They were introduced in the conversation with Fatemeh Turkchi:

Oral History Plans of the Oil Industry Document Center

The Oral History of The Ministry of Petroleum narrated by the ministers

Maryam Asadi Jafari
Translated by: Fazel Shirzad


The expert of oral history department of Iranian Oil Industry Document Center, describing the activities carried out in this section, said: "the Ministry of Petroleum has been organized and constituted during the subsequent period of the victory of Islamic Revolution. According to surveys, eleven ministers and assistants has been working on the Ministry of Petroleum since the year 1358(1979). We are going to gather all the memories of these characters about the events along with the memories of senior executives and oil industry’s workers."

According to Iranian oral history website, oil industry has had a distinct effect in the process of contemporary social and economic political developments in Iran. The discovery and extraction of oil in Iran, the nationalization of oil, the ups and downs of this industry during the period of revolution and imposed Iraqi war against Iran, and up to now, reflect the importance of oil in Iran. Iran and Britain's oil company, after the nationalization of oil industry, were turned into National Iranian Oil Company; and it became The Ministry of Petroleum after Islamic Revolution.

Therefore, oral history department of Iran's Oil Industry Document Center started its work in 1394(2015) with the aim of collecting documents and recording oral history of oil industry. Before the activity of this section, there were disruptive talks with the pioneers of this field, which was accelerated by the more professional interviews in oral history of oil industry.

Dr. Fatemeh Turkchi, an expert on oral history department of the Iranian Oil Industry Document Center, said about the importance of collecting interviews in this area: "In previous interviews, historical aspects is less paid attention due to oil industrial form in Iran, and the technical section of oil industry is more paid attention. Whereas, many historical events in Iran have occurred due to the presence of oil in the country."

"Oil is a very important element in the economy, politic, and even Iranian society and culture," she added, "Many Iranian manifestations of civilization, such as train, telephone, asphalt, cinema, even football, badminton, basketball and volleyball, have entered into Iran through oil and have gradually become popular in Iran. At the beginning of oil exploration in Iran, which was conducted by Iranian and British oil companies, English managers set up various sports clubs, recreational- cultural centers, including cinemas and urban facilities such as road and street, trains, buses, airport, firefighting and ... in the area to tolerate work climate in Khuzestan and southern oil fields. This is very important in the process of urbanization."

Emphasizing the importance of recording oral history of oil company's workers, Turkchi said: "workers at the beginning of the work were unskilled and non-professionals that slowly graduated with training and continuous work in the relevant field. Even, some of these workers were sent to England to learn more precisely about the tools and installations of oil industry and the process of working. In the September of this year, I had an interview with Mr. Fereydoun Allahpanah, one of these workers. Although he was 93 years old, he got interesting information. Therefore, it's very important and valuable to pay attention to the oral history of oil industry in terms of industrial, political, economic, social and cultural issues."

The expert of oral history department of Iranian Oil Industry Document Center continued: "according the demands of various companies and subclasses of the Ministry of Petroleum, have conducted interviews with the dean of related companies. At the beginning of our activity, by reviewing the transcription of these interviews, we found that these interviews did not entirely align with the goals, perspective and historical point of view of oral history department of Document Center. Therefore, according to preliminary studies, we conclude that these interviews are not sufficiently comprehensive and only addressed to a number of senior executives. In this regard, oral history department of Oil Industry Document Center, by taking into account the demands of its history research and also avoiding repetition, is recording oral history in neglected sectors while keeping a copy of those interviews as oral history sources at the Center’s archive." Indeed, according to the documents, the witnesses’ and critics' statements of important historical industrial events are part of other archival sources and documents. In some cases, it may even be the case that workers' words are higher than executive manager’s words and as a document of historical research. The workers, because of the type of activity and presence in the story, have witnessed events that the managers have not seen closely because of the impossibility of being present in all areas of the industry. For example, the Naft Shahr’s[1] installation was attacked by Iraqi forces in April 1979 and early in the revolution. Documents of these event are available in the archives of Oil Document Center, which is an official report and is still inaccessible. But fortunately, along with the interviews we held in Kermanshah with the workers of Naft Shahr, unpublished parts of these events were also retold and recorded as a complementary to these documents. However, in those circumstances, there has been no senior manager or top-ranking manager in invaded areas in which they could be interviewed in this regard; the role of the interview with the dean of worker sector is important."

In response to a question on the status of the oral history's record of the managers of National Iranian Oil Company during the pre-revolutionary period, she stated: "Most of the managers have died before the revolution. So far, we have not been able to access one of the managers of that period. Of course, some interviews are done with top executives abroad. But we had a chance to interview with Dr. Seyed Amir Badakhshan, a member of the board of managers of National Iranian Oil Company - under the chairmanship of Manoochehr Eghbal in the company - and the founder of the oil industry research institute near the Tehran's refinery (in Shahr-e Rey ). He, who is 96 years old and professor at the University, recounted important and fascinating memories of that era. Although there have been discussions outside of the country, we are in the process of conducting interviews with former executives in abroad."

The expert of oral history department of Iranian Oil Industry Document Center stated: "The Ministry of Petroleum was organized and formed after Islamic revolution. According to surveys, eleven ministers have been working at the Ministry of Petroleum since 1358(1979). We are going to gather all the memories of these characters about the events along with the memories of senior executives and oil industry’s workers." The first volume of oral history collection of Iran's Ministry of Petroleum, centered around the interview with engineer Ali Akbar Moeinfar, Iran's first minister of petroleum, was published in the winter of 1396(2017). Mr. Moeinfar was in charge of the Ministry of Petroleumin 1358(1979) and 1359(1980) a number of ups and downs of Iranian contemporary history of Iranian oil, including the events of the first years after the victory of the revolution were discussed in an interview with him. Also, part of the interview with Mr. Moeinfar was allocated to the nationalization of oil industry and the political and economic affairs of past decades, the developments in oil industry on the eve of the victory of the revolution and the months after it, including the capture of the minister of Mohammad Javad Tondguyan who was martyred. This is the first step in formulating a collection of oral history of Iranian oil after Islamic Revolution, which has been compiled and published by the management of oil museums and ordered by The Minister of Petroleum."

Fatemeh Turkchi stated: "An interview with Mr. Seyed Hassan Sadat as the helper of the minister of petroleum during the captivity of martyr Tondguyan has also been completed, and its text is being compiled. This text also highlights important developments from the history of Iran at the start of the imposed war and the difficult conditions of country in the field of politics and economics; it will be published soon."

This activist in the field of oral history said: "we are also collecting sources and narrations related to martyr Tondguyan to commemorate him. Also, the first book named "Phoenix's Comrades" was published, focusing on the memories of 15 oil industry pioneers from the era of the imposed war. There are memories of Behrooz Bushehri, Bahman Sorushi in this book."

In describing the process of oral history interviews with The Ministry of Petroleum, the expert of oral history department of Iranian Oil Industry Document Center, said: "documents related to the period of the presidency of each minister are studied. Questions are then set based on events occurring at any juncture in history. OPEC’s terms, oil pricing, the administrative and financial structure of oil industry, and etc. are also mentioned in the questions. Since these interviews will be recorded in history, we try to record the most information from each minister's time of responsibility."

She said at the end: "An interview is also done with Seyed Mohammad Gharzai and its transcription is under preparation. Also, interviews have been prepared and compiled with Gholamreza Aghazadeh, Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh and Gholam Hossein Nozari; they will be interviewed soon."


[1]It is a district of Qasr-e Shirin County, in Kermanshah Province of Iran. It is a sub district of Sumar District. It is known for its oilfields. English explorers found oil in Naft Shahr for the first time in 1931. 

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