Discussed in National Library

Oral History of Combatant Women in Reviews and Experiences

Translated by Natalie Haghverdian


Following a series of meetings held by oral history workgroup of Association of Iranian History in collaboration with political history group of History Research Center of Faculty of Human Sciences, the meeting on “Oral History of Political and Combatant Women During Rule of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi” was held on February 27, 2016 in Parham Hall of Iran National Library Complex.

Mohsen Kazemi and Faezeh Tavakoli were guests of the meeting. Kazemi is active in the field of women’s memoirs and has published “Memoirs of Marziyeh Hadidchi (Dabagh)”; at the beginning of the session he stated that all discussions are based on experiences and interviews and then he stated some experiences and restrictions in recording oral history of women during Pahlavi II era.

He referred to the experiences of oral history scholars in the world and stated: “In most universities, oral history is an independent scientific faculty.”

Mohsen Kazemi perceived women’s issues to be important and stated that it requires baseline planning. He stated: “Oral history in Iran is a concept pursued by the government while it has to be research at academic institutions; however, oral history focuses on three sectors in the world which are the academic sector which is pursued in universities of Colombia, Harvard, and California; library studies in Chicago and California; and the third sector is in Baylor and Indiana in academic subsidiary institutions. In Iran, governmental institutions are actively recording oral history covering Islamic Revolution and the Holy Defense.

Kazemi continued by saying: the concept of women’s oral history is important since it surpasses the community of Iran; however, not from feminist perspective. The complementary role of women and men in the Islamic Revolution shall be recorded. Women’ were active during Revolution; many of them were arrested and martyred, some migrated; there were women who were body guards of Imam.

He added: women were also active in the left wing; Vida Hajebi Tabrizi is one of them; who has covered the oral history of women in the prison in her book. There were women with strong religious beliefs who were also fighting. In 60s, the oral history was about war and then it was directed to cover other concepts. Revolution and war paved the way for oral history in Iran to develop quickly. Oral history of the Revolution is complicated; especially in ideology and to distinguish right from wrong; however, in Holy Defense the lines between right and wrong are pretty obvious. In the oral history of the Holy Defense, much is done to cover women’s oral history.

Kazemi continued: Ms. Tavakoli is one of the pioneers in oral history of women who has conducted research on combatant women; however, her book has not so far been published, and she will state the reason. In Ebrat[1] Museum, Ms. Jalavand has compiled short memoirs of 20 women which is published as a book titled “Unkind Days”. Iran Women’s center is also established in Iran Study Foundation in University of Colombia by Ms. Mahnaz Afkhami and in 1970, University of Colombia and National University of Iran entered into an agreement to work on history; however, the revolution interrupted the cooperation which was later restated in 1981. In electronic weekly of Iran Oral History, in a column in the footnotes, Ms. Lean Abrams, has stated her theoretic and practical achievements published in couple of books.

Then, Ms. Faezeh Tavakoli, secretary of oral history workgroup of Iranian History Association and member of Political History of Human Sciences Faculty described the project conducted on combatant women during 85-89 supported by the Institute of Publication for Relics of Imam and also support of Dr. Najafgholi Habibi, deputy of research of the institute and Dr. Moradinia, chairman of history department of the institute to cover oral history of women during Revolution. She said: In this project, 120 hours of methodological interview was conducted with 30 women; however, the institute has not published the first volume of Oral History of Political Women which is designed and compiled in five hundred pages.

With regards to the methodology of historiography in oral history and the dialogue of the head of Pahlavi dynasty she referred to Ms. Rezvaneh Dabbagh and Aliyeh Imam Zadeh and said: most women were involved in political oppositions through their husband, father, and brothers. 

Tavakoli also referred to content analysis and the quality of oral history researches and the phases involved in quality research of various concepts. She also referred to the narratives of some women who were arrested by the intelligence service of the Pahlavi dynasty and tortured; and some who were arrested by presence of the Red Cross has cut through their torture and stated: there are different dialogues in women’s narratives: the religious dialogue, where most women would claim to be from religious and Muslim families. The political dialogue: those who were involved in the political opposition through their parents, brother or friends. And cultural dialogue: women would attend mosques and Hosseinia and religious schools to pursue cultural activities.

She referred to the political dialogue of Pahlavi dynasty and authoritarianism and repression of the era and suppression and torture and said: oppression and torture and harassment of the Revolutionaries are key elements of combatant women’s dialogue. They have been pioneers and supporters of their fathers, brothers and families and their blood has been shed in defending freedom and independence of their county; after five decades, the scars of torture still flaunt on their bodies.

Tavakoli continued by saying that our information on women’s role during Pahlavi II and bold involvement of left group women is limited and there is even no sign of their graves. SAVAK[2] documents are not available hence it is essential to record such memoirs through support of various institutions involved in historiography.


[1] Edification

[2] Intelligence service during the rule of Pahlavi

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