A Report of the 2nd Conference of Oral History(1)



24 February 2011

Second conference of Oral History was held in Documents Organization. Historians, researchers and active people in this field were present there. On the opening day, Ali Akbar Ash’ari, the president's advisor criticized and expressed his sorrow for eliminating “Documents Day” in Iranian national calendar.
 He said: "National documents of our country are very important and Documents Organization tries to find more information, day by day."
Then, Dr. Shahramniya, the assistant of Documents Organization explained about the activities of this organization and generally expressed its aims.
After the opening ceremony, guests visited the book exhibition of Holy Defense  that is located at the corner of conference hall. It's mentionable that the book exhibition of Holy Defense was held by Holy Defense Works and Values Preservation Foundation. The exhibition included the last publications about researches, memoirs, chronology, and Oral History and so on.

First Session

First session was held with the title of "Oral History of Holy Defense" and conducted by Dr. Amirmasoud Shahramniya and Dr. Morteza Nooraie.
"Mohammadreza Firoozkoohi" as the first lecturer, presented his article with the title of "Nurses in War, Nature of Nursing during Iraq-Iran War 1980-1988".
He said: “Nursing and war are inevitably connected together and when a war begins nurses are among the most active ones. During centuries as the wars are intensified, the nurses’ attention to the injured forces has increased. Nurses play an important role to cure them. Study about different aspects of nursing is a significant part of nursing history. Reviewing the nursing of imposed war reveals nurses' experiences that have never been analyzed. In order to compensate this gap for nursing during Iraq-Iran war, this research tries to analyze the nature of nursing career in war, increase the information about nurses' experiences and the effect of war on nursing.
Oral History interviews will study the nature of nursing career, as it has been experienced by nurses during imposed war when they were helping the injured. The majority of nurses, who were sent to war, clinically did not have enough information about nursing in war circumstances. Presumably they could have adapted themselves to this situation immediately. This research is about to study the nurses' personal and professional compatibility which can understood from the memoirs that they have from their experiences.
Actually, this research is the title of a PhD thesis and has been compiled and written by Ali Zarghami, Morteza Nooraie and Hojjatollah Yousefi. This thesis is looking for increasing information about nursing during imposed war and achieving important findings about the experiences to promote the operational career of nursing.”
Alireza Molayee, an Urmia University instructor, the other lecturer of this session presented his article with the title of "Oral History of Sardasht Chemical Bombing and an interview" and said:
"Although 8 years war of Iraq against Iran was further than limitation of two countries and mainly included residential and civil zones. However, using unconventional weapons against the military and civilians made the disaster worst.
Chemical invasion to Sardasht is one of the scary disasters of Saddam Hussein that has not been investigated decently yet.” Molaie said: “I tried to present the importance and necessity of compiling Oral History of Sardasht chemical bombing. Of course, in the last three or four years a researcher and I have talked to some survivors and reflected their memoirs and tangible observations of this event. So the aim of this article is to introduce this work and reflect a sample of these memoirs.”
At the end of this part, "Mohsen Kazemi" presented his lecture to “Chances in Islamic Revolution Oral Historiography”; the editor of Iranian Oral History Website said:
“After three decades of Islamic Revolution victory, it's the time to research and recover this event. The necessity of recognizing the goals, roots and factors of Revolution is clear for the experts, intellectuals, researchers and historians; in order to evaluate the ratio of goals accomplishment by deep investigation in different aspects of this rare phenomenon and its feedbacks.
During the three decades after victory and in some limited cases before victory, some people tried to write about the history of event and related occasions. Without considering analytic, descriptive and narrative types of historiographies, a kind of historiography has become current in and out of the country that we call it Oral History.
During these three decades, some activists and fighters of political groups personally or in a group in framework of an organization but with their personal aptitude have tried to record their memoirs about the revolution, war, organizational and group activities, prison, immigration, exile and so on. Since this method of historiography (Oral History) has been successful in recent years, it's expected to grow more in future.”
Mr. Kazemi emphasized: “In this article I observed Oral History as a chance. I've evaluated the function of organizations and centers to see if they have either benefited the chance of recording history or lost it. This evaluation is not limited to Oral History and I've taken a look at different aspects of memoirs and writing memoirs in order to present the importance of term “chance”.”

Second session

Second session of the 2nd Conference of Oral History was allocated to “Theoretical Discussions” and Dr Amir Masoud Shahramniya and Rahim Nikbakht were the members of scientific board. In this session Mahdi Abolhasani, PhD candidate at history department of Esfahan University presented an article with the title of “Analytic Comparison between Oral Tradition and Oral History” and said:
“Many people willingly or unwillingly, consider Oral Tradition and Oral History the same and because of that have made fundamental mistake in explaining the meaning and describing the term of Oral History. They also count the productions based on Oral Tradition and culture as Oral History. Oral History has fundamental differences with Oral Tradition. Accordingly writing memoirs is not Oral History too. In presenting the exact and scientific history of Oral History in Iran it is important to make difference between these terms and concepts.
Oral Tradition is the method for the transference of cultural and public mechanisms by generations; which are not the same because of diverse race, religion, human and natural geography in different societies, although they have similarities. So, this article while studying this custom and its method in history, its characteristic and basic functions, is about to compare it analytically with Oral History.
Next lecturer of the conference, Rahim Nikbakht, talked about "Public Oral History of Holy Defense" and as an administrative board explained:
“For sure, the history of Iranian Islamic Revolution and eight years Holy Defense are so crucial issues of Iran and Iranian's national identity that after two centuries of dishonor, have been counted as flowering point of protecting and continuation of national honor and reviving Iranian dignity. Holy Defense is natural continuation of Islamic Revolution by the leadership of Imam Khomeini and its creators are not just a group but every people whether Turk, Kurd, Lor, Arab or so on. These heroics are so honorable that organizations or researchers can not describe it. So, what can we do? Do nothing and forget everything and see these heroes passing away? I am experienced and can present some ways to make the Oral History of Holy Defense public in this article.
Then, Seyyed Mohammad Sadeq Feyz in his article emphasized on “The necessity of Paying attention to 'Ilm ar-Rijal (Science of Narrators)  in Oral History" and described:
Although the birth date of oral history in Iran is not clear but its growth started in 1980s by recording memoirs of pre-Revolutionary events,  especially the last two years (1978-9) of Pahlavi regime. Closeness to the events and vagueness and sweetness of knowing the facts and analyzing the sad events make every people interested in hearing the unsaid; either from the ones who had gone from Iran and talked in foreign media haphazardly, or the ones in Iran who talked about their past and the regime. Because of difficult conditions of that decade with an imposed war and the gap of professional investigations, there were lots of memoirs about revolution in book stores without being assessed or evaluated. So after each memoirs book, another one was published, sometimes documented on the previous one. Although they responded each other haphazardly but it wasn't clear which one was correct. After the war, a new subclass of Oral History was formed. In this new subclass, war historians used a mass of Iranian fighter's memoirs in the form of book and lecture.
Certainly, this new part like the first group was not perfect and comprehensive and had faults in describing and answering to all questions. Every one looked at the events from his view point. In other words, each person who talks about the war or revolution describes the event from the third person's viewpoint, because he/she has been in real situation. He/she narrates the events that he/she has felt with his/her soul and body. In other words, it is a look from down to up. But in contrast, in writing history, writer concentrates on everything that has been said, he looks up to down. In this way, the writer can see all the details that memoirs can show just some part.
Abolfazl Hasanabadi, supervisor of document's group and PhD candidate of Ethnic History presented an article with the title of “Archives of Oral History in Iran, Chance or Threat.”
"Archives of Oral History are among the main achievements of centers that in different fields try to collect memoirs through interview. In this article, we are about to answer this question that if have we paid enough attention to Oral History archives and their needed conditions in Iran beside its expansion or not? Can we create Oral History archives without forming Oral History centers? Is there any need to discuss about it at all? To answer these questions firstly we evaluate different Oral History archives in the world and then compared them with Iran’s and then we try to present methods to expand them.”

Third session

The 3rd session of the 2nd conference of Oral History was conducted by presenting four articles, and Mr. Alireza Kamari and Mr. Doroodian were the directors of the session. Mr. Fereydoon Noori was the lecturer who talked about "Oral History of Holy Defense, Halabja Victory narrated by Kurd fighters". He said:
One of the most important resources of getting information and renovation of historical events is to rely on audience's memoirs and speeches about related events.
Iranian Holy Defense in imposed war is an important issue in present history of Islamic Iran and many significant and deterrent aspects of this resistance are secured in the mind of Iranian fighters as a great treasure. The importance and status of Oral History in renovation of the events in a nation's history has undoubtedly developed during the time. Nowadays writing and editing the contemporary history of a country is not useful without referring to the memoirs of effective people and Oral History. Iraq and Iran 8-year-war is one of the main disputes of 20th century that includes several events and their obvious and hidden effects on the country’s developments still continues after the war. One of the main unforgettable events in war was the conquer of Iraq boundary cities in Sharazor plain and Sulaymaniyah Governorate; where Saddam and Ba’athi army by Halabja poison gas attack  for vain reasons made one of cruel catastrophes in human history which will never be forgotten.”
He said: "In this research I have tried to investigate the events of conquering Iraqi boundary cities in Sharazor plain by Iranian fighters and the reaction of Ba’ath regime that embodied in chemical bombing.
Davoud Amini was only lecturer who tried to present his article by the title of "Holy Defense and Local and Regional Martyrs, An Oral History Approach" in a dramatic manner. He passionately explained:
“Historiography of the Holy Defense and Islamic Revolution by local and regional Oral History approach has made it a religious and historical must for everyone to record the heroic history of martyrs and imposed war for the future generations of human history.  All the war zones, town quarters and villages of our country remember the martyrs who fight against the cruelty. The project of Martyrs’ Torch has been done for the martyrs of 19th district of Tehran in order to introduce their characters and role in Holy Defense. In this direction, this movement has been started by me and the accompanying group and we have done many things in 18 months. This effective move has been done to stabilize the achievements of Islamic Revolution by spreading the culture of martyrdom in the society. And it is done by direct and constant planning and connection and friendly meetings with martyrs’ family and fighters of Holy Defense. In this project, that a great part of it has been done, martyrs' interviews, recorded films, works and documents are collected by scan and copy, and some conferences have been held too.
At last he emphasized: "Other stages of the project are editing documented films and books about martyrs.”
Faezeh Tavakkoli as the only woman who presented an article, talked about "The project of Oral History of female political activists during the second Pahlavi era”, she said:
Project of Oral History of female political activists during the second Pahlavi era has been done from 1385 till now. This project is in progress by “Institute for Compilation and Publication of Imam Khomeini” and it has two stages: First stage is to interview with 10 women that most of them were political prisoners and is under printing and editing in 500 pages. The second stage that includes three parts is in progress now. In second stage the main aim is to interview with political and social women that during Islamic Revolution fought in different fields and they are about 20 and its text will be edited in near future. In this articlethis project will be presented by introducing women's names and a short record about them.
At last she introduced some political women and indicated some limitation that she had faced with in her interviews.
Hosein Roohani Sadr was the last lecturer who presented his lecture with the title of "Oral History of Foreign Ministry of Islamic Republic of Iran’ activities during 8-year-war and the events before and after it".
He said: “One of the most important duties of Foreign Ministry is to seek for the politics of foreign neighbors. In other side this department sends some diplomats to different places in the world in order to preserve national and international interests of the country. Men of Iran's foreign policy did various activities according to their duty in the Iranian embassies and one of these activities was the subject of Iran and Iraq war. Perhaps every part of this activity needs a subclass of independent books, but this article tries to reflect summary of activities of Foreign Ministry in this period of Iranian history.
Time limitation of this project is February 1979 up to August 1990 and the methodology is library research and content analysis.
The last plan of the first day of 2nd Conference of Oral History was allocated to Q&A between audiences, lecturers, and academics.

Maliheh Kamaleddin
Translated by: Fereshteh Keshani



 
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