Status of oral documents of cultural file of martyrs in Sacred Defense historiography

Maryam Tavassoli*
Translated by M. B. Khoshnevisan


The compilation of Sacred Defense history like other areas of historiography requires the use of a variety of sources, documents, both written and non-written; the oral documents of the institutions, organizations and the organs related to the imposed war have a special status for more recognition of this period and the correction and completion of its historical information. 

The Sacred Defense period is not limited to the battlefields, war fronts and operations because war is not just limited to military events and incidents but it includes the people behind the fronts, political, social, cultural and economic events of the wartime and the individual and collective behavior and ethics. Thus, the historiography of the Iraqi imposed war against Iran needs all available information in various kinds of documents even if they have been prioritized for future resources.

The documents used by researchers for writing the Sacred Defense are very diverse and extensive. This vast range consists of the ratifications of executive and judicial branches, the decisions made by senior officials of the government, confidential and very confidential documents to military calks and maps. In recent years, the memories of political figures, memories of the senior commanders of the war and the memories of other commanders have found their status in historiography of the Sacred Defense correctly. However, for many reasons, we cannot ignore the memories of other people of the society like the infantry, the respectful family of martyrs, war veterans and the people behind the front. After precise verification, these documents can express the unsaid and imperfect portions of the political, military, economic and cultural history of the imposed war to its audience.

Each of the respected martyrs of the Sacred Defense era has a cultural file in the Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs of his family residence. Written oral documents forms part of the content of the cultural file of martyrs in the Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs. Memories of the father, mother, sister, brother, relatives, comrades and friends of the martyrs are among the major ones which can be expressed in the forms of memory-telling, memory-writing, oral history interviews, and completion of questionnaires. The oral documents of the martyrs namely the collection of memories of relatives, close friends and comrades are supplementary resources in writing the history of the Iraqi imposed war against Iran and the martyrs’ cultural file are considered as the most important place of their accumulation and archive.

The martyrs’ personal documents are kept and updated according to gender, age, family and social class in limited or abundant numbers at the Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs. At present, the available information in the martyrs’ cultural file have been scanned and archived digitally. This, in addition to reducing the physical volume of information, has made archiving and accessing to it easier than ever. On the other hand, due to the capabilities and capacities of digital technology and the use of computers, it is possible to search, retrieve, view, scrutinize and share documents quickly.

The contents of these files are: Oral documents, photographs and images, ID cards, forms, certificates and academic certificates, published books and publications. Memories of family, comrades, friends and acquaintances of martyrs, martyrs' memoirs and handwritten papers, the audio files of memory or the interviews of martyrs constitute oral evidence of the martyrs' cultural record. These diaries have been collected in many forms and in different formats such as special narrative forms, the combatants' diaries, special information form related to martyrs (Revival Plan form), the form of the martyr's specifications (The Cultural Department of the Martyr Foundation), the collection of the short or lengthy memories of the martyr's comrades either in the form of published books or in the form of meetings of battalions or cultural circles such as mosques and Hussainiyas or Basij Resistance Bases, Sacred Defense publications, forms of honorary documents (a plan to collect martyrs' family memoirs using the oral history interview method).

Special forms of memories are white papers which have been written follow questions and answers among Khadem al-Shohada (servants of martyrs), assistants and consultants of the Martyr Foundation on one hand and the narrators on the other hand.

Part of the requested information in the Revival Plan forms like important political and social activities of the martyr (Islamic Association, Friday prayer, participation in demonstrations and distribution of communiques, foundation of local charity institutions and interest-free funds), important scientific, cultural and artistic activities of the martyr (compilation, poetry, eulogium, calligraphy, ideological classes and the teaching of Quran) have been completed from the martyr's oral narrations, and memories of the parents, relatives and close friends.

The form of Martyr's Specifications includes ready and typed questions which have been completed either by the narrator or the forces of the Martyr Foundation.

Memories, in addition to revealing the private aspects of martyrs' lives, sometimes contain historical information and data that can be used by researchers in qualitative researches. The important information and data extracted from these resources are: stratification and social composition of society, cultural and social situation in the surrounding areas, events related to the victory of the Islamic Revolution in various cities, popular organizations and institutions, Islamic Revolutionary Committees, political organizations such as the Islamic Republic Party, political competitions and groupings in different cities, intergroup relations, issues related to registration, training and dispatch of forces, public support for the Scared Defense, issues related to the wounding and martyrdom of the combatants, issues related to treatment process of the combatants, ...

The important point is that the memories have so far been collected and written in the decades after the termination of the imposed war (1991-2001) without studying written documents. Therefore, most part of the contents of memories lacks rich and deep information because the narrator without posing basic and planned questions has expressed some general memories in his or her mind in monologue form. Unfortunately, this trend and method is seen almost everywhere. Instead of dealing with the events happened during the martyr’s life and extraction of necessary information, marginal issues such as dreams, the problems of father, mother and sisters and brothers and so on have been dealt with. Sometimes, the course of the interview also shifts from the subject of the martyr to the subject of the narrator and the person talks about his or her life instead of the martyr’s!

Assistants and consultants of the Martyr Foundation have played a minimal role in questioning and extracting information from narrators due to their lack of dominance over the subject matter namely the martyr and his life events, warfare and various operations. Thus, when writing memoirs, inaccurate, untrue, or transposed materials have been written, and they are simply bypassed. In the meantime, it may be argued that only oral history interviews entitled "Honorary Documents", subject to observance of scientific standards and principles, enjoy a relative comprehensiveness of information about the lives and activities of the Sacred Defense martyrs.

Not mentioning the precise time of the expressed memoires, being unclear the narrator or narrators of memory, not observing chronology in obtaining memories, lack of challenging questions and interviews, mixing of characters and subjects and lack of separation of materials are among other harms to these documents. This may mislead the author or the researcher, leaving the published work with serious flaws and misinformation because, unfortunately, most of the time, regardless of written evidence, they go and use the prepared and written memoirs and biographies directly. These wrong data are also gradually being shared in new books, information bases and elsewhere.

The researcher faces with the mass of historical data the narrators of which may not be alive, and cannot be interviewed again. So there is no way other than to use them, but there are a few things that need to be taken into account when utilizing this information and integrating it into research resources.

Although the questioner while conducting an interview and posing questions have resorted to this without accuracy and necessary studying and compiled a collection of memoirs, scientific standards must be observed for their use in compiling the biographies of martyrs and any other material. The researcher or author must first study all written, audiovisual, and auditory documents of the martyrs' cultural file carefully in order to obtain a picture of the martyr's life and activities. This study covers the exact date of birth to the martyrdom and burial.

The first contradiction is seen in date of birth where the mother or father speak of the coincidence of their child's birth date with important events such as Ashura, Tasoa, the birth or martyrdom of Shiite Imams, Eid Nowrouz, historical events, and so on. In this situation, identity documents, such as birth certificates and supplementary memoirs, will be corroborated and amended by each other.

Educational records, identification documents, and even other memories, correct and supplement data on martyr's life such as level of education, period of presence at the front, the course, type and duration of injury, and many other issues.

Observation and accuracy of the images, from birth and infancy to the martyr's body and funeral and burial ceremonies, can supplement or correct incomplete portions of memories. It also covers the description of the martyr's outward specifications to his ethical characteristics and activities, military training course, front and place of military service and his position.

Paying attention to the age of the martyr is important is dealing with the claims made in the memories such as attending in the events of the Islamic revolution, membership in political establishments, political and social activities, the level of literacy and scientific certificate, preventing from exaggeration while compiling the materials.

Among the memoirs and oral documents, the combatants' own words before the martyrdom in diaries, personal notes and letters, cassette tapes, sacred defense publications, recorded videos, the conducted interviews at the time of expedition, inside the fronts or after operations are of high value; because they have been written at the time of the event's occurrence, with no targeting or registration in history, no magnification and advertising. Despite the limited amount of this group of memories is, it is of great importance to verify other oral documents gathered at a particular distance and situation in the post-imposed war era and specific political circumstances.

The defects of oral documents include the martyr's entire life, scientific and occupational activities, length of presence in the war front, how he was injured and martyred, and funeral and burial ceremonies. The disadvantages of these documents after reading the written documents must be identified and resolved by the same sources so that a reliable text is produced. By doing so, new texts can play a role although brief in completing the information on the imposed war, operations, war fronts, issues and subjects related to war zones, and so on.


*MA in Post-Islamic History of Iran, History teacher at Isfahan Education Administration, email:

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