An interview with Dr. Morteza Mirdar

Historiography of Islamic Revolution should move on basis of the perspective defined by the Imam

Oral history of the revolution in the Islamic Revolution Document Center -1

Interview and compilation: Faezeh Sasanikhah
Translated by: M. B. Khoshnevisan


The Islamic Revolution Document Center is an institute active in collecting the history of the Islamic revolution. The result of the institute’s efforts is the collection of a significant number of written documents, photos, negatives, audio and video of the events across the country, and the publication of a number of books on a variety of topics. The center now has one of the richest archives in the field of the history of the Islamic Revolution. To get acquainted with how this center was established and its activities, we met Dr. Morteza Mirdar, the Deputy of Oral History of the Islamic Revolution Document Center.


*When and for what purpose was the Islamic Revolution Document Center established?

The Islamic Revolution Document Center was established on the order of the Imam. You may ask whether the Imam paid attention to the history of the revolution. I say yes, because the Imam is one of the jurists for whom it was very important to pay attention to society and history. Before the victory of the Islamic Revolution, in one of the messages or speeches, he said that you should start writing about events and happenings from now on. Do not let this father and son become Anoushirvan Adel (just Anoushirvan). In fact, we have two historical points in the Imam's view of registering and recording the events of the revolution before the victory of the Islamic Revolution. The second point I want to make is that the Imam made much effort in historiography of social events, so that in the biography of the Imam we read that he came to Tehran from Qom, went to the Majlis (parliament) and listened to the parliamentary debates and observed closely. He saw that Mr. Modarres was very active in the parliament and was present in social and political assemblies. Before the victory of the Revolution, Hojjat al-Eslam Seyyed Hamid Rouhani, in 1977, brought together a collection of communiques and statements of the Imam in the form of leaflet writing. Of course, not as a research history that is considered today, but in the style of that period, he has collected the communiques and published the volume one of the book “popular Movement”. He served the Imam in Najaf before the revolution and was engaged in documentary work after the revolution. In about 1980, the Imam told him to collect the events and happenings related to the revolution. At that time, Mr. Rouhani a manager in the Center for Historical Documents of the Intelligence Ministry, formerly the Centre for SAVAK’s Documents. When the Imam paid attention to the historiography of the revolution, he says that the history of the Islamic Revolution should not depend on the government. For this reason, in order to support the historiography of the revolution, he himself provide Mr. Rouhani with some confiscated properties so that it becomes an asset for historical works, and this process continues to this day; this is a tradition and process that the Imam had about recording historical events.


*It seems that the Imam issued important historical days regarding the historiography of the revolution’s events in the last years of 1360s (1980s).

Yes, that’s right. In 1988, the Imam explained the future perspective of the historiography of the revolution in a message that the historiography of the revolution, like the revolution itself, should be on the shoulders of the barefoot and emphasized on the use of voice and image. This is very important. These words were not mentioned in 1399 (2020), that you can say that documentation has now become common and prevalent. These are the words of an eighty-year-old leader who were expressed in 1988 and emphasizes that you should make a historical documentary that is based on audio and video. There, Imam explains eclectic Islam and American Islam, setting  the year 1341 (1962) as the beginning of the Islamic movement and the year the movement began, and asking us to state the goals of the uprising as much as you can, historians always slaughter the goals of revolutions in their slaughterhouses and those of their masters. I want to say that this is a historical perspective of the country and not just a center of the revolution’s documents. The historiography of the Islamic Revolution must move according to the vision defined by the Imam. Accordingly, the centers for Islamic Revolution’s documents were mostly collecting documents almost until 1374 (1995). Since then, when the Imam said that you should compile history based on audio and video, and the late Mr. Hosseinian came to the Islamic Revolution Document Center, the oral history of the Islamic Revolution Document Center was formed.


*How were the pre-revolution campaigners and active people in that area identified?

The names of those who were somehow part of the Imam's companions are mentioned in the collection of announcements and documents; Those who propagated the Imam's communiques, political prisoners, pre-revolution active currents, the Fadaiyan-e-Islam since the 1330s (1930s), Imam's disciples in Qom, and those who were imprisoned, were deported, prosecuted and were social activists in bazaar in 1341 and 1342 (1962 and 1963), the period when the Imam was exiled to Najaf and Paris, and besides, from 1356 (1977) onwards, when these movements became public. We identified the narrators of these movements as much as we could. The Islamic Revolution Document Center identified and collected all of this, and a collection of information was prepared to determine who these people are and where they are; Of course, these movements were mostly among certain religious circles and currents. Then it was decided to record and collect the memories of these people gradually. We have limited resources and what we have to collect is very much. However, this center has been able to collect, register and record information in the thematic and person-oriented sections, which has been in the area of oral history. The center also devotes part of its programs to research work that looks at documents and oral history.

We have limited resources and what we have to collect is not so much. However, this center has been able to collect, register and record information in the thematic and person-oriented sections, which have been in the field of oral history. The Documentation Center also devotes part of its programs to research work that looks at documents and oral history. As the center of the documents of the revolution, we must create sources for the historiography of the revolution, that is, sources must be collected and made available to researchers. Part of it is also documental works the source and origin of which include the SAVAK’s documents in the Foreign Ministry, former Shahrbani (a law enforcement force during the Shah’s regime) and the current Disciplinary Forces, or for example the documents of the Ministry of Justice, the documents of the Revolution Court and the Army’s Intelligence Protection and so on.


*An important work of the center is to pay attention to political activities in different cities. Please explain about this.

Yes. Our other work is the issue of Islamic revolution in the towns, that is, our activity is not limited to the cities of Tehran and Qom, and many towns and even villages were present during the revolution. The cities of Qom, Tehran, Mashhad and Shiraz have been active in the struggles since 1341(1962), but some cities and villages became active in 1356 and 1357 (1977 and 1978). We collected information about them and published the books of many of these centers, which have become good books in the area of the Islamic Revolution in the towns.


* What was your criterion for collecting the information of the towns?

We will deal with them based on the remaining documents. We examine in which cities lots of documents exist in years such as 1357 (1978). In cities such as Yazd, Kerman, Kashan, Shiraz, Abadan, they have transferred their experiences from the very beginning of the movement and during the movement. For example, in Isfahan, there are various documents and reports, teachers who did cultural work in these cities, religious students who did works, guilds and the bazaaris and other classes who did organizational works, activists who were present from all classes during the revolution and these have not remained form the eyes of SAVAK. So, on this basis we prioritize cities. For example, in Isfahan, both the documents are available and we can conduct field interviews. From the combination of the two, the researcher produces a new research work about a city. Or, for example, in Jahrom, during the revolution, the movement that took place and the massacre that took place, or, for example, after the incident of 17th of Shahrivar (September 8, 1978) in Tehran, martial law was declared in 11 cities. These become the basis for us to work on these cities. We carried out three kinds of division; the produced documents have priority 1, 2 and 3, i.e. the cities that were forerunners, the cities that were in midway, and the cities that were active in the last years of the victory of the revolution. For example, what role can a city like Sirjan play in the revolution? With the arrival of exiles in Sirjan, the people got familiar with Imam Khomeini and the Islamic Movement. Sirjan may not be like Qom or Isfahan, but the people of this city accompanied the revolution.


* Has anything been done about issues that are not directly related to the revolution but indirectly related to the conditions of that period, such as the villeinage system in the Pahlavi period, or, for example, when the Allies entered Iran and there was a famine? In fact, I mean collecting the narration of general public.

There is a point regarding the social conditions and background of the revolution after 20th of Shahrivar (September, 11, 1941).  For example, people should all be upset that their country is occupied, but since Reza Khan has oppressed the people so much that they are practically happy. This opens the space for the press, the formation of religious currents or various religious centers, which we have dealt with in our historical research. For instance, the Shaghayegh Center in Mashhad or institutions such as the National Message of Islam in Kerman, the Brothers Party in Shiraz, and the Educational Society of the Islamic World in Isfahan refer to social issues that were managed by religious forces in these cities. It is interesting to know that most of our attention at the Islamic Revolution Document Center is on the historiography of religious forces. Some people tell us why you do not work for the left forces? We say that as a rule, we are in charge of the area of the Islamic Revolution; the left forces are so skilled in the field of writing, propaganda and dissemination that we do not need to be their spokesperson.

We should prepare historical materials for the researcher that highlight the role of religious forces in the places where they were present, not that the left forces highlight themselves and the religious forces say, so we were not effective?! Religious forces have been at the forefront of political and religious activism for at least the last half century, but there is nothing about them in the historiography of the revolution, and we want to fill those gaps.


*How many memory books have the center published so far?

So far, about 290 titles of memory books have been published, including thematic and individual ones. For example, Hosseinieh Ershad is a thematic one and 10-20 people narrate about it for us, or influential mosques in cities such as Jalili Mosque, Arg Mosque, Qoba Mosque, Keramat Mosque in Mashhad and mosques that have been influential in different cities and in other words, they have played a role in religious and geographical atlases role; we deal with them. Another point about thematic activities is that we have dealt with the period of the Islamic Republic since the establishment of the Government of the Islamic Republic in Bahman 1357 (February 1978) until today; we have paid attention to developments of different governments and currents such as Monafeghin or hypocrites, electoral currents, …these historical circles are historical events after the victory of the Islamic Revolution and those who were the creators of these events and were present in it, and according to the scholars of science of hadith, “al-Shohoudin”, namely those who have witnessed. We tried to prevent some of the plagues that exist in this area. Anyone who wants to narrate the historical events of the 1350s has forgotten many points, but when he or she has witnesses the events closely and they are recorded in a short period of time, we get a more desirable result. We even examine the events that took place in 1399 to register and record them as soon as possible. This is the whole thing we are doing.


* Among the works produced before the victory of the Islamic Revolution, was the 40s more popular or the 50s?

Our work is diverse. For instance, the Qom Seminary is relevant for itself, or for example, the student movement in the country's universities with the help of the Imam and the Islamic Revolution, or for example about 15th of Khordad (June 6) uprising, the Islamic Nations Party, Hezbollah, the Mojahedin Khalq Organization, intellectual currents such as Dr. Shariati and intellectual challenges which have exited during those years, are among the subjects the center had dealt with them. 


* What has been done to raise awareness among the new generation who have not seen the revolution?

Our historical works or those of other research institutes are mostly based on the academic point of view, but this method is not suitable for adolescent literature, so the Islamic Revolution Document Center has published materials in the field of adolescents as historical knowledge on the advice of the Leader.


To be continued ...


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