The Session "Reflection in Oral History"(I)

A talk on the real voice of oral history

Maryam Rajabi
Translated by: Fazel Shirzad

2019-04-06


According to Iranian oral history website, the first session "Reflection in Oral History" held at Dr. Parham Hall in National Library and Archives of Iran on Wednesday's evening, 27 February 2019.

In a note dated on 18 November 2019, Mohsen Kazemi who is a researcher in oral history and memoirs of Islamic Revolution, he asked questions entitled "Warning! Oral History Voice Is Coming", around the situation of Iranian oral history which encountered with oral history commentators. Iranian Oral History Association also sought to elaborate on the subject at the session "Reflection in Oral History"

Mohsen Kazemi told at the session: "We met with a large amount of workshops, meetings and conferences held across the country in the week of research. This was the forehead of work. The background showed that there was a lot of work done in the country in this field. well, we are working in this field for 24 to 25 years, we know the oral history practitioners and experts, it was surprising to us that some people simply went to Golestan province as a head for a center, and held an oral history workshop to explain the difference between oral history and memory, or those who did not really experience the oral history issues, had held classes for oral history. It was a part of the work.

The next part is about products that are being published. According to the views of friends and we, there are lots of problem in the works with the title of oral history and their process in this filed. The other part of problem that we are infected is that we have not comprehended the origins and methods of oral history; some of agents in this field use and seize oral history to their desires as a prestige and way in which justifies a number of actions and works. That was why, some questions came to my mind and raised them on the social network of Iranian Oral History Association. Today, friends are asking questions in different ways, and I do not need to repeat them again. My note has made some other worries and other respond to it, including those who attend in at this session. Apart from the elders, there were others. If you look at social network of Iranian Oral History Association, you will see that the note was commented and it was clear that this is a matter for many people. We were asked to hold a meeting or set of sessions and discuss these problems."

 

Some questions following questions

Mahmoud Sadat, a member of the faculty of Imam Khomeini Research Center, was the first lecturer at session "Reflection in Oral History". He said: "I have designed 15 to 16 questions to discuss on these questions and hear the opinions of my friends. As Mr. Kazemi said, the oral history texts have reached a public level, and everyone knows himself as an expert, even those who do not know the difference between oral history and memory. What is the situation we are facing with? Did countries that have started oral history before us, have this situation or overcome it? Is our country exception in this field? Do the failure to solve the problems of people, attract the attention of effective executive directors in the government on reminiscence or somehow memory-therapy through oral history? Is the drug of oral history can cure current people? Does oral history fill the generation gap between different generations of revolution? And are those who are entering into oral history going to fill this generation gap?

Reminiscence in times of hardship; we have subject this in history, and the typical example is that the men who go to do military service, they write memories related to the most difficult times of different places. Do we use the reminiscence, which everyone deal with it, to overcome this difficult situation? What is the memory of this time and what has been the memory of the past. Has the power of parties and groups entered the field of oral history? Is the current state of oral history in ordinary way? Why do we think that it is unordinary? Why does Mr. Kazemi think this is unordinary? Perhaps this is not unordinary at all and we need to talk about this.

Do they go to opponent's narration to prove their legitimacy? (Shapur Azarbarzin was brought there to speak about buying weapons [by the Pahlavi government). Why? How influential is satellite apps that make anyone here feel responsible for themselves and want to enter into oral history field and increase quantity, like when a center publishes book every two days to produce a large volume. Is oral history entered from a research climate to political one and political struggle that has spread so much? Is the voice of oral history heard from each side, is it bad or good? Why do we think it's bad? Is the goal of oral history to invite the silent historians to talk about history? Now, everyone speaks on every side.

The target groups of oral history are usually those who do not speak, such as suburb people and women who are not usually present in history. But, are "political elites", who are always present, supposed to be in oral history? In this way, Iran is in a reverse order. In Iran, as soon as the issue of oral history is raised, political elites come in mind. Is oral history field a kind of speech democracy that everyone can talk about? Why do we think it's bad? How is the condition of oral history in our country?

I feel that we are far ahead of our neighboring Arab countries. If we factor out what Kazemi and their friends did in Lebanon, the rest of Arab countries did not even think about this issue (i.e. oral history) at all. Of course, our country has had two or three coups, one revolution and two or three wars during hundred years ago; it was a stubborn time, and oral history is necessary to record memories. How is the condition of our oral history in the region? In my opinion, our situation is better than the other Arab states of the region. Of course I do not know about Turkey and I am not aware of it. Why do we think it's a crisis and we should sit here and talk about it now? I think these questions are a good way for discussion."

 

Answer to some basic assumptions

In the following, Gholamreza Azizi, the director of National Library and Documents, said: "One or two points about the questions come to mind. You have a primary assumption that the numbers of oral history works has grown a lot in the last one or two years ago, and they are written by those who wrote had a post and worried about what might have happened. That's why they wanted to get rid of themselves soon. I , as someone who has seen all oral history works in the filed of sacred defense for at least four years, want to say that, unfortunately, your primary assumption is null and void. In recent years, the numbers of works in oral history have been reduced. That is, the number of books is declining rather than increasing.

Questions are assumed. I do not ask if the followers of Tramp are in relation with oral history in the United States. Why do not I ask? Because they are not related at all. We have two questions. A question is denial one. We ask something to criticize it, to deny it and to eliminate it. If our question is not denial, there will be a question in my mind and I want to see what I suppose is true or not. I assume that some of your questions are about the use of denial question. That is, you have asked to show that you do have it in your own mind, it is doubtful in the minds of someone. That is, there is a primary assumption that, for example, in the economic problems that we have, when we are discussing the kindness of people with each other and fighting against hardships, is it for overcoming our economic problems? Both of them are present now, so they are not assumption. We have two facts, and we want to assume between these two facts, whether or not the development of oral history relates to these two.

My first assumption is that oral history has not reached to an enough extent, and outputs show that this activity has not been ascending in many areas related to questions, namely, purely political areas, holy defense and revolution, and it is sadly descending. Another argument that still comes to mind is that the questions are affected by the current situation; if the question was an extensive one. That is, is it related to protests of 2017 while the oral history is developing? Or go a little bit later.

Did the events of 2009 affect oral history process? Answering questions of this kind requires a statistical graph, and without it, it's not easy to answer these questions. As I entered into the field of sacred defense, I know that this is a reverse development. Unfortunately, our growth factor is negative. If we accept that two million warriors have gone to the front during sacred defense, this growth should be increased frequently and its statistics will be raised every day. This has not happened yet.

My second assumption is that they are partially affected by recent events. I cannot refer the facts that take place in this year to activities that Revolutionary Guards, Islamic Revolutionary Document Organization and artistic organization have started since twenty years ago. If I want to pursue this impact, I have to analyze the events of past twenty years to find whether this has happened during these twenty years, not expensive problems of last year. I disagree with two issues: One is that the first assumption in the questions is a mistake. That is, we take quiet recent events into consideration; it must go backwards. I have said several times in the last two months that Iranian oral history is product of Islamic Revolution and developed by sacred defense event. That is, it was born in the field of sacred defense, developed and strengthened. In my mind, third era is being started. That is, the signs of passing through history - which I call it oral history interviews. The publication of oral interviews is being revealed, and we are moving from doing interview to the quality research stage in oral history interviews. The signs of transition are being seen. The publication of oral interviews is being seen, and we are moving from interview stage to quality research stage in oral history interviews. The signs of transition are being seen.

We had one of the twentieth century erosion wars, apparently it was the longest erosion war of twentieth century. It was a time when Iraq invaded us, and it casue our experiences to be increased. We had two million people involved in sacred defense. If we look at oral histories from the perspective of historiography and so-called gathering the masses of people to democratize contemporary history. So, in my opinion, it is a very strange opportunity for our neighboring countries to have experienced in it except Iraq and, to some extent, Afghanistan. Our population is not comparable with Arab countries, but as far as I know, the national archives of countries such as Kuwait, Emirate, and especially Oman have started oral history projects. Incidentally, Insomuch that oral history projects are important in the southern countries of Persian Gulf, it may not be important to us. Because they do not have history and their history depend on the decision of the UK government to create it. They have few documents. I'm not saying this as a fault, but a strong protection. The Omani archives or Emirate archives explore almost all the Atlantic and Indian Ocean shores to see whether or not they have any documentation about their own country and shipping. In this project, they visited the all old-fashioned houses separately that are likely to have a document. They copied their documents and conduct oral history interviews. I just said that because they have just started working in oral history. If they are not like Lebanon or Afghanistan, it's because they have experienced war, and they need to do it systematically and out of archives, otherwise all southern countries of Persian Gulf will start it from their national archives.

I was not in a position to answer questions. Each question must be checked at the meeting. The basic assumption for discussing this period and question posed by Mr. Kazemi and, ultimately, the name we choose for this meeting was that works done in the name of oral history are oral history by natural  is dimmed and ignored. It's like a sound that is hit to wall and reflected. But the reflection, in fact, is an imperfect echo of it; therefore, we choose the name of echo for it. The debate is not that oral history projects have been increased and this is not good; it was not our first assumption at all. Mr. Kazemi began like this that some sounds come in ears and we said it was good to hear the voices, the problem is that these voices are not real ones. This is a reflection of original voice and echo."



 
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According to Iranian oral history website, the first session "Reflection in Oral History" held at Dr. Parham Hall in National Library and Archives of Iran on Wednesdays evening, 27 February 2019. In a note dated on 18 November 2019, Mohsen Kazemi who is a researcher in oral history and memoirs of Islamic Revolution, he asked questions entitled "Warning! Oral History Voice Is Coming", around the situation of Iranian oral history which encountered with oral history commentators.