Understanding the Modern History and Culture of Iran through Life Stories

Welcome to the Research Association for Iranian Oral History

The Research Association for Iranian Oral History (RAIOH) is a non-governmental organization that was founded by Hamid Ahmadi, a member of the International Oral History Association (IOHA), in June 2000. RAIOH’s mission is to build up, preserve, categorise and disseminate the life-stories of Iranians from various social groups, including key figures in the field of politics, academia, religion, science, and the arts. The narrators cover in their video recorded life-story interviews the period from the beginning of the 20th century until the present day.

Our agenda is driven by three main realisations. First, every year we lose several Iranians who, regrettably, leave no records of their life experiences, ideas, sentiments, and perceptions on Iranian society. Second, despite the valuable activities by scholars in the field of Iranian oral history in recent years, there is no stable, continuous, and independent institution or organisation devoted to video oral history encompassing all social groups, which could coordinate research activities in this field. Finally, history in Iran is constructed in an Orwellian fashion through the eyes of a clergy elite. Consequently, it has only limited archives of oral history material, most of which are devoted to Islamic political activists, while views opposed to theocratic ideology are systematically omitted in the discourse about the modern history of Iran. More fundamentally, Iran lacks freedom of speech and thought, the cornerstone of (oral) history research. 

Against this backdrop, RAIOH aims to fill this gap by providing an independent and continuous online oral history programme through comprehensive (average of 10h per narrator) video oral history interviews and by considering witnesses of their time from a variety of social and ethnic groups including those who played an important role in student, women and peasant movements as well as opposition groups and military activists. In addition to the complete interviews, main subject themes relating to specific historical events concerning the last century as well as aspects revolving around the political, organisational, social and cultural life in Iran have been extracted from the narrators' life-stories. The compilation of a subject index enables scholars to research the field of their interest by comparing and contrasting differing perceptions of the narrators on a particular subject.
We are aware that the veracity of historical events is an important issue when dealing with memories of individuals and should not be taken at face value. Therefore, we are in a continuous process in uploading the video oral history interviews  (to date 1100 hours of interview material has been uploaded) in conjunction with (internal) bulletins, journals, pamphlets, original correspondences (mainly handwritten copies), and other historical documents related to the oral history accounts. These documents, which have been collected during oral history field work in the last 30 years cover the period from 1870 to the present.

It is our future aim to work together with associate researchers all over the world to expand our collection in order to piece together the mosaics of Iran’s modern history and social identity. The internet allows us to provide this platform to enlighten the wider public about the struggles of the last century and to provide continuous accumulation of material for more rigorous research.

Brief background of the narrators:

Number of narrators: To date 105 narrators were interviewed

Age:  At the time of the interview the participant’s age ranged from 30-92.

Social Background: 15 of the interviewees were born into upper, 44 in middle, and 46 into lower social class families.

Education:  47 of the narrators did not complete university, 58 obtained a university degree of which 26 earned either a PhD or MD, and 6 received a Professorship

Publications: 62 of the participants published books in Farsi as well as in English, French, German, and Russian

Imprisonment: 71 of the interviewees were political prisoners in the Pahlavi dynasty, former Soviet Union, and the Islamic Republic of Iran

Affiliations: All were active in one or more political (e.g. Dr. Erani Group, Tudeh Party, Iranian National Front, People’s Mojahedin, People’s Fadaee Guerilla Organsiation etc.), social (e.g. student, labour, women’s, peasant movement etc.), and cultural (e.g. Iranian writers association, Sadegh Hedayat circle etc.) organisations and groups. 57 of the narrators were founders of one of the above organisations and groups.

To view some samples of our thematic videos, please click here.
To view Testimonials about our work, please click here.