The Narration of Hedayatollah Behboodi about 3 Decades of Research on Islamic Revolution History in Iran

Hedayatollah Behboodi

Interviewer: Mohsen Farahani

An outlook on Islamic Revolution Historiography

Hedayatollah Behboodi was born in Tabriz in1960. He has a B.A in history from the University of Tehran. In recent years, he has been in charge of different positions of which are worth mentioning: as the editor of cultural affairs of Iran Newspaper at the beginning of its establishment, editor and concessionaire of Kaman Biweekly Magazine, editor of Historical Studies Quarterly, and the director of the Bureau for the Islamic Revolution Literature Hozeh Honari (Arts Center). Furthermore, Behboodi has received many awards in different festivals such as, 2nd place in editorial at The 8th Press Festival, 1st place in article writing at The 9th Press Festival, and finally Shahid Avini Award. Some of the works recognized in the portfolio of this researcher of Revolution history and the Holy Defense are: A Journey to Qiblah, A Journey to Russia 93, A Journey to Halabja, The Literature in Perso-Russian Wars, Iran’s Modern Literature Prior to Constitutional Revolution and Islamic Revolution Narrated by SAVAK Documents (25 Volumes).

In your opinion, which events could be taken into consideration as Historiography of Islamic Revolution during the past 3 decades and what sort of ups and downs have we confronted?
What could be said about this issue has previously been outlined in the editorial of the 5th issue of Historical Studies Quarterly. However, since little attention as been paid to this theory, I would like to repeat it once more with this introduction that massive social transformations, such as a Revolution, have numerous consequences; e.g. historians are encouraged to write the events through which one regime is collapsed and another one is started. Islamic Revolution due to its transforming tendencies, inspired Iranian and foreign historians to show such natural reaction based on their knowledge, interest, and specialties. Considering that writing about historical occurrences is unstoppable, the progression of Islamic Revolution historiography has been proceeding from the past to the present and will continue in future too.

Is it possible to categorize this progress?  
Yes, I would like to point this out. When the dust settled after the battle between the Pahlavi government and the people, what was apparent was the narration of foreign observers based on their observations and political and social analysis. Resources such as Antony Parsons’ The Pride and The Fall, William Sullivan’s Mission to Iran, and John D. Stempel’s Inside the Iranian Revolution written based on the presence of the authors in Iran and having a relationship with the country’s high-ranking authorities. Other books such as Zbigniew Brzezinski’s The Secrets of Shah’s Fall, and Gary Sick’s All Fall Down were all published with political consciousness and based on observing the ruling government of The United States. Also, Paul Balta and Claudine Rulleau’s L'Iran Insurge (Iran Rebels), and Claire Briere and Pierre Blanche’s Iran, Revolution in the Name of God has those qualities as well. These spectators used to be representatives and writers of mass media prior to their roles as political officials of their own country. In this period, other resources also emerged in which their origin of writings were the study of Iran’s recent historical reports from not too long ago prior to that period; some of which are Fred Halliday’s Iran: Dictatorship and Development and Nikkie R. Keddie’s Roots of Revolution: An Interpretive History of Modern Iran. Some of the Iranian authorities of Shah’s regime pictured a different angle of historiography for this period, which was based on the author’s observations and intuitions such as: Fereydoun Hoveyda’s The Fall of The Shah, Parviz Radji’s In the Service of the Peacock Throne and Abbas Gharabaghi’s The Confessions of the General. Accordingly, some books were published by Iranian narrators that were either narration of local events such as Ramezanali Shakeri’s Islamic Revolution of the People of Mash’had, and Seyed Hassan Nourbakhsh’s The Memory of the Islamic Movement or Face of the Revolution in Isfahan; or resources known as the history of the occurrences in the entire country such as The Nation’s Epic Movement to the Leadership of Imam Khomeini by Valiyullah Nouri Tooyserkani; the diaries that were written before and were now seen for the first time Political Memoirs by Mohammad Mohammadi Reyshahri. In this group, the three volume collection of The Examination and Analysis of Imam Khomeini’s Movement by Seyed Hamid Rouhani, count as the most important resource for its period. The historiography of Islamic Revolution spent most of the 1980s in such circumstances, and without the books, The Espionage Den Documents or the second volume of The Rise and Fall of Pahlavi Monarchy this period could be called the period of “lack of Documents”.

Therefore during the 1980s, we were more dependent on foreign and translated resources. How do you evaluate the following decades?    
Yes, that is correct. During the 1990s or the so-called second period of Historiography of the Islamic Revolution, a new approach began which was created in a new form or it is better to say that was in a recycled form: Oral History. However, there are exceptions like Mehdi Araghi’s
 The Untold in the first period. The institutions that proceed with an organized manner during the recent years are: The Historical Foundation of Islamic Revolution, The Bureau for the Islamic Revolution Literature at Hozeh Honari (Arts Center), and Islamic Revolution Documents Center. There are however some institutions with the common subject of contemporary history of Iran in abroad that are founded with the help of big economic companies, and with the support of some universities; their most important one of which is Iranian Oral History Project at Harvard University.

What are some inspirations that could be considered for this approach?
Four factors have been effective on the expansion of historiography with oral history methodology in Iran:

First is the experience of publishing Holy Defense books based on memoirs, second is ending the parsimony and self-restraint in expressing memoirs by political figures of the 1960s and 70s, third is the competitive work environment among historiography institutions and organizations and fourth is the interest shown by the readers of such historical narratives.  

Although the 1980s ended with a load of translated texts and resources about the Islamic Revolution, the 1990s concluded with the emergence of some books that were published by oral history methodology and a balanced production of foreign and domestic resources. Moreover, the autobiographical memoirs as Jalaleddin Farsi’s Dark Angles, Ayatollah Khalkhali Memoirs and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s The Battle Period were also significant and the number of resources for researches were increased, such reportorial-analytical included: An Introduction to Islamic Revolution by Sadegh Ziba Kalam, The Political History of Contemporary Iran by Seyed Jalaleddin Madani, Iran’s Twenty Five Years of Political History by Gholamreza Nejati and other researches in form of timeline are such as The Calendar of Islamic Revolution History, The Islamic Revolution Chronology and Islamic Revolution Narrated by SAVAK Documents; they added a new dimension to the historiography of Islamic Revolution.

Apparently in the following period this notion is formed differently and the way you described the process, the resources inside the country become richer, is that right?
Yes, that is correct. We should consider the 2000s as “exposition of documents” and the third period of the Islamic Revolution historiography. Although the course of producing resources based on oral history reached its climax in early 2000s and process of publishing documents was established in the second half of the 1990s, yet the presence of document-oriented books over the past few years has been incredible. Perhaps historians have never faced such raw material in any period.  Among them, the Center for Examining Historical Documents has published about two hundred books and Archives and Museum of the President’s Office is notable by publishing about fifty books. Considering the documents provided by organizations such as the Islamic Revolution Documents Center, National Archives of Iran, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamic Consultative Assembly, Political Studies and Researches Institute and The Institute for Iranian Contemporary Historical Studies, the present researchers of the Islamic Revolution history and the investigators of such field have easy access to these fundamental resources.

According to your description on the course of historiography of Islamic Revolution, do you agree that we are passing through a desirable period?  
I agree with the fact that we are living in a pleasant period in which resources are produced, because the basis and origin of historiography of the contemporary period has been provided to us. The production of domestic resources has now forced the historians and foreign researchers to review the mentioned works of the third period; which means they cannot disregard them. It has been about three years now that the British National Archives has been publishing some of its documents after thirty years due to the insistence and complaints of an attentive Iranian historian and sometimes by relying on The Freedom of Information Act. Recently, Tabnak website has published some of these unbound evidences with the effort of Mr. Majid Tafreshi. I have seen them and they are valuable indeed, yet they do not untie any problem of the contemporary history of Iran especially during the period toward the Islamic Revolution. At most they are documents which ratify the published ones. The in depth documentary assets available in the country are a valuable wealth which will gradually be acknowledged. Among them we could call the 25 volumes of Islamic Revolution Narrated by SAVAK Documents that without them; we would not be able to represent the historical events of 1978-1979. I mean the coinciding representation of the truth. Yes, we live in the period of recognized resources and with such progress it is possible to face new phenomenon in the upcoming years: first a native and trueborn historiography of contemporary Iran based on available resources, and second the beginning of historiography of events after the Islamic Revolution. 

Translated by: Sara Alavikia

Source: Ketab-e Hatfe (Book of the Week) No. 165- Saturday, December 28, 2008

Number of Visits: 6974


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.

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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 ...