Start - Sean Penn in Iran in 2005


In June 2005 Sean Penn was travelling the Iran for the San Francisco Chronicle, together with Norman Solomon, who with he made his first journey to Iraq, and with a befriended journalist, Reese Erlich, to write about the election in Iran.

The articles are Sean Penn's first-hand account on the country Iran, including his observations on it's culture and his interactions with politicians, students and demonstrators.

Sean Penn reported in the Chronicle in a five-part-series about this journey.

Part I - August 22, 2005: A culture in deep conflict - Day One

Arrival in Teheran – First Impressions – Friday Prayer at the stadium of the university of Teheran:

The agent whose large hands had rolled my black-inked fingers and palms over several printing forms barked at me to follow him with a wave of his hand. He led me to a men's room, where he swung open the door and indicated I should go in ahead of him. It was a bit of a ratty hole. Water closets, open. Worn, reflectionless mirrors. Where our standard toilets might sit, these are simply holes in the floor, with dark glimmering puddles beneath, and fluorescent light above. He just stared at me. Neither threateningly, nor warmly. Seconds went by as I stared back. Neither threatened, nor comfortable. "Now what?" I said. 

Part II - August 23, 2005: A meeting with Rafsanjani's son - Day Two

Meeting with the former president's son, Mehdi Rafsanjani – Impressions of the Great Bazar of Teheran

At the same time, I found myself approached with hundreds of opportunities for interviews with all those on the journalists’ circuit of interviewees. I was offered interviews over here, interviews over there. I was even contacted for a potential interview with former president and candidate Rafsanjani himself. But I was a little uninterested in most of it. (…) You begin to lose your clarity, focusing entirely on the power establishment and losing the important story of any land: its people.

Part III - August 24, 2005: A meeting with the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini - Day Three

Metting with Hassan Khomeini, grandson of the Ayatollah – Dinnerparty (without alcohol) with the Creme de la Creme of the Iranian Film - Fotoshooting with former president Rafsanjani

He (Hassan Khomeini ) had been told that I had gone to the Friday prayers, so he began the interview by asking my feelings about that. I told him that while the sea of belief in Islam had been impressive, that the use of seductive rage in the chants of "Death to America" and "Death to Israel" are taken quite literally by mothers and fathers in the United States. I said that it seemed to me a highly destructive and inaccurate representation of the country I had come to learn about. Hassan listened with kind interest. His eyes didn't leave me as the translator made clear my statement. He uttered a very brief sentence in Farsi. He said, "Then we should change it."

Part IV - August 25, 2005: A demonstration in support of women's rights - Day Four

Sean Penn in a student's demonstration for women's right at the university of Teheran

There was screaming and panic. And our bodies were four-walling each other -- you could barely move. It certainly seemed as if some could have been trampled, though as far as I know, that did not occur. But the following describes the irony of oppression: There was a woman among the panicking crowd. She reached her hand toward mine and I took it. Between us, we'd support each other out of this chaos. All of this couldn't have lasted more than 40 seconds, but at the end of it, the force of the police had only forced an illegal touch between a man and a woman. We parted instantly as the police stepped back from the line they had been assaulting.


Part Vl - August 26, 2005: Trouble before returning to the United States - Day Five

Bombs at Imam Hussein Square in Teheran – Meeting with Elaheh Kuyai, Award of the Iranian Film Museum – Going Home

The Film Museum of Iran had asked for the opportunity to honor me. I accepted for two reasons: First, I have deep respect for the creative talent in the motion picture business in Iran, and many of them were being pulled away from other engagements or had offered to join in this event. Additionally, it was a way to appease what had been a fairly aggressive and annoying media that I was very interested in boring into the submission of not following me to the airport. So I went. On the drive there, as we were passing under the trees of Mellat Park, there was an announcement on the radio that some arrests had been made in the previous day's bombings. But no details. Later, at the museum, I was given a tour and a trophy. 



The 'San Francisco Chronicle'

The San Francisco Chronicle is the Bay Area's leading newspaper. The six time Pulitzer Price winning Chronicle is the nation's 10th largest daily newspaper und is the nation's 4th largest newspaper website, with 5.3 million monthly visitors and over 64 million monthly page views.