stopped Iraqis, that is, between start of the war and formation of Basij and coming of IRGC to armored phase unofficially and seriously. The first six months is six months that we can invest on it, discover this spirit and pay more attention to it in our research. I hope this project will be completed in the future and see its outcome."


The Second National Conference on Oral History of Holy Defense -1: The Purpose Is to Explain Events and Prevent Them from Distortion

The Second National Conference on Oral History of Holy Defense -2: The Criterion Is Presence of People in Oral History of the War

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