Oral history projects on Iran and about the role of RAIOH
"In the late 1970s, the term "oral history" was translated into Persian (Tarikh-e shafahi) and has since been used in historical literature. However, most of the projects in this field have been carried out by Iranians in exile in the United States and Europe.
Habib Lajewardi directed the project at Harvard University between 1982 and 1988 about 800 hours of interviews were recorded with personalities who had held high positions under the toppled monarchy. Another project during the 1980s was Mahnaz Afkhami´s interviews with Iranian women in the United States. In 1995, a centre for the "Oral history of Iranian Jews" was established in Los Angeles directed by Homa Sarshar with the aim of collecting and preserving the history of Iranian Jews.
In Europe, a major project - the first in which video recording were made - started in 1994. The "Oral history of the Iranian Left" recorded the memories and life stories of thirty members of twenty parties and organisations active between 1929 and 1990 in Iran. Commissioned by the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam and directed by Hamid Ahmadi, an account of the project was presented at the 9th International Oral History Conference in Götenborg (Sweden) in 1996.
Within Iran, the only major project was carried out by the government sponsored "Office for the Literature of the Islamic Revolution" between 1993 and 1999. Entitled the "Oral history of the Iranian Revolution"; the project collected the recollections of a number of persons involved in the Islamic movement between 1963 and 1979.
Despite the valuable activities by Iranians in the field of oral history in recent years, the projects carried out have been mainly confined to the history of a specific social group. Moreover, in most cases, the institutes which conducted them ceased their work in the field of Iranian oral history once the project was completed. In contrast to many other countries, Iran itself lacks a stable institution or organisation devoted to oral history, which could co-ordinate research activities in this field. There is also no national archive for oral history in Iran. Moreover, freedom of speech and thought for narrators and researchers, a prerequisite of oral history research, is not guaranteed there.
Against this background, a number of researchers and interested individuals living in Europe and the United States have founded the Research Association for Iranian Oral History (RAIOH) as an independent institution without party affiliations. This Association, which was established in Berlin in June 2000 and is headed by Hamid Ahmadi, is a member of the International Oral History Association (IOHA). It aims to build up archives of the recollections of all Iranian social groups and interests and, in this way, to preserve the historical legacy of the Iranian people. One key motive for its foundation is the realisation that every year we lose several prominent Iranian who, regrettably, leave no record of their life experiences and contributions in the fields of politics, science, literature, arts and other areas of life".