Unveiling & Review of a Islamic Revolution & the Holy Defense Domestic Document

A Three-year Oral History Reference

Faezeh Sasani Khah
Translated by: Natalie Haghverdian

2017-07-18


As reported by the Iran Oral History Website, the unveiling ceremony of “Red Garment” containing the memoirs and daily notes of martyr Ahmad Ommi covering a period of three years starting from 1978 to one day before his martyrdom which is written in English was held on 3 July 2017. A group of the Islamic Revolution and Holy Defense Oral History authors and critics and the family of the martyr participated in the ceremony held in the Oral History Archive Office of the Islamic Republic of Iran National Library by the Art Department of Semnan Province.

 

An Oral History Book in English

The ceremony started by the recitation of the Holy Quran and the Anthem of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Mohammad Qassemi Pour, Director of the Office of Sustainability Studies and Culture of the Provincial Art Department delivered his welcome note. Then Dr. Qolamreza Azizi, Director of the Documentation Institute of the National Library said: “The books published in winter are less favored, since at the time of review and assessment, they are considered to be a publication of the past year; while the date refers to the past year but the content is not old.”

“This is the first oral history book written in English and it is of great importance”, he added.

Davood YarAhmadi, Director of Semnan Art Division was another speaker. “When you see the pictures of martyr Ommi, in a glance you realize that three elements of books, media and the Islamic Revolution are visible. News and media was woven to the life of this martyr. He was very up to date and familiar with media. Considering that was an English major he updated his knowledge” he said.

A clipart of his life, activities and photos were demonstrated in this session. An interview was conducted with the family of this martyr.

 

Memoir Classification

Then Mahboubeh Hajian, the translator of the book, elaborated on how she came across the book and said: “I first saw a couple of his memoir pages on the board of the university in 2007. Once I got his notebook for 1978 the first question in my mind was that why such an important document has to remain unused? I took it to a publication but they were not interested. It was until 2012 that I took it to the Semnan Province Art Division and it was well received.”

 

 

The translator of “Red Garment” said: “Memoirs of martyr Ahmad Ommi are well organized in two categories. In the first part of each page he has noted personal issues and daily incidents. The second part contains the daily political incidents and other issues which reflect his precision and awareness on current issues. The daily notes and memories were sweet and easy and his concerns were very interesting. He had noted daily expenses as well. The expression that he has repeated over and over is: “Let’s see what God has foreseen”. He has detailed his memories of three years. I tried to be loyal and precisely translate his words. I hope the martyr is satisfied with my work.”

In defining the transformation of the narrator, the translator stressed: “The memories were organized. I met the brother of the martyr for the first time in this meeting but it seems that I know him well. The personality transformation of the martyr was very interesting. We can see the transformation step by step. At the discretion of Mr. Abdollahzadeh, some parts were omitted to summaries the book to be easy to read.”

 

 

A Symbol of Weapon Free

Mohammad Mehdi Abdollahzaden, the editor of the book was another speaker of the session. He stressed: “Once I saw the volume of the notes I realized that I’m dealing with a special person. He was a weapon free of his time doing clean cut and self-realized cultural work. He was an artist carrying a recorder at all times. He has a beautiful penmanship and interested in work, cinema, politics and studies. He would watch a movie or read a book every week. He would analyze the global and Iran news and was also a sportsman. He was kind and even a flower would provoke delicate feelings in him. His social interactions are obvious in the photos he has with different people. He was brave and travelled to Qom on a motorbike to meet Imam Khomeini (PBH). He liked mass worship. If I wanted to express all these aspects, I had to design the book in six or seven volumes; hence, I had to be selective.”

 

Questions on this Domestic Document

Morteza Qazi, author of “Sly Operation” and an activist of the Islamic Revolution Cultural Front who has published the memoirs of his martyr brother spoke of “Red Garment”. He stated that “I heard of Domestic Documents for the first time from Mr. Alireza Kamari” and added: “Attention to these domestic documents will have desirable outcomes. These are treasures and shall be taken into consideration. “Red Garment” and memoirs of martyr Ommi is a valuable book. It shows that capital and treasure we have in provinces and counties. We will find more gems once walking away from the capital. We might find treasures in villages that might not be present in cities. It is a unique fact that the notes of this martyr are in English but it bears the question of the author has used formal or spoken language and how is it translated? Another question is that since a portion of the memoirs entail daily events, was it the intention of the martyr to conceal his notes or it has been a practice of English language? The other issue is that the notes on the margins are different from the main context. There is a reportage and my question is if the martyr has drafted it first and then proof noted it in his memoirs?

The other issue is if the martyr has had a foreign model? For instance, during his military service, he has noted the temperature but other issues are substituted afterwards; he has had more time and written more details. He wrote: “It is the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. Then he notes his goals in the memory of the martyrs.”

The author continued: “I don’t see any spiritual transformation; it might be because there is a gap in the book and the memoirs are selective. For instance, once his memoirs on the Islamic Revolution are over the book jumps into the war and the transformation process is absent in the book; however, note of the daily expenses is amazing. Some facts discussed in the book are very interesting, for instance the lady he meets during photography or his parents argument during fruit harvest. It seems that writing in English has removed constraints and made it easy to write such incidents.”

Morteza Qazi said: “The book required further footnotes. For instance once talking about the son-in-law of Mr. Karimi who was a member of the intelligent services (SAVAK)[1] there is a note about it in the footnotes but I was expecting to know more about the son-in-law of Mr. Karimi and the fact that what happened to him? It might be that the details are omitted due to family relationship. The ambiance of the election days is very good and interesting. When he talked about the lefties and the fact that he left the meeting. He says: “I went to the university in the early days after the Islamic Revolution and watched movies in the Islamic Association. One day was devoted to cleaning mottos from the walls and left the key mottos but there is no control over which motto is the key one!”

One interesting incident in the book is that he returns to his neighborhood in a winter’s day and decides to have a theater show. Dissemination of the Islamic Revolution Message is clear. Everyone is doing something. Major proportion of the book is devoted to reporting and if you are reading it as a student you learn a lot.”

 

Absent Information

Dr. Qolamreza Azizi, Director of Documentation Center of the National Library continued: “It were the intention of the editor to highlight the Holy Defense, then other characteristics were to be left aside. Hence, we shall thank the translator and the editor; however, from documentation perspective, the volume of the notes is unclear or the fact that where have these notes been kept or how many volumes were there? These information are unavailable in the book and we have deprived the audience. The starting date of these memoirs is not even clear and the audience has to guess. The other point is repeated use of (…) the meaning of which is unclear. Another fact is that the translator and the editor has made much sacrifices in the honor of the martyr. They have not noted in the footnotes that these additional information is included either by the translator or the editor and it only becomes clear at the end of the book.

 

 

They should have stated their involvement and transfer their feelings. This is not to criticize and undervalue the book but it is to improve its quality.”

He stressed that “We can publish these details in two number of our quarterly (Oral History Quarterly concession of the Islamic Republic of Iran National Library and Document Organization)” and added: “The notes were originally were in English; it might be better to publish it in its original form so that it would be distributed abroad. There are many people with positive or negative attitudes towards the Islamic Revolution and the English version of the book would introduce the thoughts and ideas of martyr Ommi to them. Anyway, publication of such documents is invaluable.”

Zahra Zarqami, expert in the National Documentation center said: “in the handwritten notes the main memoires are written in blue and the marginal notes are in green to distinguish the main content from marginal notes. The notes are mature. At the beginning, the terminology is fairly limited but it develops. The meaning concept of the terms become deeper during military service and afterwards and martyr Ommi expands his terminology. The point is that there is a formal tone to the translation; was it necessary? And the other question is why a specific era is selected? It might have been better to avoid less important incidents and select more important memories. Has this selection been deliberate?”

Colonel Hossein Foroutan Nejad, Head of Technology Training & Study Department of the Holy Defense Documentation Center later on said: “If the English handwriting were presented along with each translated page then all these questions would be answered. It would be more effective to have the martyr’s handwriting in the book. The other question here is that why only four months of his memoirs are included? It should have been printed as it is in multiple volumes. What was the problem with that?”

He added: “One thousand volumes are printed but many people never gain access since it is being distributed between organizations and people won’t have access to it in the next five or ten years. If you wanted to link the next generation to the current, then why not publish the sound track? The martyr is from Damghan we can made the CD available to his people. We are willing to help if necessary.”

Dr. Reza Davari, Semnan University Professor, was another speaker in the ceremony. He stressed the importance of private and individual documents and said: “What we record today might be unimportant but it might be critical in thirty years. What we read in Safarname (Nasir Khusraw) is unique. A thousand years ago he had noted that they use waterproofing layers in the rooftops of Jerusalem.”

He added: “It would be more effective to include a brief biography at the beginning of the book to address generalities. Due to lack of such summary, the audience do not realize that the author has been a soldier until the end of the book. However, the food and endnotes were effective despite some issues and typos.”

Javad SafarAli, an expert of the National Documentation Center, discussed a few shortcomings and said: “In page 31, reference has been made that Imam Hossein Mosque is located in former Shahnaz Square while the name was formerly Fouziah. In page 335, dated 18 September 1980, the word “confession” has been used for the President which is a mistake. If the author had used the word then it had to be clarified in the footnote. In multiple occasions, reference has been made to the National Library while at the time the National Library had no branches in cities and the intention might have been the city library.”

Davood Amini, the National Documentation Center expert said: “This is an oral history reference. To fill gaps and resolve ambiguities, his family and friends had to be consulted.” Amir Hossein Farshad stated: “The social history aspect of this book is very important. Interviewing the family and friends would have made it richer.”

 

Flow of Life in the Book

After hearing the comments and critics, the translator addressed the questions and said: “Let’s not forget that martyr Ahmad Ommi was a graduate student; we have to adjust our expectations. Also, he has carefully addressed family members formally; he has written the first letter in capital. Hence, translating such references I couldn’t have used informal titles such as “sis”. I had to adhere to his formal writing. I don’t believe that there has been any obligation or pressure to write his memoirs in English and it has just been fun for him to practice English in this way.”

She stressed that use of (…) has been a mistake and elaborated: “When I was translating the memoir I realized that the author has written “Let’s see what God has foreseen” but the end of every page and sometimes summarized it to “Let’s see…”. Such abbreviation was clearly understandable to me however while selecting portions of the memoirs it should have been omitted. I didn’t have access to the book before it was published to realize the mistake and correct it.”

She noted: “This is not a recreation or rewrite of someone’s notes and it is authentic; any alteration will tarnish its authenticity.


 

Mohammad Qassemipour, Chair of the session said: “This book represents the life of a young student living away from his family in another city in a dorm who despite his young age is committed to rituals. Life flows in this book which is a significant fact.”

Abdollahzade, the editor of “Red Garment” stated: “I selected a very sensitive era which I believe the audience needs more; for instance the era before the victory of the Islamic Revolution. I reflected on it for months. I tried to make strong reference and explicitly demonstrate the attitude.”

At the end of the ceremony Dr. Azizi stated: “In documentation we can’t change the prose and reconstruct it. I agree with Ms. Hajian; when reference is made to a name or vehicle there is a point to it. This book is unique and shall not be compared to other documents. It’s a personal biography and the author was martyred in the war and is a new approach since it is unprecedented.”

Appreciation and acknowledgements were made to the translator and the editor and awards were presented.

“Red Garment” is the memoirs of martyr Ahmad Ommi translated by Mahboubeh Hajian Nejad and edited by Mohammad Mehdi Abdolahzade, published by the Office of Sustainability Culture and Study Center of the Art Division of Semnan Province by Soureh Mahr publication in winter of 2016. In the introduction of this 589 page book some aspects are summarized: For instance: “Ahmad Ommi was born in 1957 …. He started writing his memoirs in the autumn of 1978 and continued till a day prior to his martyrdom [winter of 1980] in English…. His memories include his life in the dorm, family life; the exciting days of the victory of the Revolution, military training and war… Ahmad Ommi not only has recorded his daily life but also indicated domestic and international incidents in the margins. His last entry is couple of hours before martyrdom while he was the commander of a war tank.

 

 

Red Garment starts with the memoirs of 1978 which continue till page 200. The daily memories of 1979 mainly cover Farvardin (the first month of spring) and the memories of 1980 start from mid-summer and continue till mid-winter 1980. Two sections are included in the book in addition to the daily notes of Ahmad Ommi; the annex (letters and interviews) photos. The letters are the last ones he has written to his family and the interviews are those Ahmad Ommi has conducted at the end of his military training with a couple of other soldiers.

 


[1] Intelligence Service during the King’s rule.



 
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