Close Past

The Status and Role of Oral Sources in Iranian Historicism

By: Mr.Abolfat'h Momen
Translator: Mr. Mohmmad Baqer Khoshnevisan

Since oral historicism is a new method, it follows special contingencies in its work. This is a natural expectation or perhaps a kind of non-self-conscious behavior that everyone in the position of an interviewee is seeking to defend oneself or boost a positive role for oneself. But this is up to the smart and clever audience not to give up what he or she hears or is inculcated to him or her, especially if he or she plays as a historian. A historian who knows that the memoir may not be pure, he or she should consider motivations, status, real position and the personal specifications of the interviewee, and at the same time as much as possible and necessary, force the interviewee to speak and lead him or her in his pre-planned path. In other words, the interviewer should control the interview, and it is with this control that oral history is differentiated from memoir-writing.

For writing the contemporary history whether at the international level or regional (local) level, special methods and means are used in which national and local sources including books, journals, documents and memoirs are considered as the most important tools. The said sources are of great importance in the logical analysis and in accordance with the reality of the events. Thus, journals which are the official organ of a party or an association can be helpful in recognizing the goals and viewpoints of these institutions, for example: Azerbaijan newspaper (the official organ of Azerbaijan Democrat sect), Alaleh (in Kurdish, the organ of the Organization of Kurdistan Democratic youth), Ettefagh (the organ of Unity and Progressive Party), Rahnama, (the organ of Hamadan's Tudeh Party), Rastakhiz (the organ of Rastakhiz Party) (1) and so forth. In addition to journals, historic documents and memoirs are also of great importance. By studying the memoirs of those who have been present in political events or different incidents or probably have been among influential elements, we can obtain considerable points, because the memoirs of those political statesmen or influential figures who have played crucial role in the defeat, victory or leading a current in special points of the history, can help us familiarize with the events and incidents, currents and the figures involved in historical issues and through theses sources, we can find out the depth of the issue(2). This article will answer to the following fundamental questions through researching about the role and status of oral history:  Are the historical sources used in compiling oral history reliable? , How and with what methods can we found out that these sources are real or not? To what extent the oral history shares scientific validity in general?

Historical Sources


The original and firsthand source in every historical research is the documents which in fact should be considered as the main key and decoder of every research. Documents can confirm, breach or criticize the subject of sources and origins like journals, memoirs, logs and so forth. Historical events cover main part of the assets of archives including all monarchial correspondences, orders, the documents of political treaties, all kinds of governmental and court writings, economic, cultural, and military reports, judicial, financial and legal documents as well as some private and family letters which the elders called them "Sultanian" or "Divanian"(3). These sources due to their originality and because each part of them depends on a special time or event are of great importance in compiling oral history.
Historical documents include various types among them we can refer to financial, legal, and judicial documents, Ekhvaniyat (4).. Etc.(5) For example, the court and military reports of Amir Nezam Garousi about the events of Kurdistan in 1298 Islamic lunar calendar, is one of the court and military reports (6).In the current era, the best example of documents are governmental, political, religious, … and police station and SAVAK (Shah's secret police) reports about the activities of various individuals and groups in the country which today have been turned into one of the sources for writing and researching in different historical fields. Fortunately, many of these documents have been published in books among which we can refer to the collections of "Imam's comrades narrated by SAVAK documents'," Islamic Revolution narrated by SAVAK documents" and "The documents of prominent figures in Pahlavi regim." (7)

B- Oral History

Another source in historical researches is the memories and diaries of the individuals who have witnessed or observed the events. Although these writings may have some deficiencies or probably involved in a kind of private or political motives, they are very valuable. Indeed, memoirs are considered as a new and frequent type of the sources of contemporary history of our country which have been influenced by the west's tradition in its modern form. What the history researchers should pay significant attentions concerning these historic sources is that the sources should be studied and criticized precisely and accurately. In studying and criticizing the memoirs, in addition to the necessity of the researchers' knowledge from that historical period of the memoirs, recognizing the social and class base of the memoir-writer as well as knowing about the intellectual and ideological tendencies and the individual characteristics of that person are very important and basic (8). On the other hand, the memoirs due to numerous reasons including pragmatism, personal likes and dislikes, and biased justifications and reports which are mainly based on observing the writer's social and individual interests do not stand at the first place in terms of historical values, and even some of them also contain misleading lies. But at the same time, these memoirs in addition to removing ambiguities form some historical documents and information, sometimes provide so original and new reports and news that despite the shortages and deficiencies, their value is promoted to the level of firsthand documents.(9)

Access to these sources is possible through two following ways:

1-Using memoirs and diaries which have been collected and published by various agencies like the memoirs of Ali Akbar Khan Sanjabi Sardar Moqtader (10), the memoirs of Shapour Bakhtiar, Hopes and Non-hopes of Karim Sanjabi.

2- Interviewing with the individuals who have been influential and informed in historical events and are still alive. For accessing to such information, it is necessary that questionnaires are provided according to their social, cultural, political and economic activities. The questions should be presented somewhat professionally so that the answer of the interviewee could convince the view of interviewer in a way that he could ask another question. For example, questions from an academic person should be about cultural, scientific and political issues as well as the academics of that period. Also a businessman should be asked about the aides of this section to social-political groups and individuals or their role in closing bazaar during events and incidents.

Oral History Centers

Today, in line with compiling oral history, there are numerous centers which are involved in collecting memoirs and interviewing with different individuals and figures some of which are affiliated to domestic centers and institutions and some others to foreign centers and institutions most of which are active in the United States.

A- Foreign Centers

1- Harvard University: The University collects the memoirs of Pahlavi dignitaries with the cooperation of Habibollah Ladjevardi. He first provided the "Plan of 300 Oral Histories" and at present is involved in collecting information from the political, military and social dignitaries and ministers and lawmakers of Pahlavi period in the form of telling memoirs. This center keeps the collected memoirs until the owner of the memoir allows them to be published. Some of the owners of the memoirs allow their memoirs to be published at least ten years after their death and apparently Harvard University would accept their conditions. Out of 200 collections from all guilds and jobs, an all-out course of contemporary history on Iran will be obtained that should be said in general that it is a deep and extensive work. Their method is that they provide three copies from each interview, then they send one copy to Cambridge University in Britain, and they keep another copy in Harvard University and finally the last one is given to the owner of the translation. (All the copies are in Farsi). The memoirs of Shapour Bakhtiar, Ali Amini, Dr. Mozaffar Baqa’ee, Dr. Karim Sanjabi, Dr. Mehdi Ha'eri, Gholamhussein Sa'edi, and Dr. Mojtahedi are among the works of this center.(11)

Project of the Left Oral History: This research Center works under the supervision of Amsterdam International Institute for Social History in the Netherlands. The Institute has so far collected 262 hours of interview from 28 dignitaries. The Institute's website is also active.

The US Army's History Center is also another center which is involved in collecting the memoirs of the US commanders and advisors in Iran. The result of their work is a collection consisting of the memories of 150,000 US advisors. Nothing of this collection has been published yet.

The Oral History Center for Iranian Women: It is affiliated to the Foundation of Iranian Studies and is financed by Ashraf Pahlavi in America. The journal of Iran Nameh is published by this Center. The institute has collected the memories of several women of Pahlavi period none of which have so far been released.

The Oral History Collection of the Foundation for Iranian Studies: This center is also affiliated to the Foundation of Iranian Studies and is now active in the United States. This institute has recorded more than 700 hours of memories from 180 people the volume of which amount to some 14,000 pages, but so far no part of this collection has been released.

The Center for Iranian Jewish Oral History: This research institute has been founded by Mrs. Homa Sarshar – a Jew from Hamedan – in the US. “Memoirs of Shaban Jafari” is one of the works of this center. Recently, she has put on the Center's agenda the memoirs of Hojabr Yazdani and has published the book "Esther's Children" consisting of 25 detailed articles about the history of Iranian Jews – from the past periods to the present. (12)

B- Domestic Centers

There are numerous centers inside Iran involved in collecting memoirs and compiling oral history some of which are as follow:

The Oral History Executive at the Center for Islamic Revolution Documents: This department conducts interviews with the figures who have participated in the events of Islamic revolution and before that. It will receive necessary matters by designing expert questions and then transcribe and edit them from the tapes and films and finally the result is provided to the researcher for compilation.

One of the characters of the works presented by this center is the comparison of the memoirs with the documents which are available in the archive section of this center. Also the images of the documents are brought at the end of the memories' book. The memoirs of Seyyed Ahmad Hosseini Malayeri, Memoirs of Ayatollah Taheri Khorramabadi and the Struggles of Martyr Mahalati  (13) are among the works released by the Oral History Executive at the Center for Islamic Revolution Documents.

2- Foundation of Islamic Revolution History: This institute has conducted interviews with numerous people and has collected many documents and memoirs part of which have been released in "Yad" Quarterly.

The bureau for Islamic Revolution Literature at Arts Center: The Oral History Department of this Office has collected and published good memoirs. Using footnotes and introducing the individuals mentioned in the text of the memoirs are among the characters of this Office. Also using the information bank and the archive of the encyclopedia of Iranian Contemporary Prominent Figures has increased the quality. The memoirs of Ahmad Ahmad (14), Marzieh Hadidchi (Dabbagh) (15), Seyyed Mohammad Kazem Bojnourdi (16) and the memoirs of Ali Amini are among the books released by the Office.

Institute for Iranian Contemporary Historical Studies: This Center by having the documents of great and political families has a special characteristic in its works, and collecting the memories of prominent figures adds the quality of the Institute's work. The Institute has published a number of these works in the form of books and articles in the specialized quarterly of Iranian Contemporary History.

Iran's National Library and Documents Organization: This center has branches in northwestern, western and other parts of Iran in addition to Tehran and is involved in oral history through these sub-branches. But so far it has not released any special book in this regard.

Guidelines for using memories and oral history in compiling history

For using memories and oral history in compiling history, we should pay attention to several points which are in fact considered the same criticizing and studying about these sources:

Motivation of research centers for gathering memoirs

Studying the position and status of the owner of memory

Egoism and reversing the events' path

Comparing memoirs with documents

Motivation of research centers from gathering memoirs

Just as no historian or researcher resorts to compiling and writing history without motivation and pre-judgment and accept costs, we cannot imagine that the institutes or centers engage in researching and gathering memoirs and oral resources without describing some parts of special goals or without paying attention to obtaining some resources. For example, the Center for Islamic Revolution Documents terms its goal as protecting the history of Islamic Revolution and preventing from the enemy's unfair use. This Center is involved in compiling the history of the Islamic Revolution on the order and guidelines of the great leader of the Revolution and the founder of Islamic republic of Iran, Imam Khomeini (May his soul rest in peace). "I want you to do your best in order to specify the goal of the people's uprising, because the historians always analyze the goal of the revolutions with their own or their lords' biased interpretation. Today, like always regarding the history of the revolutions, a number of people who are pro-west or pro-east are engaged in writing the honorable history of Iran's Islamic Revolution. The world history is full of the first insult by special people against other people or an event deserving debate. If you can document the history to the voice and film containing various subjects about revolution from the language of the suffered masses, then you have done a suitable and proper job"… (17)

Considering the content of the mentioned letter, we can found that the area of the oral history activity of the Center for Islamic Revolution Documents covers the Iranian revolution from 1342 solar calendar (1963) to the victory of the revolution in 1979. Thus, the memories released by this center concerning the events of late Qajar period and early Pahlavi period is less documented in addition to their less quantity, because the attached documents of these memories are more about the issues of Islamic revolution, and the events about Qajar and Pahlavi periods do not rely on strong documents. At the same time, the Center's interviewer follows his questions in line with the goals of the mentioned history or perhaps he ignores the events of earlier periods intentionally. However, this point has been noted recently, so that those who pose questions want the interviewees to answer the questions widely and extensively. Moreover, probably some events have not been regarded important by the Center at the time of publication or have not been mentioned due to political, cultural or personal considerations, because some of the memoirs' owners are still alive while the motioned points may be very important for the historian in order to understand an event better. So, the historians can use the Center's oral resources for researching about the Islamic Revolution, but at the same time, they should not ignore comparing the content of the released memoirs and if the owner of the memory is still alive, they act to remove the vague points by trying to have access to him or her.

Another center which is in line with the Center for Islamic Revolution Documents in terms of goals and the method of the work is the Oral History Department of the Office for the Literature of Islamic Revolution. According the head of the Islamic Revolution Literature Office of the Art Section, "Oral History Department has focused on the years 1342 to 1357 (1963 – 1979) and is engaged in gathering information regarding this period and is more seeking the leaders and the elite of political currents in the country. I mean those who have been the founders of political struggles in the country or witnessed the events directly: political prisoners, the founders of some parties and armed groups as well as those who were in Islamic associations inside and outside the country and the religious scholars were engaged in the struggles led by Imam Khomeini (may his soul rest in peace) directly." elsewhere, he says," We do not let ourselves to alter some memoirs according to current circumstances. Sometimes it's because of this consideration that the memoirs of a person is left unpublished and as long as that person does not deem advisable or the current circumstances does not allow, we won't publish it…However, we do not consider the current circumstance. This means judgment before researching, but outside pressures have also impacts on us". (18)

As it was said, the Office is in line with the Center for Islamic Revolution Documents, but the memories of this Office unlike the Center have not been arranged relying on the final documents. But footnotes have been added on the subjects of the book which has a high quality in its own kind. However, we should say in general that the researchers cannot rely on these memories for their research in the areas of economic, cultural and social issues, while the time frame of the memories is restricted from the political aspect and at the same time, they consist of the memoirs of especial individuals and it does not cover the memoirs of all the people engaged in the areas of politic, economic, and…

The Foundation of Islamic Revolution History is another center which has common goals with two previous centers in terms of the subject and time frame. Although the Foundation apparently has conducted some 1000 hours of oral history interviews, it doesn't have other outlet except "Yad" quarterly. The Institute for Iranian Contemporary Historical Studies is also moving through this line and has so far 130 interviews with the political figures of the second Pahlavi regime among them is the political memoirs of Dr. Javad Sadr. (19)

The Organization of Documents and National Library of Iran (former Organization of Iran's National Documents) is inexperienced in terms of working on oral history. The Organization's oral history especially in its branches covers all political, social, cultural and economic aspects of the contemporary history. Although the organization has no outlet in this field, the historians can access significant data in various fields especially about the country's areas and regions by using the Organization's oral history archive and documents. In addition to compiling memories, collecting the family documents is among the interesting actions of this center. (20)

The foreign centers follow up special goals and programs in compiling oral history. The most important foreign center which is most engaged in Iranian oral history is Harvard University. It is obvious that no foreign or governmental center investigates about the history of another country without any goal or prospect but they consider a short-term or long-term benefit and aim. If we pay attention to the memories of western political and economic officer or tourists who have been in Iran, most of them have not been free of political motives and have entirely moved in line with securing the interests of their own country. For example, we can refer to the memories of Sir Clarmont Skrine (a British agent in Iran) (21), "Russia and the West in Iran" (observations of George Lenczowski (22), Press Attaché at the Polish Legation in Tehran during World War II) and "The Camels Must Go" (23) (the political memoirs of Sir Reader Bullard) all of which were involved in justifying British and western governments' policies in Iran. Thus, no doubt that Harvard University has not taken measures to this action without considering political, economic… interests although it presents valuable topics in their works. Moreover, this center and other foreign centers are moving fully biased and exactly against the domestic oral history centers. Therefore, in the cases which political, economic … individuals, organizations and groups have played important roles in a system, they have not referred to them or remained silent. For example, in the memoirs of Sharif Emami (24), despite he was the head of Freemasonry Lodge and even he was going to set up the Great Iranian Lodge, nothing is said about his being freemasonry and his organization. Or for example, in the memories of Ali Amini (25), who was trusted by the Americans and even was appointed as Prime Minister under the pressure of the US, his status among the Americans has not been referred to. In other words, some parts of the issues have been ignored publicly in the published texts. Moreover, in theses memories, no discussion is seen about the cultural and social situation of Pahlavi period, confronting with religious scholars, the factors of Shah's fall and the victory of Islamic Revolution and so forth. While no doubt that the interviewer has had questions in mind about theses issues and even he has probably presented some questions, but we cannot see them in the published text. Thus, it is necessary for the historians to be very careful and curious in using such resources and along with them, they should use other documents and memories in order to reach a logical and real conclusion.

The next center which gathers memoirs with the same tendency and method but by considering partisan and ideological policy is the Left Oral History under the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, which collects the memoirs of the members of Communist and Tudeh parties. Considering the selection of the individuals the Institute gathers their memories, we can easily find out its goal. An example of such memoirs published by the Institute (26) publicly shows that their activity is biased and they hide the truth. However, it is obvious that these sources can help clarify many issues regarding the history of partisan relations and the country's foreign relations especially with regard to former Soviet Union. Furthermore, we can obtain proper data about domestic developments and secret services of those periods.

Other foreign centers follow especial goals. For example, the History Center of the US Army which has said that its goal is to transfer the experiences of the US commanders and advisors in Iran to its forces and distinguish various positions of the community and the country for political and military planning, or even the Foundation of Iranian Studies financed by Ashraf Pahlavi, each of them considers special aims other than what they express on the surface so that the founders of the center introduces well what they do.

The Jewish Oral Historicism which works under the supervision of Homa Sarshar has ethnic-religious goals openly and tries to write the Iranian history in this line.

The existence of these special motives, intentions and approaches in oral history has in fact made the duty of the historian and researcher more burdensome and doubles the responsibility of the historian to recognize good and bad and discover and analyze the reality.

Reviewing the position and status of the memoir's owner

In using the oral sources and memories, paying attention to the role and status of the owner of the memory is of great importance and we should consider his or her position as a decision-maker or the leader of an organization or a group. In fact, the historian through the memories of these persons should look for the events and incidents in which they have played an important and direct role and are aware of the details and vague issues of that organization, party or group. In general, marginal and auditory issues are in the second and third degrees. For example, in the memories of Mozaffar Baqaee Kermani (27) - from the collection of "Oral History Project of Harvard University" – we should seek the facts and realities of years between late 1320s and early 1330s when many incidents happened, because Baqaee played an important role from the period of Qavam Saltaneh premiership during Azerbaijan uprising to the period of National Movement, Mosadeq government and the coup of Mordad 28, 1332 (August 18, 1953) as well as during the early period of Major General Zahedi's government after the coup. Also his memories about Iran Zahmatkeshan Party are of great importance. About local history, his tenure as the head of education (culture) in Kerman is also noticeable. However, it is necessary for the interviewer to have full knowledge about Iranian contemporary history and the political, social, cultural, and … life of the interviewee in order to present the questions and obtain important memories for him or her.

Another example of such works is the memories of Shaban Jafari (28) which we should pay attention to Jafari's role in the events of 1953 coup amidst these memories as well as his link with the Court and other bazaar and sport circles. And the relation of this sport with politics can be important. In fact we should say that the value of "the memories" fully depends on the social-political importance of the memoirs' owner and the range of his or her involvement in the events. However, in addition to all of theses factors, honesty and truthfulness of the memory teller is a very important factor in evaluating these memories and the historian must certainly pay a special attention to this factor.

Egoism and reversing the events' path

In view of the fact that today various memories are published from economic, social, cultural and political figures, and each of them is affiliated to a special intellectual-political current, the researcher should investigate more in using historical resources in order to take precaution over the events and incidents. Because each of the published memory books can be regarded as a defense bill more than anything else in which the writers are trying to introduce themselves as the main factor with regard to those historical events which are considered to the benefit of the country and in those case which have been to the detriment of the country, they put the blames on others or in other words exonerate themselves. Another point in some memoirs is that the owner of the memory might want to settle a score with the competitors and political adversaries. For example, Amini in his memories speaks somehow as if he has not committed a mistake or wrongdoing. (29)

It is obvious that these types of the memoirs are sometimes accompanied by the claims, self-praises and biased remarks of the owner of the memory and their writers bring up the issues which have been in their interest or probably against their taste or the viewpoint (30). However, the interviewer by presenting proper questions can prevent this state, but it is not deniable that amidst these remarks, there are information and points which can be important from the viewpoint of social and historical studies.

At every step of his or her research, the historian needs to ask this question from him or herself: Is whatever he or she faces ahead compatible with reality? Is it possible that the memory teller lies intentionally or even unintentionally? However it is possible that both mentioned defects (lack of compatibility with reality and intentional or unintentional error) exist in these memories. So, the historian can attain the historical truth just through research (31). The history researcher must reconstruct and review the past. This research demands the critical, precise research of two subjects by him or her:

What is the historical reality?

2-Which is the nature of historical evidence and documents?

There are good evidences about the past events (2), but we should not accept that all of these evidences are absolute and must not be discussed and the researcher must have the tools for recognizing the rate of the authenticity of the subjects, the power of distinguishing the border of mixing reality with bad intention and understanding possible distortions and enmities as well as necessary knowledge for recognizing the points of the memory teller's interference in valuable viewpoints and the tools for assessing the viewpoint's range and extent of the owner of the memory in looking at the social events. The researcher needs a deep, comprehensive vision in order to reach this recognition and measurement (33). This judgment should not be supposed at the expense of underestimating the memories and the historical-investigative value of the source, but the most important objection to the investigative value of the memoirs is the same individual and valuable aspect.

Moreover, the kind and method of expressing the memoirs can be apologetic and even defensive. It means that the owners of the memories often try to justify and defend their performances or have their own ideas and this kind of approach is more or less obvious in most of the memories, and its rate depends on the individual personality and psychology of the memory teller as well as the social atmosphere in which he or she is forced to defend. On the other hand, even the memories are possible to turn into an absolute admission. Sometimes, the admissions result from the spiritual and intellectual change in the owner of the work aimed at motives like showoff and deceit. However, memory writing can be seen from an investigative look, that is behavioral patterns or social and political issues for reaching the recognition of the roots of performances can take place simultaneously aimed at investigating about one's life or social events.

Comparing memoirs with documents

Despite their importance, the memories cannot and must not be considered as the basis for historical recognition, but written documents have also their special status. Generally, the memoirs disclose the personal experiences and individual perspective of the owner of the work, and naturally they should be used in comparing with similar works especially the memories of those who are in the course of the same events in contradiction to the owner of the memory as well as after comparing them with written documents. Although the past times have come to an end and it is not possible to reach those periods directly, many works have remained from the past in the form of documents, constructions, coins, social institutions and so forth through which every self-respect historian can reconstruct and retell the history on the basis of these works and signs. For example, in order to find out the validity of the memoirs of Dr. Baqaee (34) and the issues and matters brought up in this memory, they can be compared with the political biography of Dr. Baqaee which has been compiled on the basis of his family documents and we can obtain a lot of realities. Or about the war of Salarodowleh Abolfat'h Mirza Qajar and the lords in western Iran and the war of Chahar Dowli with the state forces and the fighters of the Constitutionalism, we can refer to the memories written in the journals and newspapers in which the memory tellers have tried to depict the behavior of the local lords who helped the Shah and the defenders of Constitutionalism who had liberal and progressive thoughts. However, by reviewing the documents of this war (35), which happened in Shorjeh village in Hamedan, and the state forces were commanded by Abdolhaossien Mirza Farmanfarma and Yeprem Khan Armenian, the main reason for the support of local lords – Abbas Khan Sartip Chanari and Abdolkhan Chahrdowli – from Salarodowleh as well as the main reason for the support of Mohammad Sadeq Khan Chahardowli and Ayatollah Sheikh Mohammad Bagher Bahari (36) from Constitutionalism are disclosed. Thus, we understand that the former who were looking for their personal interests and because of their arrogant nature and the differences they had with other lords or because of the greediness of some state officials – like Kamran Mirza Nayebolsaltaneh -  supported Salarodowleh in order to seize the properties and lands of the lords. At the same time, their unawareness from the current situation and Tehran developments and the country intensified their tendencies. But the latter were divided into two groups: the first group like Mohamamd Sadeq Khan Chahardowli moved in line with opposing the local lords and with little knowledge from the ongoing incidents in the country, tried to exploit the developments for his own interest, which of course he was successful in this regard and gained properties and titles. The second group were the people like Ayatollah Sheikh Mohmmad Baqer Bahari who were always in touch with the religious authorities in the holy city of Najaf and were completely aware of the course of incidents and developments in the country and thus they struggled against domestic despotism and foreign colonialism with enough knowledge and vision, and defended the Constitutional Revolution without any expectation (37). In oral resources and the memories of the Constitutional Revolution period, usually the position of Mirza Abolqassem Mahmoudzadeh (the head of Mujahedin in Hamedan who handled the National Camp during the Lesser Despotism) has been considered as the same with that of ayatollah Bahari – who had set up a group along with his followers and clergies, while according to the documents and letters of Ayatollah Bahari with Ayatollah Akhund Khorasani in the holy city of Najaf, the difference of opinion between these two in the viewpoint and the current issues are completely obvious, insofar as Mahmoudzadeh provoked the people to harm Ayatollah Bahari and the only thing which prevented from rioting was the letter of Ayatollah Akhund Khorasani in defense of Bahari. (38)

However, the oral history  have not been customary in Qajar and Pahlavi periods, but the individuals' observations have been registered and recorded in the forms of memory writing, memories and diaries.

It is worth mentioning that memory writing has differences with oral history: memory writing is special for the individual but oral history is not, but that individual at the first stage is chosen and then guided. In memory writing, the person oneself turns one's observations and thoughts to word in a time close to the incident, but in oral history, the person turns to word the thoughts which have remained with himself or herself and have suffered the probable time problems in a time far from the incident (39); while most of the interviews are guided somehow for purification or through a system in which the interviewee is or has been present. In other words, the oral history productions at least for the straightness of the interviewee happen in line with official productions or in a time when the community has found the opportunity to escape from the politicians. Moreover, as it was said earlier, some interviews are defense and acquaintance-seeking bills form the faults and scarcities and some also try to portray their role in the historical incidents and events as sturdy. So, the text of oral history can be criticized and to do so, memories should be compared with other ones – of course in the same field and subject- as well as with other documents, because the interpretation of people from the incidents is different. In oral memories of the reports presented about an incident, issues like the date of the incident, the details, the circumstances and the method or suppression and the reaction of the government of responsible officials are seen less, while the documents help a lot in clarifying such issues. For example, the compiler can provide an acceptable report about the 15 Khordad (June 5) uprising through mixing the documents and memories. On this basis, the most honest and expressive narrators of historical events and incidents of a country and a region are the documents which have remained from the time of the event. So, no investigator or researcher can provide a lucid analysis about the realities of historical events without using valid documents and it is possible that the important historical-political events due to lack of access to the related documents are changed time after time by the researchers and investigators. Furthermore, the viewpoints and observations of those who have played roles in the Iranian contemporary history before and after the Islamic Revolution in political, cultural, social and … scenes are very important and these memories cannot be reflected precisely and integrally, or else we refer to their documents and use them correctly and suitably. In fact to the extent the reconstruction of a current, a phenomenon and a subject related to the past depend on figures due to function of individuals, dignitaries and figures in that event, to the same extent, part of the reconstruction and revival of figures and characters owes also to documents. It is crystal clear that in oral memories, we cannot fully explain and elucidate the subjects brought up in oral history without reliance on archive and library resources. Thus, the connection of individuals with political currents and figures can help the historian a lot in this regard. Also field and individual files which have been set up at its own time for control and prosecution in security centers but now are considered as the raw sources for research as well as judicial files can be used in compiling oral history so that we can search for the facts about the arrest and interrogation of the people and the judicial procedure of the trials and the issued verdicts in their files. So we can say: documents have not been provided for historicism but they cover executive procedure or issued verdicts and orders and then are turned into unique sources in historicism, but in oral history, the document (interview) is produced for historicism.

It is worth mentioning that in addition to written documents, image documents also contain valuable and important data which can help the historian in discovering the facts.

In the final analysis, despite criticisms on oral history, this history can help historical research in the following aspects:

1- It clarifies that part of the history in which written documents cannot find a way (like the events that are not registered in any book).

2- It provides a more or less image for historical events based on direct and indirect individual experience.

3- It registers value viewpoints and individual judgments about historical incidents, developments and figures.

4- It records and depicts the personal-psychological features of the owner of the memory and other individuals whose bad state have been considered.

5- Interviewing, collecting memories and their publication cause to make clear that angle of the incidents' charter which is related to the memory teller and consequently other individuals are naturally provoked to complete other angles of this charter.

6- The current various political groups are willing somehow competitively to express their past and publish in a book. So, by observing the mentioned standards, the oral history researcher should use these sources in his or her research, clarifies the history and events as much as possible and even extracts new subjects from the text of memories and then presents new researches in that field with the help of documents.


1- Pess Identity Card, 1215-1357 Solar Calendar (SC), Compiler: Masoud Barzinm Tehran, Behjat, 1371 SC, Page 7, 20, 235
2- Ardeshir Avanesian, memories, Tehran, Negreh Cultural-Publication  Institute, 1376 SC, page 10
3-Abolaft'h Moamen, "The Status of Documents in Compiling Regional History", the articles' collection of the conference for Contemporary History and Documents (First Book), Tehran, The Center for Reviewing Historical Documents, Azar 1381 SC, page 150.
4- Ekhvaniyat: brotherhoods. A kind of technical Writing, passed bethween nobels, poets, scholars tec... consisting: praises, news about time situations, prose, verse..
5- Jahangir Ghaem-maghami , An Introduction to Recognizing Historical Documents, Tehran, The Association of National Works, Azar 1381 SC, page 41.
Amir Nezam garoussi's Court and Military reports and Letters, collected by Iraj Afshar, Tehran, the Historical and Literary Publication of Mahmoud Afshar Yazdi, 1373 SC.
7- See: The Islamic Revolution Documents, Volume 1 and 5, Tehran, The Center of Islamic Revolution Documents, 1374 SC, Imam's followers narrated by SAVAK's documents (Martyr Ayatollah Seyyed Asadollah Madani), Tehran's Fourth Book, Intelligence Ministry's Center for Reviewing Historical Documents, 1377 SC, Islamic Revolution narrated by SAVAK documents, from volume 1 to 12 (so far), Tehran, Intelligence Ministry's Center for Reviewing Historical Documents.
Hajatollah Fallah, " A Review of the memories of Shokrollah Safapour", Iran's Contemporary History quarterly, Eighth Book, Tehran, The Institute for Cultural Research and Studies, 1374 SC, page 137.
9- Ghoalmhossien Zargarinejad, "A Review of the Memories of Major General Amir-Ahmadi", Iran's Contemporary History quarterly, Fourth Book, Tehran, The Institute for Cultural Research and Studies, 1371 SC, page 147
Sanjabi, Ali Akbar Khan, Sardar Moqtader, Sanjabi Tribe and Iran's National Struggles collected by Karim Sanjabi, Tehran, Shirazeh, 1380 SC.
Qassem Tabrizi, Acquittal Historicism, "A Look at the Centers of Isalmic Revolution Historicism Abroad"< Sureh Monthly, New Course, Tenth issue, Mordad and Shahrivar 1383 SC, page 66.
12-Ibid. page 69.
13- The Memories and Struggles of Martyr Mahallati, Tehran, the Center of Islamic Revolution Documents, 1376 SC.
14- Ahmad Ahmad, Memories, collected by Mohsen Kazemi, Tehran, Sureh Mehr, 1381 SC
Marzieh Hadidchi (Dabbagh), Memories, collected by Mohsen Kazemi, Tehran, Sureh Mehr, 1381 SC.
Kazem Bojnoordi, The Memories of the Office of Islamic revolution Literature, Tehran, Art Section, 1378 SC.
The Letter of Imam Khomeini (may his soul rest in peace) to Hojatolislam Hamid Rowhani, First volume, Tehran, The Center of Islamic revolution Documents, 1374 SC.
Interview with Hedayatollah Behboudi, The manager of Art Section of the Office of Islamic revolution Literature, "Noiseless with off lights", Jam-e Jam daily, 16 Bahman 1382 SC, page 5.
Mohasen kazemi, "Oral History", Zamaneh Monthly, Third year, No. 28, Day 1382 SC, page 93.
20- See: The Organization for National Library And Documents, "the management of western Iran", the Oral History Section which has conducted interviews with 100 people and collected more than 200 hours of memories about cultural, economic, political and social issues of Iranian History.
Clarmont Skrine, Skrine's Memories or World War in Iran, Translated by Gholamhossein Salehyar, Tehran, Rostamkhani, Bita.
George Lenczowski, Thirty Yueras of Competition between the West and Soviet Union in Iran, translated by Houra Yavari, Tehran, Sahar, 1351 SC.
Reader Bullard, "Camels Must Go", translated by Hassan Aboutorabian, Tehran, Nashr-e No, 1362 SC.
24-Jafar Sharifemami, Sharif Emami's Memories, collected by Habib Lajevardi, Tehran, Negah-e Emrooz, 1380 SC.
Ali Amini, Ali Amini's Memories, collected by Habib Lajevardi, Tehran, Nashe-e Goftar, 1376 SC.
Ardeshir Avanesian, Avanesian's Memories, Tehran, Fekreh Cultural-Publication Institute.
Mozaffar Baqaee Kermani, Dr.  Mozaffar Baqaee Kermani' memories, Interviewer: Habib Lajervardi, introduced and edited by Mahmoud Tolooee, Tehran, Elm, 1382 SC.
Shaban Jafari, memories collected by Homa Sarshar, Tehran, Abfam, Bita.
See: Ali Amini, Ali Amini's Memories, collected by Yaqub Tavakkoli, Tehran, Art Section, 1377 SC.
30- Gholahossein Yussefi, A visit with Writers, Second volume, Mashhad, Mashhad University, 1358 SC, page 361.
31- Abdolhossein Zarrinkoub, History in Scale, Tehran, Amirkabir, Third Edition, 1370 SC, page 111.
32- H. W. Walsh, An Introduction to History Philosophy, translated by Ziaoddin Allaee Tabatabaee, Tehran, Amirkabir, 1363 SC, page 83.
Iraj Eskandari, The memories of Iraj Eskandar, First secretary of Iran's Tudeh Party, the institute for Political Researches and Studies, 1381 SC, page 14.
Hossein Abadian, the political biography of Dr. Mozaffar Baqaee, Tehran, the institute for Political Researches and Studies, 1377 SC.
In Search of History and Throne (The Documents of Abolfat'h Mirza Salarodowleh Qajar), collected by Reza Azari, Tehran, The Organization of Iranian National Documents, 1378 SC.
Abolfat'h Moamen, Major General Abbas Khan Chenari, The Treasury of Documents, no. 38037, Autumn and summer of 1379 SC, pages 34-46.
The Family Documents of Haj Mahmoud Hojatoleslami, the grandson of Ayatollah Sheikh Mohamamd Bahari.
Mohsen Kazemi, Ibid. page 94.


 Zamane Monthly, No. 34

ZAMANE(monthly magazine), No.34

Number of Visits: 6978


Full Name:

Loss of Memory in Pahlavi Prisons

In total, [I was in prison] about 6 years in two arrests. For the first time after several years, a soldier arranged my escape. I do not know why! Maybe he was one of the influential elements of Islamic groups. They took me to the hospital for the treatment of my hand, which was broken due to the callousness of an officer.

Hajj Pilgrimage

I went on a Hajj pilgrimage in the early 1340s (1960s). At that time, few people from the army, gendarmerie and police went on a pilgrimage to the holy Mashhad and holy shrines in Iraq. It happened very rarely. After all, there were faithful people in the Iranian army who were committed to obeying the Islamic halal and haram rules in any situation, and they used to pray.

A section of the memories of a freed Iranian prisoner; Mohsen Bakhshi

Programs of New Year Holidays
Without blooming, without flowers, without greenery and without a table for Haft-sin , another spring has been arrived. Spring came to the camp without bringing freshness and the first days of New Year began in this camp. We were unaware of the plans that old friends had in this camp when Eid (New Year) came.

Attack on Halabcheh narrated

With wet saliva, we are having the lunch which that loving Isfahani man gave us from the back of his van when he said goodbye in the city entrance. Adaspolo [lentils with rice] with yoghurt! We were just started having it when the plane dives, we go down and shelter behind the runnel, and a few moments later, when the plane raises up, we also raise our heads, and while eating, we see the high sides ...