The details of declarative meeting of the twelfth Iranian oral history congress

The Meaning and Concept of Oral History Should be Preserved

Malihe Kamaledin
Translated by: Fazel Shirzad


Note: According to Iranian oral history website, the declarative meeting of the twelfth Iranian Oral History Congress was held in the hall of Jihad Construction Ministry

A review on the congresses

The twelfth Iranian Oral History's Congress will be held by Iranian Oral History Association, Isfahan’s University and the General Directorate for Dedicated Worriers’ Affairs of Constructive Jihad Ministry." Mohsen Kazemi, the secretary of Iranian Oral History Association, said:" Today, oral history is raised from different part of our country, Iran, and we are involved a variety of oral history. It is supposed that Iranian Oral History will be developed by Oral History Association and promote the new methods of oral history.

The association have been established since 2004, and our first meeting was held in Isfahan. We held repeatedly two congresses in Isfahan titled "the discussion and argument about oral history". Unfortunately, in spite of discussing about fruitful issues, we have some histories in archives and we have not opportunity to publish them to be useful and available for everyone. In 2007, we held forth congress in the subject of interview in oral history; it was the only two-day congress held in Art Center. We had two busy days that many article were written about them, we delivered more than 100 articles, and mostly 50 articles were published twice by the effort of Alireza Kameri; of course, it is a rare book. The fifth congress was held in Mashhad by the effort of Dr. Abulfazel Hasan Abadi. The subject of fifth congress was The Civil and Local History and Bilateral Rule with Oral History. Fortunately, the book of this congress was available in Astan Quds Razavi’s publication. The subject of sixth congress was 'Teaching in Oral history", held in Isfahan titled the oral history of sacred defense, in mehr 2010.  The seventh congress was allocated to one of the most important issues that have been not solved as yet. The subject of this congress was the discussion about the compilation of oral history by the effort of Dr. Ali Tatari in the Library and Documentary Center of Islamic Council Assembly in Jeanery 31th 2011. The articles that are related to this congress and other congresses 'article that were also bout the compilation of oral history were published as a book; it was not distributed chiefly, and it is available in a PDF format. The subject of eighth congress was "Teaching in Oral History" that it was held in Isfahan University. The subject of ninth congress was about Self-sacrifice and Martyrdom held in a cooperation with Institution of Martyrs and Devoted Worriers Affairs. A valuable book was published by the articles of this congress. This book was republished and as a selective one in Book Festival. The tenth congress was held in the subject of the Oral History of Islamic Revolution by effort of Iranian Contemporary History Study Institution in 2015. This congress's book is also ready to be published, but it is not published yet because of the high prices of paper. We hope to publish it before the twelfth congress.  The subject of eleventh congress was the completion in Oral History. The congress was held in two workshops in morning and afternoon.

As you find, three of congresses were held in the subject of the compilation of oral history. The problem of compilation is not solved in our country. The problem of interview is partly solved, but the problem of compilation is remained unsolved. I hope to solve the problem in subsequent meetings. Various works and meeting have been held since November 2018 for twelfth congress of oral history in the subject of Analysis of Sacred Defense Support.  The purpose of the congress is determined:" Explaining the role and necessity of recognition of role and recovery of oral history priorities in the arena of Agricultural Constructive Jihad, industry, engineering and support in the sacred defense (defined in seven axes), support and engineering of the war of Agricultural Constructive Jihad, administrative and military affairs, dispatching and logistics, industry (initiatives and inventions), documentation and administrative archives, dedicated units associated with the sacred defense. There are thirteen participating parties, but four are the main pillars of the congress: General Directorate of Devoted Worriers Affairs in the Ministry of Agricultural Constructive Jihad, Iranian oral history Association, Isfahan's University, and the Stock Company of Zob Ahan. There were more than thirty articles for this congress. With the many summons, more than thirty abstracts of articles came to Iranian oral history Association. Twelve articles have been submitted for presentation out of the twenty articles, which will be hopefully presented in three panels of congress.  The first panel will be ceremonial related with lectures of congress."

Tracing a support knowledge map

Following the declarative congress, the 12th national congress on Iranian oral history, Eng. Asgar Noruzi, member and associate of the Dedicated Worriers’ Affairs of Constructive Jihad Ministry, said:" The discussion of oral history is a broad one carried out everywhere in the country. The Ministry of Jihad was not separate from the oral history; in the sense that it itself was a part of the oral history of the sacred defense. When subject was oral history, the Foundation for the Preservation of Works and Publication of Values of Sacred Defense, and Art Center and free researchers who were interested, in discussed about oral history of Jihad Construction and the oral history of supporting and engineering of the war of Constructive Jihad. A huge part of the discussion took place in the provinces, and we had good output. The Foundation published considerable interviews and books.

The oral history of the support and engineering of the war of jihad construction, was subject-centered, such as operations, or person-centered; that is, General Directorate of Devoted Worries’ Affairs carried out interviews with those who were the executive affairs of sacred defense, and commanders. The past of oral history in the collection of the war of jihad construction were the units of recording events. During the period when General Directorate of Devoted Worries’ Affairs has been formed, the oral history had been raised. In the first stage of the tracing a support knowledge map of war of jihad was carried out; in this way, its defense organization, during the years of sacred defense, was changed into headquarters or battalion. This orgniaztional structure was traced; the related individuals were selected, even a loader driver that was played a role in road and Water Committee. So, an organization with people who were related to it and its document situation. Accordingly, gained analysis and the fields determined as the vacuity of knowledge. By using this knowledge map, we did interviews; the interviewee spoke about operations and their position and presented their experiences. It resulted various outputs and products came from the heart of history. For example, the map of the war of Agricultural Constructive Jihad that its first step was Valfajr operation 8, and it will be revealed in next months. Our colleagues, in Jihad Construction Ministry, compiled some books about battalion and war area of northwest and south. We entered the twelfth congress of oral history that it was about the support of sacred defense; Iranian Oral History Association and Isfahan's university appreciated it.  The related article was also taken into consideration, and hopefully we will get a result in congress."


The continuance of saving sacred defense's documents

The twelfth National Congress on Iranian oral history continued with the speech of Engineer Alireza Barghahi, responsible for Constructive Jihad Ministry of Sacred Defense's Documentation Center. He said: "The Supreme Leader at the Memorial Night on Septamber 26, 2018, made statements that could serve as a starting point for compiling sacred defense memoirs and documents. They stated that you should tell the war yourself because you attended in the war; if you didn't narrate the war, the enemy would narrate it as he pleases. I was not in the sacred defense generation, but in terms of the responsibility given to me, we inherited the engineering support of the war of Constructive Jihad. One of the tactics of engineering support done by former Constructive Jihad during the sacred defense was the presence of annalist's along with warriors and commanders. That is, there were people who were recording the events at the time. The result was a valuable collection. The registration center was active until the 1990s, and this process was stopped after the merger of the Constructive Jihad with the Ministry of Agricultural Constructive Jihad.

One of the milestones came just after the end of the war in 1988 when all the commanders and effective engineers of the war were gathered. They had not yet exited from the mood of war and recorded their experiences in our archive of documents. God willing, make good use of this treasure of information and events. After a period of interruption, in 2002, and doing the project of storing sacred defense documents, organizing the remained sacred defense's documents was continued. These documents are in various forms and types; they are both written and memorized ones. We designed a searchable system at the Ministry of Agricultural Constructive Jihad that is publicly available for researchers to use. In the area of oral history of sacred defense, within the organizational framework of the Ministry of Agricultural Constructive Jihad, we have the General Directorate for Devoted Affairs and its Cultural Department, and under it, we have the Department for the Preservation of Works and Publications of Values of Sacred Defense that is responsible for the oral history of Constructive Jihad. We made a teamwork on what to do to compile the remained content by the help of experts. Thank God we came to good points. We hope that this issue will be considerably addressed at the twelfth Iranian Oral History's Congress."

We haven't achieved a sample in oral history

 Dr. Hojjatollah Tarshizi, general manager of Agriculture Constructive Jihad's departmental affairs and former director of the General Directorate for Dedicated Worriers’ Affairs, thanked the Iranian Oral History Association and said:" The supreme leader says that when you are narrating the history and epic of the glorious era of sacred defense, actually it is jihad and sacrifice. Constructive jihad as a soft social technology at the beginning of the victory of Iran's Islamic Revolution strengthened the internal power of the Islamic Republic. The establishment of Constructive Jihad in 17 June 1979 was a hopeful time for those who were interested in Islamic Revolution. The concept of Jihad is embedded with construction and made a new climate in country. Perhaps cultural engineering and soft social engineering is more important than engineering, and it should be written beautifully in the form of oral history and how we enter the field of service engineering whatever we have learned in jihad how, But this engineering and this kind of jihad is weakened and people are not involved in running the country and cannot provide proper service. How did an old woman in a remote village share her in sacred defense and feel that she was participating in this jihad? Such is the dimension of jihad engineering that must be written. We see the perfect example at the ceremony of Arbaeen; the people with the least opportunity are shared in the greatest works, and enter the realm of jihad.

Certainly, the great Jihad of sacred defense cannot be expressed solely in the written, recorded documents and documents of the General Directorate of Devoted Worriers’ Affairs existing in our provinces. Perhaps if you search the engineering of war under the title of Paul Baezat in Operation Valfajr 8, you will just find a few documentations. That is, we were faced with a vacuum at a time when, perhaps you there are only fifty or a hundred written documents relating to some of field baths or logistical topics from the time of sacred defense  and our masterpiece in  engineering of war and this critical period; These have to be raised with oral history. Oral history is a good tool to fill these gaps and to rethink the role of cultural and military engineering in Constructive Jihad. In Jihad, many steps have been taken in this direction. Some honorable friends have found these steps, and everyone agrees that this is not enough, we needs more coherent works in this field. Maybe we've had three big projects in oral history, just at headquarters and centers. There has been a lot of work done in our provinces, but their distribution does not indicate a single map. I urge the Iranian Oral History Association and Mr. Mohsen Kazemi to come to a unified plan in cooperation with Dedicated Worriers’ Affairs of Constructive Jihad Ministry. Oral history needs a comprehensive map. This comprehensive map needs to be designed and engineered, and our pioneering jihadists has potential in this way. If we have more than 540,000 troops in wartime, about two hundred thousand of them are currently active. The center of bulwark-makers other related NGOs can implement this map, but before that, map engineering can be very effective with this new steps. We conducted a training course with Mr. kamery in 2011 or 2012. This must be continued; some new oral history information has not been passed on to our friends in the provinces, including memory and oral history differences that are generally mixed. We have over 5,000 interview files. as we've reviewed them in different texts we found that they are not usable. Because some of texts are quite obscure and some are precise oral history of wartime. We have oral history from the war areas since 1981, but they cannot be used because of some technical issues. Friends can help and resolved this problem. Certainly we need the cultural, social and engineering dimensions of constructive jihad in the second step of the revolution, which the Supreme Leader refers to as the Great Jihad in the second step document. The supreme leader, in that document, used the word "Jihad" at least 24 times and demands at least ten dimensions of jihad from the youth. These exist in constructive jihad and must be extracted, and accordingly, we can present a sample with oral history's narrations. Our country in the lack of sample; we have lots of young people who are ready to work in this field, but we don’t reach to a main sample in oral history. Mr. Bargahi has more than 5 thousand files. Why can't we achieve a main samples for them?  There is a vacuum here, a vacuum of technical work that we may not be experts at. All sympathetic friends in the field of oral history can help fill these gaps. I thank the efforts of Isfahan's University and Zob Ahan Company for providing this opportunity (the 12th Iranian Oral History congress) to launch a great jihad. I read some articles; I regretted why some contents should be eliminated, although they didn't have the structure of the article, but it had the potential of ten articles. They lacked oral history knowledge. There are a many writer in West and in Europe, but there aren’t enough issues, but our country is on the contrary situation. I found more than a dozen topics in these articles that no one talked about. This shows a huge capacity that Devoted Worriers’ Affairs of Agricultural Constructive Jihad Ministry has to take it into consideration in the coming years."

About the War Records Unit

Engineer Abdullah Fatehi, General Directorate of Devoted Worriers’ Affairs in the Ministry of Agricultural Constructive Jihad also thanked those attended at the Twelfth Iranian Oral History's Congress. "I want to give a brief explanation about where oral history and the work of recording the war began and how it continued and how things went. We may need to go back to this history.

There has always been a concern that sacred defense will be ended one day; who should record it and pass it on to future generations? At that moments - more than 35 years ago - there were people thinking about this time. While those involved in the war, they were also concerned about how these sacrifices could be recorded and transmitted to future generations as a cultural asset. When we were in warfronts and engaged in war along with the jihadists, warriors, Revolutionary Guard, troops and armies. At the same time, warriors and especially the war commanders were concerned about it. While the main responsibility was to fight and our commanders had a very sensitive responsibility for war and defense of the homeland, at the same time, whenever they visited us, they were asking us how we could record these scenes and for next generations. In the early years of the war, despite the concern of the commanders, it was generally not the responsibility of anyone; during the war, everyone was recording and preserving war memories in their own perceptions or tastes. Generally, the forces of war propaganda were doing these records, and groups were sent to the front for recording memoirs using audiovisual equipment. There were other groups that we can call it "Jihad Television Group" in the Constructive Jihad, the same group of martyr Avini, later referred to as the "Ravayat-e Fath[1]" group. The group that was actually in the war of Jihad and propaganda organization directed by Nader Talibzadeh, Azerloo and Malajani. A photography group that took more than thousands of photos of war scenes. It was the late Hamidzadeh who was doing these works. We had propaganda fronts in every camp, with responsibility for recording the events in Karbala, Noor, Najaf Ashraf and Hamza Sayyed al-Shohada. That is, different groups were doing this until the attacks and the operations of war were increased; our sensitivities and the number of our martyrs and wounded also increased. That is, the importance of the issue grew day by day.

It was late 1986, after the Kheibar Operation that the authorities officially decided to establish an independent organization called the War Records and taking responsibility for it. At the time we were confronted to a opposition while all the commanders acknowledged that these scenes and gallantries had to be recorded, we had to keep the all scenes and happenings secret, and should not be reflected. Prior to the Valfajr operation, we officially activated eight units to record war’s events in the Constructive Jihad, despite all the administrative problems. In this unit, we started to use fighters who wanted to be on cultural front. We employed them and explained to them that the value of what we want to do in war log is no less than fighting; it needed to take a risk. Then, we provided training courses for these forces that were employed and prepared training pamphlets for them. A number of special diary offices were prepared and printed in small sizes, and they were given the opportunity to record diaries moment by moment. We held meetings with the senior military commanders fighting on the warfronts, and at that time it was supposed that some ones to assigned to record the war with the least amount of recording equipment and facilities along with each battalions’ commanders and senior commanders of the garrisons and divisions. There was a tape recorder and a camera and a camera. he tried to be along with commander moment by moment. He took both photography and notes. Eventually, it became a beginning to record all the events that took place on the warfronts, especially in the support and engineering unit of Jihad, and we were able to succeed and achieve the enormous value that is available to be reorganized and used. It is good to remind the martyrs who became martyred in connection with the recording war’s events. Martyr Hassan Hemmati was a newly married martyr with a baby girl. He came and we were together. He was dispatched and martyred as a force of recoding the events. Remember the brothers martyr Nemati Jam, Hojatoleslam martyr Shari'ah and many other martyrs, and martyr Sayyed Morteza Avini, whose father passed way e few day ago. These were the people who were martyred on the way to record the events of war and many other martyrs that I forget their names.

The same thing happened for the army and Revolutionary Guards. The Revolutionary Guards formed a group named "Forty Witnesses". They were also very good at recording war events. The war propaganda unit of garrison Sayed al-Shohada's did a good job of filming with the 8mm super cameras was available at that time and taking good photographs. Our war propaganda unit was also very active in Najaf Ashraf garrison, the late Qarai who later became martyred while serving in the Constructive Jihad was also very active. At Karbala headquarters, Karbala garrison, and Noor headquarters, and all those who worked on the recordingeng of war events and war propaganda did valuable work. It is good to remember the dear ones who fought in the propaganda of warfront and recorded the events of the war in those days, and were along with our warriors and jihadists, in order to record the historical scenes and to pass them on to future generations."

A silent Jihad

The last speaker at the meeting was Alireza Kamery, author and researcher of history and literature. He said: "In the name of God; I'll speak in short. Please, reporters! Be careful to write my brief statements correctly, not boldly.

The history of war and sacred defense is based on Kurdish knowledge and the work and thought of the actors in the event. The basis of this action is the works and documents that have been survived and the oral evidence and statements obtained by witnesses through systematic dialogue. We have three major institutions or groups that have been involved in the war and sacred defense and played major role with saying that they are trustees of the history of war and they must be trustees. The three organizations include the Army (and I mean the whole army, whether ground, air, or naval one), the Revolutionary Guards (whose operational body was the People's Mobilization), and the third, the Constructive Jihad. Support engineering of war was formed in Constructive Jihad. The history of war / sacred defense cannot be written without regard to these three institutions, and in many cases it is impossible to distinguish between these three at a glance. Of course, jihad was not engaged in military operations with tactical approaches, or like the army involved in military, political and strategic contexts. In my view, the presence of jihad in war is significant in two respects: specialized presence, that is, support engineering, and secondly, the context of the popular and faithful body of jihad and engineering in war. The jihadists, like the Army and Revolutionary Guards, were not obliged to fight, but the war would not be possible without their presence. The jihadists in the war were active but silent, they didn't speak, or they spoke very little, they were men of action. One of the reason that we did not have enough documents in the field of publication during and after the war was due to their silent jihad. In the same years in which the preference of expertise over commitment or commitment over the expertise of the political subjects was emphasized, jihad was able to demonstrate the cooperation of expertise and commitment quietly and bring it into practice.

Later, some came and began to record and identify the jihadists' practice, as far as I remember Mr. Fattahi, who was present at the meeting and was a pioneer in this way. Another point to note is that when we speak of support, war engineering, the name of jihad immediately comes into our minds and tongue. But the basis of engineering and support of war has a long history and background. Here, we should also mention martyr Dr. Chamran and his brother, who is considered a supporter of war engineering. The last point is that we must take care of meaning of oral history, then the oral history of engineering, industry and war support. Oral history is the historical study of events and phenomena. Oral history, despite its similarity, is not writing and telling memoir; oral history, I must add of course, oral history research / oral history of engineering, Industry and war support demands for its own characteristics and requirements; one of the topics of discussion at the congress is how the oral history of the engineering industry, sacred war / defense support in method and approach, problematic, and appropriate are discussed. It is enough, I will speak about it more in time.”[1]

Question and answer

Following on the twelfth Iranian Oral History Congress, after showing video clip about the Constructive Jihad, Masoumi asked the Sacred Defense's News Agency: "What is the benefit of this congress? Because their books are published lately and rarely. What plans do you have for this congress?"

 "It was a good question," said Mohsen Kazemi, secretary of Iranian Association of Oral History. The congress itself is a start for the year 1400, in which it is to be held 12th Congress in Tehran under the same title "Oral History of Industry, Engineering and Sacred Defense Support". Of Course, the main organizer will be General Directorate for Dedicated Worriers’ Affairs of Constructive Jihad Ministry; the Association will provide theoretical and intellectual support. But you go back to 2004 to know about the outcome of the congress and costs, the term oral history was a strange one. That is, we already had unit for writing memoirs in the 1990s. Nothing was known as oral history. With the formation of the Iranian Oral History Association and the development of oral history activities, today we find that - oral history is responsible for prevalence of historiography and even literary development - which has prompted the complainants of our novelists and writers. If a book and a series of articles come out of a congress, this will be an outlet. Alongside this effect, there is the transitional effect of an organ on an organization. We know that there is an assemblage in every meeting. The great ones who have done the practical work are gathered and many projects are formed here. Congress are held under a tittle, but if you look at our poster you will see that about fourteen organizations are participating. Each of these organizations will return and have an agenda for their next one to three years. The General Directorate for Dedicated Worriers’ Affairs of Constructive Jihad Ministry intends to do a full and comprehensive work on oral history in the next two years. That is, it want to have critique sessions and workshops to align itself with doing something better later in 1400.

At the beginning of the meeting, I said that voices coming from all over the country were the result of the work being done in this oral history community with the participation of organizations. If we find that the Foundation for the Preservation of Works has a strong tendency for art, the jihadist approach is to come and fill the void of oral history and recording by oral history, it is because of this conference.

At the beginning of meeting, I said that voices coming from all over the country were the result of works being done in this oral history community with the participation of organizations. If we find that the Department for the Preservation of Works and Publications of Values of Sacred Defense and Art Center has a strong tendency in this way, jihadist approach is to come and fill the vacuum of oral history and recording by oral history, it is because of holding congress. Don't think that a process of congress can be done easily, few people are coming to speak, and there is a board and something is happening. Actually, it is a really hard process. I mentioned that it took four years that oral history community, the University of Isfahan and the General Directorate to take decision how to organize the congress. Holding a congress is not the end of a work, but it is just beginning - the beginning of a process as Mr. Kamari has mentioned – among three major organizations at war, Constructive Jihad had less role in history. Despite all the reports, jihad has many missing links in the historiography of war. This is why the Oral History Society moved to this tittle. The perspective of Revolutionary Guards is active one, the army is at a next stage and the subject of sacrifice and martyrdom has been worked on by the Martyrs’ Foundation, but Oral History of Constructive Jihad is not paid attention sufficiently. The forces of Jihad have worked, but silently. We raise the voice to be heard by history.  If this fails, we will lose what we have done. One of the tasks of oral history is to preserve the collective memory. In my opinion, the most important part of oral history is the preservation of collective memory. If we do not do this and don’t think about the modeling we need to do for the future. Yes, the organizational form of the Jihad is completed, but its history should be remained for our children and next generations to re-use the experience of jihad when we are in troubles."

"At the 12th Iranian Oral Congress, we will devote a panel to what has been the subject of Constructive Jihad that has not been mentioned in the articles," he added. So we'll look at the pathology of the problem. It should also be noted that the lectures of this congress is Dr. Ali Akbar Kajbaf and the scientific secretary is Dr. Morteza Nourai. There were some of faculty members such as Dr Morteza Nouraei, Engineer Abdollah Fatehi, Dr Hojjat Torshizi, Alireza Kamari, Dr Gholamreza Azizi and I judged the articles. We hope you will attend in the congress and accompany us."


[1] The Chronicles of Victory

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