Anti-Shah Struggles by Iranian Overseas Student


An interview with Mojtaba Baghernejad
By Mohammad Mahdi Mousa Khan

Background: The first volume of the history of struggles by overseas students under the title of "The Association of Islamic Communities of Students in Europe (1965-1981) was published in 2007 and its second volume was released in 2009 by Mojtaba Baghernejad. The work's publication sparked a lot of attention in communities relevant to the Islamic Revolution. Recently, its third volume has been released in the market with numerous documents and pictures enclosed.

We have just talked to the collection's compiler on the occasion of the release of the third volume in his house. This is our second interview with Baghernajed, the first one being held about three years ago.

Mousa Khan: As the first question, please tell us why it took so long for the third volume to be released?

Baghernejad: In the name of God. Thank you very much for this interview. I do not take the book as my belonging. Rather, as I have mentioned in its preface, it is in the possession of everyone who has had a role in the victory of the Islamic Revolution during the period between 1965 and 1981 by honestly risking their lives and livelihoods.
Documentation of these roles has always been my obsession since old years which was made possible through the series. Now, why did it took so long for the third volume to be released? The volume was ready before 2011, but it took some time to be released due to certain unforeseen issues that needed to be ironed out.

Q: What were the issues?

A: The problem was with the content of the volume and there were instances that some names did not get an approval from the supervisory council for publication of the book which took the book's publication some time.
What is more, I suppose it took some 4 years for publication of the third volume which was due to a large extent to my personal problems, and partly to the political upheaval in the country which intensified after the 2009 unrest in the country. So, I decided to delay the publication for some time to prevent misunderstandings and possible misuse of the book's content.

Q: Did you have access to more documents in compilation of the third volume in comparison to the previous volumes?

A: I used the same method for collecting documents. Most of the docs were those I had already accessed for the previous volumes. However, I was given access to the personal collections by Hamid Mahdavi from a cultural community in Germany's Giessen and Dr. Jafar Nikouei, a former official at the Munich community and union, about the community of Islamic students.

I also had to resort to the documents collected at the "Union of Islamic Communities of Overseas Students in Documents". The resources I gathered helped me totally cover the 12th edition of the union in the third volume. I have also added one of my interviews with the Oral History website (oral-history.ir) in the book about three years ago, by which I meant to let all my readers know about my data collection method for completion of the book.


Q: Fortunately, a rich collection of pictures has been provided in the appendix of the third volume. What made your access to these photos possible, after all?


A: The pictures primarily show the funeral of Dr. Shariati in London and some of the pictures are about Mr. Javad Karimi's hunger strike whose access was made available to me. I received some of the photos from Dr. Sadegh Tabatabaei as well. I also have the original copies of the Paris hunger strike which are printed on pages 256-269 of the third volume. I have also copies of pages of Ettela'at and Keyhan dailies which focused on the strike by members of the union.


Q: There are titles of communities and organizations in the volume without any introduction for their activities. Do you think this would confound the readers when they come across any of these organizations"

A: You are right to some extent. There are instances that they have been overlooked and some introductory information was needed for them and this issue should be resolved in the future editions of the series.

There is this organization known as the organization of Ali Jamali's. The name was taken from the family name of two brothers called Ali and Mohammad with strong communist affiliations with their headquarters in Chicago. Their organization had supporters in Berlin as well. They acted against the confederation of Islamic students in the world, and I don’t exactly know why. The members of Islamic communities of students in the US and Canada made every effort to form up a coalition with the Jamali's. To that end, they held sessions with them which turned out to be futile. It was not until 1975 that the Mojahedin Khalgh Organization officially announced their ideology. As a result, the Jamali's took a stance with regard to the ideology change and confronted with the Marxist confederation in Iran, and members of the confederation overtly ousted the Jamali's and they [Jamali's] represented themselves as the Organization of Muslim Iranian Students from then on. In May 1978, they held a 4-day hunger strike which did not receive much attention. After the Revolution most members of overseas groups returned to the country and, in effect, ended their activities.

Q: There were many interviews in the first and second volumes, however, in the third volume no interviews are covered. Why is that?

A: In the beginning we did not intend to use many memories in the series. Besides, in the first two volumes, less documents were gathered and most of the information was gathered from oral history interviews with various figures and activists.

Q: Have you received any special feedback or credentials from journals and websites now that it is about one month past the release of the third volume?

A: Yes, the national radio has covered the news of its publication. My friends and acquaintances have welcomed the book pretty well and have made a lot of phone calls and contacts to me since then. Some websites have also introduced the volumes as well.

Q: Do you want to add something in the end?

A: By compiling the book I intended to put some focus on a forgotten section of the history of the Islamic Revolution. Secondly, Islamic associations of students in Europe, the US and Canada were highly praised by Imam Khomeini as an influential pillar of the revolution, however, their activities and histories were largely overlooked by the contemporary historians, and I tried to fill up the gap for the future generations.


Interview with Mohammad Mahdi Mousa Khan.

Translated by: Abbas Hajihashemi



 
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