An interview with Abolfazl Hassan Abadi during the 2nd Oral History Conference

Abolfazl Hassan Abadi


Interviewer: Maliheh Kamaledin

Translated by: Mohammad Karimi

Hassan Abadi, is president of the Organization of Libraries, Museums and the Documentation Center of Astan-e Quds-e Razavi(1) and author of Oral History in Iran. He is one of oral history activists in Iran who has several activities in this regard. One of his activities was concentrated on Khaf(2) Oral History in 2003 which included the following interviews:

Shamsedin Ara, theme: Graves in Khaf
Gholam Heydar Ebrahim Bay Salami, theme: The expansion of town of Khaf
Qowsudin Ahrari (Sunni Friday prayers Imam in Khaf), theme: History of Khaf & Sunni seminaries
Ali Mohammad E’tebari, theme: Windmills of Nashtifan
Abdulmadjid Khalifeh Qaderi (the head of Qadiriyeh(3) sect in Khaf), theme: Khaf traditions
Hassan Zakeri Roodi (member of Khaf city council), theme: Khaf county, poetry
He has also interviewed with Mohsen Tashakori Yazd in 2001 about the quarter of Nughan in Mashhad. He has published many articles in historical journals.

In an interview with Iranian Oral History Website, he said:
“Oral history was shaped and expanded in Persia but while in Europe, it was started in academic centers, in Persia it began among the ordinary people and now it is about to enter the universities. The modern oral history in Iran started by Iran-Iraq war; actually, it was the war that started oral history by interviews with war commanders and recording their narrations. Fortunately, these days this method of historiography has improved and Iranian professional centers, libraries and Hozeh-ye Honari (Arts Center) have entered this field considering the Iran Iraq war and Iranian Islamic Revolution.
In the 2nd Oral History Conference the main discussion was the difference between Memoirs and Oral History.”
He added: “We should go among the people for oral history, but there is no scientific base for this method of historiography.”
About the difference between Memoirs and Oral History, he said: “I think we should not consider any difference between these two; since there are different approaches about oral history around the world.”
Hassan Abadi presented some questions considering the non-existence of a center for accumulating oral history documents (e.g. Persian Gulf War documents) and being entangled in time dimension:
“How can we talk about war? Can we talk about it baseless? What should be done about the inaccessible documents, about the documents without any reasonable identification? Can we achieve oral history with these incomplete documents?” Then he added: “I do not blame on the memoirs. I say at that time, oral history was that and it is not justified to criticize the work by people done at that time. Then, the war approach was a matter of values. But now, it is more academic. So, today, we should not be worried about the memoirs of those years that have been published several years ago. Those works were done at that time and finished at that time…”
This historian added: “The important thing id to do the job correctly from now on.” He said that he felt sorry and added:  “We should not go back to the first day. I blame on myself because of speaking academically in some public sessions; because my audience were not academic and I should have spoken in an ordinary language.” He said: “In oral history, we should have a Modern Approach. We should enter Structural Works; present oral history scientifically; because we have passed a bout two decades. This way, I myself would criticize my own book written in 2005; because I have found new believes and made improved. So we should forget criticizing the past and look forward to future.”

Oral History is “Tool”
When he was asked what subjects can be focused on in oral history, he said: “With this new structure, there are many subjects to be worked on; but we can put a limitation. Oral history has different aspects and is not limited to a particular matter; for instance: pathological matters in medicine, oral history of quarters and the formation of new civil structure, because the cities are about to change. Or for example, who made the first elementary school, or anything that you may think of? Oral history is not a science that can be directed in a particular way; it is a tool.”
He suggested: “The universities should focus more on oral history and strengthen its structures; because there is a lot of work to be done in this method of historiography. We are still at the beginning and talking about the past experience is soon. Now, everyone is enthusiastic to know, even me! If we want to reach to a better future in oral history, we should expand it to collect new information.”
________________________
 1 - Astan Quds Razavi (Persian: Āstāne Qodse Razawi) (also known as Astan-e-Qods) is an autonomous charitable foundation in Mashhad Iran. It is the administrative organization which manage Imam Reza shrine and institutions belonged to this organization.
2 - Khaf County is a county in Razavi Khorasan Province in Iran. The capital of the county is Khaf. It is a small border town about 350 km (or 265 km?) from Mashhad. The historical city of Zozan is located close to Khaf and is registered in world heritage site by UNESCO.
3 - Qādirīyah, probably the oldest of the Muslim mystic (Ṣūfī) orders, founded by the Ḥanbalī theologian Abd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī (1078–1166) in Baghdad. Al-Jīlānī may have intended the few rituals he prescribed to extend only to his small circle of followers, but his sons broadened this community into an order and encouraged its spread into North Africa, Central Asia, and India. The order, which stresses philanthropy, humility, piety, and moderation, is loosely organized, allowing each regional community to develop its own ritual prayers (dhikrs).



 
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