The Iraqi Oral History Project

The Iraqi Oral History Project (IOHP) was inspired by the input from audience members during the 2005 conference that The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq (TAARII) co-sponsored in Amman, Jordan on Iraqi identity. In response to the formal historical presentations of the conference, audience members – senior Iraqi men and women who had been ministers and administrators, ambassadors, and educators from the days of the Kingdom until the last days of Saddam – inserted comments and corrections. Their input demonstrated that the personal accounts of people who took part in the events that shaped the country were essential to the telling of the history of modern Iraq. TAARII then re-allocated some existing program funds from its subgrant from the Department of State’s Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau (ECA) to cover the cost of transcribing and translating a set of pilot interviews. Subsequently, funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) allowed TAARII to expand the oral history project and build a strong foundation for the continuation of the project.

Interviews were conducted with 181 individuals from the Iraqi diasporic communities in Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen, the United States, Canada, and Turkey. The majority of the interviews occurred in Jordan, home to the largest concentration of expatriate Iraqis, including many who played major roles in Iraqi history. In the coming years, TAARII hopes to expand the IOHP to interview individuals within Iraq. TAARII is currently exploring with several university libraries how to archive the materials and make them available to scholars. A log of the interviews that the IOHP has collected is provided in the link below.

In February 2012, TAARII’s Senior Scholar, Dr. Lucine Taminian, who oversees the IOHP, was invited to participate in the Hollings Center Higher Education Dialogue entitled “The Future of Oral History in the Middle East and Central Asia” held in Istanbul, Turkey. The conference brought together a select group of scholars and practitioners to exchange ideas on how to create and sustain best practices in oral history studies. Following the Istanbul conference, the Hollings Center awarded Dr. Taminian and Mary Marshall Clark, the director of the Columbia Center for Oral History Research (CCOHR), a small grant to enable Dr. Taminian from Jordan and two additional Istanbul conference participants from Afghanistan and Turkey to meet in New York City during the CCOHR summer institute on life story approaches in human rights contexts, in order to begin crafting a guide on collecting life stories in conflict settings (Documenting and Interpreting Conflict through Oral History: A Working Guide). Dr. Beth Kangas, TAARII’s Executive Director, also traveled to New York City to contribute her insights to this Guide, which the TAARII and CCOHR co-produced in January 2014. The Guide is available to all gratis online (see the link below).

• Access the Log of IOHP Interviews

• Access Documenting and Interpreting Conflict through Oral History: A Working Guide