Moving between the strings of “Oral Narration” & “Oral History”

Mehdi Abolhassani Taraghi
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian

2019-08-21


The market for publishing, buying, and reading books for a variety of reasons has long been plagued by problems, and digital media, with its widespread availability, has at least provided a platform for scholars and lovers of different sciences.[1] The most important challenges facing digital media audiences are the instrumental and promotional use of scientific terminology and concepts, misuse of scientific concepts, and misinterpretation.

If one of the goals of digital media is to enhance people's knowledge and skills for a better life and experience, it is necessary to have the works produced and presented in these media, in particular audio-visual (national media), including text, audio and video (photos and videos), carefully reviewed, modified and analyzed with regards to various fields of science and knowledge. In the meantime, the form and structure of the popular Iranian oral history program in the Documentary Network of the Islamic Republic of Iran requires scientific analysis, although in other documentary network programs such as the series of documentaries such as: "Against the Storm", " Street of the Referee "and" Forty Powers "and on most national media networks, there are signs of oral history in various video programs and genres.

IRIB’s Documentary Network is a 24-hour specialized network dedicated to producing and broadcasting documentary films. This network has been experimenting with documentary cinema for the first time in 2010 and officially has been synchronized with SD and HD[2] playback systems since the end of 2015.[3]

Documentary Network Products and Applications in addition to broadcasting from this network, have been uploaded and shared on the Internet by other media such as the Internet (Apparat, YouTube, Telewebion, etc.) and social media (Soroush, Instagram, etc.). This situation can double the audience and impact of documentary networking programs, especially Iran's oral history program. For this reason, the necessity and implication of the above are more felt.

"Oral History of Iran" Documentary, produced by Saeed Rasouli in twenty-eight clapperboards[4] of forty minutes was approved and broadcasted by IRIB and its main focus was Iranian History in the form of pictures of the country's political, social and cultural events in the past fifty year.

Iran Oral History program is one of the most popular daily programs on the documentary network, first airing at 18:30 and then repeated at 11:30 next day.[5] Of course, the first Iranian oral history documentary entitled "The coup of the Nojeh Garrison 1980" was broadcast on September 20, 2017 in the news network.[6] Around this time, Mehdi Moayedi took charge of producing the Iranian Oral History program. In February 2017, on the eve of the Fajr Festival of the Islamic Revolution, the "true narration of the history of the Revolution and the revival of the foundations of the Islamic Revolution for the new generation" were announced as the most important goals of the Iranian Oral History program. Accordingly, the Iranian Oral History" program intended to introduce the present generation to the foundations of the Islamic Revolution in the Fajr Festival using pristine and less-seen archival images.

The Iranian Oral History program put on display the unseen and less seen images and speeches and interviews of contemporary historic figures on the theoretical issues and outlines of the planned Islamic Revolution in its early years. The most important reason for this decision was that "the cultural, political and ideological aspects of the Islamic Revolution of the Iranian people in 1979 have always been deeper and more intense than other aspects of this historic event. So these principles need to be re-read for a generation that has never seen those days and those events ... Iranian oral history in the Fajr Festival of the Islamic Revolution of Iran tried to introduce the essentials of the narration of these principles through loyalty to the documents available. ”

According to Moayedi: "The principles of the Islamic Revolution of 79 can be identified in the words of prominent features of the revolution. Unfortunately, the revolution was deprived of the existence of figures like martyr Motahari as one of the powerful ideological armies through the blind assassinations of the reactionaries at that time, but figures such as Imam Khomeini in the decade after the victory of the Islamic Revolution and martyr Behashti, two or three years before his martyrdom, through their testimonies have made very key and enlightening points about the ideological dimensions of the Islamic state and its religious roots and reasons for adhering to religious rule."

In this regard, during Fajr Festival 2017, Swiss Radio and Television correspondent's interview with Imam Khomeini in Neauphle-le-Château (November 1979), Imam Khomeini's dialogue with Lebanese delegation at Alavi School in Tehran (February 1979), parts of Imam Khomeini's remarks in meeting with a delegation of 280 people from Kuwaiti Sheikhs, meeting of medical school students with Ayatollah Taleghani, meeting of a group of Shiraz militaries members from Shiraz garrison with Imam Khomeini at Fayziyeh School in Qom in May 1979, television interview of Dr. Beheshti in June 1979 concerning the role of the clergy in the Islamic Revolution of Iran and analysis of their presence were aired. On the 9th, 10th and 11th February 2017, the Iranian Oral History program broadcasted a lecture by Dr. Ayatollah Beheshti on the roots and effects of liberalism in October 1979.[7]

The documentary network continued this process and, taking into account the requirements of the time, events, incidents and political developments of the country, expanded the scope, aims and axes of the Iranian Oral History program and, over time, the events of Paveh (1979), constitutional experts' talks  (1979), TV interview of the late Ayatollah Taleghani on the issue of hijab (1979), coup of the Nojah garrison (1980), interviews of members of the Nojah coup primary circle (1980), trial of the accused in the Rex Cinema in Abadan (September 1980), the captivity of the cabinet member Muhammad Ali Rajai by the Iraqi Ba'athist regime (November 1980), the life of Martyr Rajai as the Prime Minister to the President and secrets from the biography of Shahid Bahonar narrated by him (Beta), the failed assassination attempt on Ayatollah Khamenei in Tehran's Abuzar Mosque (July 1981), the trial of the Marxist group called the Forest Soldiers (1982), speeches from the Friday Prayers by Ayatollah Khameneyi and other clergies and the arrest of Abdolmalek Rigi by the Ministry of Intelligence in 2009 titled “Flight to destination 2” were all included in the program and broadcasted.

On the 40th anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution and from February 2018, the memoirs of Abolfazl Haji Haidari in 6 episodes, Ayatollah Mohammad Bagher Mohiuddin Anvari's memoirs in 9 episodes, Hojjat al-Islam Valmosleming Mohammad Taqi Falsafi memoirs in 68 episodes, and the memoirs of the Ayatollah Mohammad Daneshzadeh Qomi in 4 episodes were broadcasted in this network. The latest videos of the "Oral History of Iran" program, include 26 episodes of the memoirs of Habibollah Askaruladi Mosalman, have brought the number of this documentary program to 865.[8]

Iranian Oral History program is a collection of different topics and genres of audio-visual productions of domestic and foreign television networks, from the first days of the 1979 revolution to recent years. In this series: TV interviews, news reports, speeches of political figures and religious figures, biography and biography, sermons on Friday prayers, reports of commemoration,[9] reports of the Intelligence Ministry operations, reports of revolutionary courts on the trial of leaders and members of political groups (The Tudeh Party, the military (Nujah coup), the religious (Forghan) and the guerrilla (MKO, FEDA) as the opposition forces of the regime are found. Even the opening ceremony of the fifth term of the Islamic Consultative Assembly in 1996 has been broadcasted on the program.

Films and documentaries of this Program have been broadcasted on different occasions of the Islamic Republic of Iran's Calendar, such as the Anniversary of the Explosion of the Office of the Islamic Republic Party on July 7, 1981, Amid Discussions on the Second Principle of the Constitution and Reaction to the news and speeches of the Persian-Speaking media abroad, the Fajr Festival of the Islamic Revolution and so on.

The point is that many of these films and reports are being broadcasted for the first time, and despite the fact that some are aware of such issues, not everyone has easy access to them, as these visual, audiovisual and documentary archives belong to the country's national archives and not normally easily accessible for exploitation. In the meantime, the Archives of the Documentation Center of the Islamic Revolution plays the leading role, and most of these documents are in the possession of the Center. Free sharing and dissemination of this information is an important and effective step towards transparency of the information flow and the realization of the "Law on Free Access to Information".

Obviously, all the different parts of the Iranian Oral History program are directly or indirectly related to the contemporary history of Iran, especially the history of the Islamic Revolution. The topics presented in each of these sections are important corners of contemporary Iranian history over the past forty years. It is also possible that the full content of the audiovisual documents of the Iranian Oral History program has not yet been reflected in the written documents. Hence, they are of double value and importance.

On the other hand, apart from the content, the message and the ultimate goals of the documentary, the overall form and structure of Iran's oral history program means the mere display of photographs and images of many despised or disgraced political figures, and even the broadcast of audio and video, not only do they remind everyone of the participation of all political groups and individuals in the victory and continuation of the Islamic Revolution, but they can also provide the ground for the failure of the self-made political taboos of Iranian society, especially among politicians and intellectuals. This means that when the national media broadcasts the voice and image of such a political regiment, there is no need to preserve and maintain some taboos, create taboos and apply self-censorship. Undoubtedly, political illumination brings the public space of society towards freedom of expression and avoidance of extremism in the political arena, clearing the minds of the youth and teenagers of the country and taking steps to promote the intellectual and cultural health of society.

Photos and images of the Iranian Oral History program recount part of the events of the Active History or Recent History of contemporary Iran for the generation involved in it and recount, associate, revive, and narrate them for the second and third generations of the revolution; and in addition to teaching history, it also provides a visual understanding of those events, although the structure, timing, editing and content of the films require expert reflection, comment, and analysis.

For example, the producers of the Iranian Oral History program have not been scientifically aware of the word "oral history" and its numerous and varied uses. Currently, inside and outside Iran, several scientific institutions, programs, sites, channels and groups in the field of cyberspace, journals and research projects carry the title of "Iranian Oral History" and the nature of all of them is dialogue and interview with political figures, technocrats, religious men, the country's scientific and cultural elites, guerrilla fighters, scholars and scholars inside and outside Iran, or a variety of memoirs, and some of these projects are still in progress; also books entitled "History" Oral Iran »have been published.[10]

Part of the "Iranian Oral History" program in the documentary network of the Islamic Republic of Iran can be considered as "Oral Narrative of Iranian Contemporary History" rather than "Oral History of Iran". Oral history is based on the narrative of the past and the memories of individuals in the context of an active interview, not on negotiations, reports, testimonies and confessions of defendants or political and ideological debates. However, all of this content is recorded in contemporary Iranian history and can be used as historical data. It is true that in all these collections, individuals or individuals in different positions and status in the language of conversation, memory, interviewing, reporting, and so on, give an oral account of the events of their time, past and experienced, but still within the domain of oral history, i.e. targeted, active and challenging interviewing between two or more people on a historical topic is far from over.

In the Iranian Oral History program, the discussions of the Assembly of Experts, Paveh incident reports, counter-revolutionary elements trial, biography of the martyrs, the arrest of Abdul Malik Rigi, etc. are narrated orally but are not called "oral history". Exceptions to this are the recorded and documents memoirs of politicians, prominent clerics, and revolutionary fighters, expressed in a definite and specific process and multiple Q&A sessions, presumably in the form of narrative and recollection after eliminating interviewer questions. Such content, of course, subject to having access to the questions asked might be called Oral History since they might be merely reminiscent of memoir narration and not oral history collection process.

As a result, the content of the "Iranian Oral History" program in the documentary network of IRIB, is rich in different aspects of history, sociology, psychology, anthropology, understanding of the era ... but calling them oral history poses two main issues:

 

  1. Debate over the subject, concept, form and structure of "oral history" still persists in Iran, and individuals, centers, and NGOs use the term arbitrarily and preferably and use its data in various and sometimes disparate formats. While it seems that this issues has been resolved in the developed world and its scientific circles, and the boundaries of oral history and its delimitation with other mechanisms, structures, schools, and historiography modes have been determined. While oral historians and professional users of the oral history field are still arguing over the meaning and concept of "oral history" with the contenders, critics, and opponents of the field, using it not only increases the confusion of oral history enthusiasts, it may also result in misunderstanding of oral history and intellectuals might fail to reach a correct consensus.
  2. As the application of the scientific method and mechanism of oral history and the expansion of the fields of research and its published works in Iran, the name, title and concepts of oral history have become widespread due to its new and practical and attractive functionality. Beyond the oral history designs, a look at the multitude of titles and names combined with the word "oral history" proves this claim. In this situation, educated people, literate people and those interested in history as audiences of the Iranian Oral History program will imagine any film or report of the past where one can search for clues to the Iranian history is called oral history. This will exacerbate the aforementioned problem and damage, and will add to the demoralization of history science in Iran's growing society. In the following way, the program's audience will seek Iranian oral history in the midst of selected films and reports and avoid acceptance of scientific facts, as part of our society makes national media the primary reference and narrative of its definitive verdict on every subject.

 

* Abolhassani Taraghi (PhD), Oral History Professor and Scholar, email: m.abolhasanitarqai@gmail.com

 


[1] Media publishing digital content. Including some online media (including global internet networks), telecommunication services including MMS and SMS and other forms of networks such as tele booth also including physical digital port media such as software, computer games and others (Information Technology and Digital Media Center: https://www.sarmad.ir)

[2] SD follows the Definition standard with the precision and detail in analogue color televisions that we have all grown up with. HD combines massive amount of pixels to create clear and quality video. Hence, in defining the difference of SD and HD, with great certainty it is possible to say that the HD quality is much higher than the Standard Definition.

[3] The Documentary Network, about us: http://wwww.doctv.ir/about-us:kahkd

[4] Clapperboard: is made of a chalkboard slate with a clapstick. It is used in filmmaking to show the information of different scenes to all the personnel involved particularly the audio-visual team. At the beginning of each take, this board is filmed for the information to be used during production. On the chalkboard the information including name of the movie, the director, date, scene number and the take number is written. It shows which scene is under production. (This information is also read out loud). The clapstick on top makes a clicking noise and the producer uses this noise to integrate sound and image. (Clacket Visual Group: http://clacketgroup.blogfa.com/post)

[5] There have been some changes on the broadcast and repeat of the Iran Oral History Program in the Documentary Network. For more information refer to the table of programs.

[6] IRIB: http://www.iribnews.ir/fa/news. September 6, 2017, 15:33, 10 July 2019.

[7] Documentary network, news, Monday, 16 February 2017, 15:15

[8] Dido, Media news, 17 February 2018

[9] The news report of Hassan Soltani the experienced reporter in charge of the spiritual program of the Channel one on the volunteer presence of the people and the Guardian Forces in Hamedan Province to end the Paveh issue and his interview with the soldiers, ISNA report agency: https://www.isna.ir/news. 14 July 2015, news code 95050115017; the speech of Ayatollah Javadi Amoli in the commemoration ceremony of the victims of the bomb attack in the premises of the Islamic Republic Party Offices in 1981 and the speech of Ayatollah Mousavi Ardebili with the presence of Martyr Rajayi; the commemoration ceremony of the terrorist attack on June 28 in the University of Tehran dated, 2 July 1981 with the eulogy presented by Haj Sadegh Ahangaran (recitation of the 28 June incident in the Documentary Network, Cinemapress: http://cinemapress.ir/news/, Saturday 23 June 2018, code 98933).

[10] By the time of the publication of this article, around 89 title books on Iran Oral History have been registered with the National Library and Archives of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

 



 
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