On the crucial examination of a phenomenon

Hedayatollah Behboudi


War Reportage, in an interview with Hedayatollah Behboudi:

As one of the most striking features of journalism, reports on war have always been appealing to readers. In the interview that follow, Hedayatollah Behboudi, a senior journalist of war, maintains that it is a necessity for the genre to be scrutinized. 

How do you view the inception of war reportage?

-War journalism mothered war reportage; it was at least so in Iran during the 8-year war (the Iraq-imposed hostilities on Iran). During the beginning years of the conflict, like all other conflicts, the news could not be broadcast and published in newspapers like in normal times and many official sources and agencies supervised the released contents. Moreover, there were no pre-defined mechanisms for journalistic acts in those years and the works created by most budding reporters were devoid of the needed technique. However, in the years that followed, the society manifested an inclination towards more in-depth reportage of the events rather than the mere monotony orchestrated by stale communiqués and front stories. The naturally-growing need for such reports was felt most noticeably in 1985 parallel with the Karbala V operation carried out by Iranian forces. The first professional reports about the Iran-Iraq war were most probably released during that operation for the public audience. Now that I reflect on the writings and works produced during that era, I see that some of their creators have not been seen or heard of for years. I cannot tell why this is the case that they are no longer in action with all their talents and mastery in writing. By and large, war reportage (in Iran) lasted less than three years and faded away as the clashes between Iran and Iraq ceased in 1988. I believe that studying the genre is a crucial matter; firstly, because the journalists who served their country and religion through their reports during the era are remembered and revered once again, and secondly, their unparalleled experiences of war reportage entail innumerable ideas for studies on the history of journalism and even the war; and thirdly, students of communications and journalism can benefit a lot from the information that the reports carry for them.    

What are the features of war reports? Why is the society in need of such reports?

-In the world, war is not seen as an uncommon phenomenon given the large number of its instances in the history of human beings; however, countries are never inured to conflicts. In terms of its dimensions, the 8-year war of Iran has no equivalents in the recent history, except the extensive Iran-Russia armed hostilities. (Iran's presence in neither the WWI and WWII nor its freedom seeking violence against the UK was in an all-out mode). A wide-ranging war has wide-ranging aftermaths: a variety of events, countless ups and downs and several victories and breaks. And as humans are the chief player of such events, the material as well as spiritual impact of wars on humans' lives is immeasurable. Such impacts cannot be understood in normal war coverage; these humane up and downs can only be displayed in emotional reports. War reportage can be considered and praised in this framework. Anyway, such reports are very infrequent in the 8-year-war reports.  

Are you saying that memory writing could not replace it?

I should add this important point here that memory writing of war is substantially different from journalistic reports, but it has fulfilled some aspects of that era. However, memory writing is never a remedy for the loss of war reports.  

Can war reports be assumed to have long-term benefits?

The functionality of war reports can be assessed over two different eras. First is the war time; the reports transmitted at that time displayed the war as an honorary reality to the society given the defensive nature of the whole event for Iran. They depicted the war through sacrifices, and heroisms practiced by Iranian forces in the fronts. So the reports were aimed at boosting public spirit of support for the forces. If practiced more, the reports can be considered as a separate genre in literature of war. On the other hand, such reports can serve as documents for historians after the war is over. All historians long for access to direct descriptions of war events.   

How can war reports be categorized?

All those involved in war literature, whether in practice or theory, agree that war reportage is a subcategory of war-related literature. However, this grouping is not related to classical literature. I presume notes, memoirs, reports, essays, stories, poetry pieces and some other literary forms as the subcategories of war literature. An eye-catching number of productions can be categorized under these forms.

What came to war reports?

Some reports were later published as books, but some are still in the pages of the newspapers they were once printed on. It is good to mention a book entitled as the Journey to the Peaks which encompass a number of war reports. The book is the first release of the Resistance Literature and Arts Bureau.


Source: Soureh Mehr Journal, p 14, No. 160 and 161, released on September 22 2012,  

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