Oral History of the Revolution in Department of Hozeh Honari of Provinces

The Capacity of People Narratives

Interviewer: Faezeh Sasanikhah
Compiled by: Mohammad Ghasemipour
Translated by: Zahra Hosseinian


Since its establishment, Culture and Sustainability Studies center in Department of Hozeh Honari of Provinces has attempted to collect and publish the oral history of the Islamic Revolution and the Holy Defense in different provinces and cities.

To get acquainted with how this center was established and with its activities, especially in the field of the Islamic Revolution, Mohammad Ghasemipour, the head of Culture and Sustainability Studies center in Department of Hozeh Honari of Provinces, has been interviewed in order to review the performance of the center and to know its goals and perspectives.


When the working in the field of Islamic Revolution did start in the Hozeh Honari of provinces?


The Culture and Sustainability Studies center established in March 2011. Prior to that, the Hozeh Honari was active in a number of cities since the 1980s, but most of the books published were in the field of sacred defense, and working on recording the events of the revolution was less. On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in 2008, a credit was allocated to projects related to the Revolution in Hozeh Honari. And under the supervision of Hojjatoleslam Fakhrzadeh, who was the director of Oral History Office at that time, part of this credit was allocated to record the memories and events of the history of the revolution in the provinces. It was in the form of an intra-organizational call, so that if the writer-researchers in the provinces were willing to work on the revolution, the work environment was available in the Hozeh Honari.

The title of the Islamic Revolution is comprehensive and includes war too; at the time that credit and facilities were given for researching about this subject, it had been seen that most of the plans are related to the holy defense in some way and do not include only the period of struggles and events that led to the victory of the revolution. The title of the Islamic Revolution is comprehensive and the war is a subset of it; At the time I mentioned, credit and facilities were given for this work, they had seen that most of the plans are related to the holy defense in some way and do not include only the period of struggles and events that led to the victory of the revolution. Two works, for example, were done in the field of Iranian prisoners of war (POW), specifically, there was a work about the late Abu Torabi, who was a prominent POW. Therefore, nothing was done about the history of the Islamic Revolution in the provincial centers.


What was the reason of addressing the war by this newly established center; I mean, the reinterest in this field?


This newly established center started working to be in charge of Culture and Sustainability Studies in provincial centers; without being prejudiced against the priority of war or of revolution. But, perhaps when the term sustainability is used, our people mentally related it to the war, because the final struggles of the revolution were not very long and time consuming. The other reason maybe is that in the article of associations, instructions and policies, the Islamic Revolution and the history of the Islamic Revolution has been emphasized in parallel with the holy defense. From the beginning of 2010, provincial offices were established and by the end of summer 2011, Culture and Sustainability Studies centers began working in all provinces.


What were the main activities of these centers?


Certainly the major part of their activities was instructional and research issues, but the main approach was centered on related revolution projects. However, there were no precise policies in the early 2010s, and there was freedom of action and choice, of course, war-related subjects were chosen the most. Another turning point was in 2018 and this time on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the revolution. In September 2017, a call was announced to identify projects related to the history of the Islamic Revolution in the provinces, in order to strengthen the policy of supporting the work of the provinces and they are be able to carry out a number of unfinished projects on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.


What was the subject of the call and its headings?


In September 2017, we announced to the provinces that next year is the 40th anniversary of the Revolution, and we will support various works and projects on the subject of the Islamic Revolution. Also about five subjects were presented. You know, language, climate conditions and struggles differ from province to province; but, we concluded that a plan could be about the history of the Islamic Revolution, the role of women, the role of clerics, the role of cultural figures and the role of students in the Islamic Revolution, or about introducing the prominent martyrs. In fact, we defined these subjects under the subject of Islamic Revolution history. A draft or research proposal was attached to the call. In October 2017, about 180 proposals were submitted. With the help of a council of experts and researchers in Hozeh Honari, the proposals were discussed and reviewed, and about 80 ones were selected and approved for research.


Which cities did these proposals belong to?


In the final selected plan, we tried to have all the provinces present based on strength and power. We were not, of course, too hard upon the proposal of some provinces and accepted them, but other provinces, such as Khorasan Razavi, Isfahan, and East Azerbaijan, whose role in the revolution was broader and more comprehensive, were more significant. About 40% of the received projects were approved and 60% were rejected due to lack of priority, weakness, etc. We then contracted with the researchers and supported them in terms of credit and content. That is, additional suggestions to strengthen their plans were made, and we did our best to help in the interview process. In some cases, the interviews were reviewed qualitatively; also, in terms of documentation, we consulted with documentation organizations based in Tehran which had provincial documents, so that those documents related to the provinces could be available. Specifically, the Islamic Revolutionary Documentation Center made promises and provided assistance, but with the change of management, it was not fully implemented and finalized; however, relevant documents were provided for several provinces and we were able to obtain them and make them available to researchers. Almost from the end of 2018, the process of approval of works began and a significant part of it progressed at the same year, and the final stage of approval of a number of projects reached 2019.


What were the characteristics of the accepted projects, and how many of them included new and original topics that had not been addressed before?


In fact, there was no evaluation form then by which the criteria could be identified, but it was important for us that all the angles to be addressed in providing plans. A comprehensive and research view can be identified in the plans. We tried to notice how well the proposals has been written and whether the subject is properly limited or its goal is unknown. One of our criteria was that if the projects were not completed by the early 2019, the 40th anniversary of the revolution can be define up to the early 2020; that is, the 40th anniversary starts as of February 01, 2019 and extends until 12 months later. Now we signed a contract six or seven months earlier.

As all the headings were determined by the provincial supervisor, of course, attention was paid to the novelty of the idea in all of them; but, about the role of Hormozgan women in the Islamic Revolution, for example, no article had been written, not even two pages. The researcher had not find any background. During the 40 years, two short interviews had done with two women in a local magazine, and there were no comprehensive interviews! Nobody went to the bazaars to research about the role of Tabriz Bazaar businessmen in the Islamic Revolution. A significant number of market figures who were activists of the revolution passed away, and a few of them were martyred in the war.

Under the title of Islamic Revolution History in Chaharmahal Bakhtiari Province, a two-volume book has been written in which the role of women in the Islamic Revolution of Shahrekord has been studied. About the role of Yazd in the Islamic Revolution History, five books have been published, in fact, there are 4 volumes, one of which is a two-volume book which released gradually in this period. A book about the role of women in Hormozgan is under release; and The Role of Tabriz Bazaar in the Islamic Revolution, has been unveiled.


Which period of the revolution most of the produced works belong to? What are the oldest works you have from the Pahlavi era?


I didn’t really categorize them to be able to answer this question, but we focused relatively on the second half of 1978. For example, in Yazd province, the occupation of the SAVAK building was researched; or in Kerman, on the history of the Islamic Revolution in Zarand, the Kerman Grand Mosque, or on November 22, 1978, when a street massacre took place.


Has anything been done about the struggles of the 1960s, or has this decade not been part of the provincial agenda?


We have not paid special attention to this period. We had said that before June 5, 1963, the context and roots of the movement could be until the Islamic Revolution and the beginning of the imposed war. Some researchers, for example, worked on the martyrs of June 28, 1981, the martyrs of the Islamic Republic Party. Those who worked on the characters, focused mainly on an important part of their lives, the turning points and the formation of struggles in the 1960s. The memoirs of Ayatollah Naseri are an example which is ready to be published in Yazd province. He was one of Imam’s students who went to Najaf from Iran in 1966 after the Imam's exile. I can’t tell the exact number, but out of these 70 works, perhaps the focus of 50 ones is about the events of 1978. As matter of fact, if you look at the history of the revolution, except for one or two provinces where the provincial capitals were involved in the revolution since the 1960s, the general uprising of the people in other provinces occurred in 1977 and 1978. There are a few cities like Jiroft, Iranshahr and Saqez where have been linked to the revolution due to the presence of exiled militant figures. A militant figure settled in there and people recognized him as an exiled and have some memories of him. That is, in practice, we don’t have a public struggle, like going to prison or demonstration.


Has anything been done about issues which are not directly related to the revolution but indirectly related to the conditions of that period, such as the serfdom system in the Pahlavi period, or, for example, when the Allies entered Iran in World War II and there was a famine? I mean collecting public narrative.


This is my personal concern, but not in the organization's policies and priorities. What you are saying is true. In our trainings, we consider a period of about 180 years for oral history. That means about 3 generations can live an average of 60 years. On this basis, beyond World War II, there are still people who can narrate World War I. We now have people born around 1921, who have a good memory and can tell us memories, quoting their father and grandfather. Those grandfathers lived in the middle of the Qajar period, now if 180 years is a bit optimistic, it is possible to work with a period of 150 years. I fully agree that there are high capacities in the field of popular and social narratives and they should be worked on.


To be continued…


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