The Art of Memories
Man's life flows in memories and his moments are tied with sweet and bitter times of the past; the past mingles with the present and the future and that is where recording memories would help. Oblivion that is a part of human nature would give in to the inscription of memories, and how sublime and elegant are the memories that record sacrifice and virtue!
IBNA: Gol-ali Babayi is a Sacred Defense historiographer who has spent years on recording the memories and realities of the 8-year imposed war events.
He was born on 29th September 1960 in a village close to Chaloos named Boraz.
"I spent my elementary school up to grade four at the village school managed by Mr. Jahanbakhsh. In 1969 we migrated to Tehran and settled in Imamzadeh Abdollah district. From the fourth to sixth grades I studied at Mozaffar Amiri School. After that I had to work during the day and keep on studying at the night shift of Hakhamanesh Junior School and then at Sattarkhan High School," he said.
"During the revolution together with the residents of Jey District and Javad-al-Aema Mosque, I did my best to follow the commands of Imam Khomeini. After the revolution Javad-al-Aema Mosque was my everything. I spent my time in the committee and library of the mosque. A year and a half after the ignitation of Iran-Iraq war, in winter 1982, I went to the fronts and spent an overall 50 months in there, and I enjoyed my share of the front's bullets and quivers! During war, I recorded my memories in a notebook and by the end of war they had reached seven volumes. Now they are published in two volumes," he explained.
"My first book was titled 'Release Point' and the second was titled 'Loneliness of Hoor'. From 1993 onwards I pursued research works related with the Sacred Defense resulting in the present books available to the audiences."
What branch of Sacred Defense Literature is of your particular interest?
I began with writing diaries, my own diaries, and then focused on research about Sacred Defense and then historiography of Sacred Defense.
Why did you start this?
I felt there was a big gape here. I have been serving at the army 27 of Mohammad Rasoulollah. After the resolution of war, there were cliché researches made on war but there was no basic work of exact dates and data recorded about the Sacred Defense. Therefore, I proposed a project to the Lieutenant General of the time, and together with Amirhossein Behzad I began 'Lascar Documentation' project.
What does Lascar Documentation mean?
It accounts how lascars were formed.
We did our best to briefly narrate everything related to the
eight-year war in a 500-page volume. But when we actually started the project, we discovered a large number of documents, narratives and dialogues and realized that they would exceed one volume. The results of our initial researches were published first in 'Along with the thunderbolt' relating the historiography of early six months of the Brigade and then the 'Counter Coup' in about 800 pages. Writing this took almost three months. It was the necessity to record these events in a historiographic form that drew me into the work.
Are your historiograpies also in the form of diaries?
I have tried to base my work on diaries, because all sayings and writings so far have been narrations and the writer is but a joining point of them with the readers.
The books were codified in a way that they could also be regarded as novels, that is, they have beginnings and endings. The reader wants to know what happens to the heroes. They are unified memories offered in the form of montage and parallel narrations one complementing the other. A book may have 100 different narrators and some dialogues have been made via wireless sets. For instance, in the first chapter of 'Along with the thunderbolt', all the characters speak and come to a certain conclusion…. Sometimes a memorial narrative could be presented in the form of a novel.
Do you merely write historiographies or also analyze history?
No, there is no analysis, it is merely narrative. Nowhere in the work is an omniscient point of view applied. The narrators may opine on the behavior of a commander, but I have just recorded the dialogues of eyewitnesses or the conversations recorded or taped by others in there. Therefore, these are just narratives and there is no judgment made.
In order to record historical events it is necessary to have access to firsthand evidences. How did get them?
At the present, many war docs have dropped out of confidential data categories. According to the Supreme Leader, many of these documents are publishable and there is no obstacle against their propagation. Some of these existed in the place we worked because it was a military center and had palyed a key role in war, and a large part of them also existed at the War Research Center of Sepah. I got access to the information through a friend of mine and even now I have access to the latest released data. For example we stopped republishing 'Along with the thunderbolt' as I wanted to update it with the latest information I had received about the first months of war. Sometimes I feel that I receive metaphysical aids in the last moments of research.
When writing memories do you consider any borderlines and do they make any restrictions for you?
One characteristic of these volumes is that the principles of memory writing are considered. Time, place, and the narrator make the most important elements of memory writing. These elements should be made clear. As for place, it should be exact in describing where the event has taken place, for instance: in Garmdasht station, Ahvaz-Khorramshahr Road, next to the canal. And so is the case with time. That is, for example, On 3rd May, 1981, 16:40…
All front events have been recorded like this?
Yes. The narrator usually carried tapes that included these data. For instance, tape number 20, between 5:00 to 6:00 p.m.
My book strictly meets these principles.
Apart from these three elements, there are other limiting elements involved, for instance like when talking to the new generation, we should consider changes that would update our language. Doesn't this imply an extra limitation?
The things stated in these memories have actually happened and are significant truths, because half of the narrators were martyred and only their recorded tapes have remained. Of course, one good event in the history of war took place in 1982 when reporters from the political bureau of Sepah were dispatched to the fronts. These people recorded the events along with the commanders and combatants. After each operation, a number of fighters were chosen for interviews and they were asked to relate the true events; these narratives were supposed to be recorded as historical documents and they had nothing to do with the media. Therefore, people told the mere truth including managerial defects or weaknesses of tactics or power problems. There is no slogan in these tapes, they recount the truth about martyrdom, siege… and it seems that readers can easily commincate with them.
Have you even recorded the operations like Ramazan that ended with lots of martyrs and defeat?
Yes, these are mentioned in the book 'Counter Coup'. We had a meeting with the Supreme Leader and these details attracted his attention, whereas I had thought that security authorities may not like this. Yet the Supreme Leader stated that the strong points of the book are in explaining these details that have remained untold by others.
But sometimes some truths are not expressable and do not accord with our beliefs, things like assaulting women and girls after the siege and occupation by the Iraqi troops.
These mostly took place during the first three or four months of war. We have not dealt with this as there are already enough writings about it. Incidents took place in Bostan, Sousangerd, and Khorramshahr but even the natives do not want to mention them. Nevertheless, my job is to write about battle scenes and the frontlines, no matter how bitter they are. For instance, once an Iraqi DShK-operator annihilated a complete Iranian battalion. Unfortunately in most of war films, the Iraqis were shown to our young generation as inept drunkards, whereas this is not true. Some of them fought well and sometimes one or two soldiers could cope with an infantry of 300 soldiers. During BeitolMoqadas Operation that led to the liberation of Khorramshahr, our battle took about 23 days; we fought hard, were seiged and lots of us were martyred. Shahid Hemmat had once stated that we had reached a state of total exhaustion and we could not decide any more what to do next. No one felt prepared to undertake the responsibility of leading the fighters. Any excuse would make us leave. Meanwhile the people expected us to win the fight and so much bloodshed to result in liberating Khorramshahr. I have mentioned this in my book. Meanwhile Shahid Sayad Shirazi and Mohsen Rezayi went to see Imam Khomeini and explained everything – that many of us were killed and injured and that we were powerless. Imam said just one sentence: "All depends on how much you trust in God." The sentence motivated the combatants and they kept on fighting until the liberation of Khorramshahr. We can never claim that we were in the same level with our enemy. Quite the contrary, they were superior to us in terms of tactics and equipments… and we should not be afraid of telling these.
Do Sacred Defense books actually reach their audiences or are they rather produced for library archiving and governmental purchasers?
This is an inadmissible libel. We have witnessed crowded pavillions with a large number of demands by purchasers during annual book fairs.
But all Sacred Defense books are not that popular. They may be attractive for those involved in it but how about today's young generation?
The young generation definitely refers to these books. 'Along with the thunderbolt' is a historical book. Those who have not read it might think that it has an expiration date, whereas it has been republished for about 24 times and the audiences still purchase it.
Have you ever criticized your own books?
Criticism is the job of research centers.
Do you not mind how much your books have attracted the audiences and who they are?
I learn about this from the feedback I get from the youth and their continuous references to them; this shows that my books have been well received.
Which groups are the largest fans of your books?
Most of them are the youth, but I expect the elite to make more references to the books. According to the Supreme Leader, these books could be the sources of tens of novels and films. But the filmmakers show no interest and some of them prefer to enjoy their own illusions about war. Sometimes the movies present unreal portraits of war that are based on their own imaginations.
Perhaps this shows the taste of the society.
No, this means spoiling the taste of the audiences. That is, instead of leading the audience to the truth, they distance them from that. And instead of showing the truth, they deal with quacks. Sometimes they are dominated by humor and sometimes by imagination. All in all, war movies are the arena of excesses.
Have you taken any measures towards making films based on real memories or do think writing books is enough?
This is the job of a filmmaker. IRIB asked for my permission for shooting 'Along with the thunderbolt' but the project is postponed for financial matters. The main problem for filming these is the costs of it. Like other national projects, Sacred Defense cinema needs budgeting. Insular activities do not come to any conclusion. Pundit artists should be invited to offer in-depth and well-made plans to be actualized by a strong team and reasonable investment.
Have you ever suggested this?
Yes, in a live TV talk. But without the will of the authorities nothing will be achieved. Of course, we had successful examples, for instance with the Sacred Defense documentary broadcasted a few years ago we gained success, but in the case of cinema and serials no one dares risk it.
During the Sacred Defense period, sometimes the Army and the Sepah opposed each other. Have also mentioned this in your records?
Yes, this is mentioned in 'Along with the thunderbolt'…
Have you been nonpartisan in recording it?
Yes, four experts of the army have approved my portrait of wartime events as the most candid report and thanked me for this. I have tried to deal with the significant role of the army as much as the role of Basij and Sepah are emphasized in the reports, and of course, there are realities in between that no one can deny.
So far, you have mentioned both organizations' parts in war, how about their problems with each other?
I have not reached that stage yet. We have recorded that phase of war when the problems between Sepah and the Army have not yet reached its climax. In fact, we have just finished the Ramazan Operation that is the beginning of these oppositions.
And will you write about them?
Yes if I have the time.
In your opinion, what is the main difference between Sacred Defense writers' language and the languae of contemporary writers relating war?
Everything has changed. We had changes in the discourse. At the beginning of the revolution and the Sacred Defense, the dominant discourse entailed slogans and ideological representations in the literature, poetry, and movies… For instance, all characters in the movies were titled as 'Haji' or 'Seyyed' and all of them were portrayed as champions and sacred heroes. Now we are moving from that excessive end to the other end shown in recent movies like 'Democracy in Daylight'… That is the same with literature, there is a gross change in the writing styles of for instance the 80's and now. Even the terminology and words are changed.
How do you find the condition of veterans now after all excesses of that time? How many of them regret their deeds now?
I do not think any of them would regret it. They may be upset for all the problems they are facing now, indifferences and prejudices but never regretful. They always feel a clear spot in their lives; that is the time they have spent in fronts.
Which veterants have you talked about that have explicitly admitted this?
The veterans mutilated on spinal cord, the chimecally injured, and many others.
Why are they just sad and not regretful? What social conditions are they in?
There is no regret for a person who has chosen the fronts.
Or perhaps the society and people's loss of virtue have made them regret?
All in all, only those who had not enough motivations to go to the fronts may regret.
As for you, haven't you ever done something motivatedly that you regretted afterwards?
This matter is different. Those who decided to fight, they had their lives in their hands to sacrifice and now they have ended up with mutilation… They have been wronged a lot and this upsets them so much so that sometimes they complain about the current conditions. But this does not mean that one can neglect what they did in the past.
What you say looks like a catchword. As a writer who has spent his whole life and abilities on expressing the values of the Sacred Defense, wouldn't you regret writing books that may be misued in the worst way?
The two matters are incomparable. I should refer you to a statement by Imam (Khomeini) about the Peace Treaty, saying 'We fought in order to do our duty, the result is corollary'.
Imam meant the social result, but now we are talking about the personal results of war for seriously injured veterans.
But even that time Imam was sorrowed for the wrongs and misdeeds of some authorities and appologized the family of combatants, martyrs and veterans.
We had a word on cinema and movies. How do you find the relationship between art and the front?
In that period Imam had stated that martyrdom is the art of the men of God, and the martyrs and injured veterans are manifestations of true art. But apart from the figurative meaning, artists should literally start relating the art of martyrs and veterans for the new generation, as art is the most beautiful language for offering realities. In the field of arts, we have paved the way for anyone interested in writing novels or making movies based on these memories. As a historian I have related the truth of that period and now it is the duty of the artists to give it shape and colors to prepare it for the audiences.
Wouldn't this infused 'shape and color' damage the reality of memories?
In biographical writings, in the form of fiction, novel or stories, the writer is free and can make changes in the raw form in order to get connected with the audience as long as he does not damage the basic realities.
Imagination seems to be an inseparable part of some fictionalized biographies and they somehow distance from reality.
Yes. I have seen some examples of these books. A small event in the life of a martyr may be so dispursed in the story that sometimes even the family of the martyr cannot recognize their son in them. As for me, I choose for instance twenty events in the life of a martyr clearly retold by twenty narrators and I make minor changes when the writing style entails it; sometimes it is given an extra hue but the really is kept unchanged.
Have you ever been a juror?
Yes, I was the juror of last year's Shahid Ghanipoor Award.
What is your opinion about assessment of Sacred Defense books?
I have assessed the documentary section of biographical fiction that consisted of 40 works. Previous judgments were usually made exclusively by certain people but now it is getting out of the hands of a definite circle that is a desirable change.
How many hours a day do you read?
About one or two hours.
What was the last book you read?
Resistance in Sousangerd.
And the first?
"Moments of a Guardian" of the war book series relating Mr Mohammadi's memories. But generally speaking, I began reading books in 1979 and my readings included the works of Shahid Mottahari, Samad Behrangi, Mahmoud Hakimi, etc.
Besides your required materials, what else are you interested in?
Memories again and again, and Sacred Defense stories.
Have you ever come across sociology and psychology for the compilation of your memories?
Any writer should be aware of these subjects when writing about the characters he knows nothing about. But I have been living with the combatants for about eight years and am almost familiar with psychological patterns of these characters.
How often do you refer to sociological books?
I write books of provinces. I have, for instance, written a book about Hamadan Province and the sociological material involved are limited to local and geographical sociology of that area.
Are you interested in poetry?
Reading or writing?
Reading of course. Memorizing poems is the hardest job for me!
Which poet is your favorite?
Salman Harati, Gheysar Aminpour…
And Old Poets?
Not that much.
Do you ever practice music or any other kinds of arts?
I listen to music. I work at music remix and clip films section at the moment, therefore I have to listen more carefully to find out whether they go well with the picture or not, and I don't have a particular interest in any other arts.
Do you do sports?
I used to play soccer before, but now I am just a fan.
Let us get back to the beginning of the war; would you have attended war if you had today's experience?
Definitely. Our society will once realize how much they have betrayed the survivors of war and would extremely regret its behavior towards them.
Would you let your children attend war if another one ever takes place?
Yes, if they want to. But it is very difficult. Our wartime warriors who have become fathers now can better understand what their parents had gone through in that time.
Which of your own books do you like more?
Loneliness of Hoor.
Because it encompasses my personal memories and the setting illustrated there shows the difficult situation and defeat and unequal war conditions of that time; it shows the reality of our war and our destitution in that period.
Which one of your book do you like more to get cinematic adaptation?
All of them have the capacity to be screened. But 'Along with Thunderbolt' is better, as it has the scheme, solidarity of the Army and Sepah, victory and defeat all in one place and ultimately enjoys both bitter and sweet moments that a film should have.
Does War Writing entail actual presence in the fronts?
No. Many people have built novels based on historical events and they have been absent when war had taken place. Yet they should know the society and the people of that period well.
What was your last work?
The historical workbook of Hamadan Province during the Imposed War that is written in the form of a novel and episodic format.
What are you planning to do in the future?
At the moment, I am occupied with administrative tasks. But I have promised to keep on writing the historiography of Muhammad Rasoulollah Army No. 27.
"Long Game Eagles"
"The Three Men" (2004 – 16th print 2005) - winner of the 1st Guardian Writers Festival
"Along with Thunderbolt" – winner of the 6th Sacred Defense Book of the Year; commemorated by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei
"Reciprocal Attack" – winner of the 12th Book of the Year and the 3rd Guardian Writers Festival
"South Ahvaz Battles"
"From Alvand to Gharaviz"
"Forerunners of Dokuheh"
Id : 117877