June 2005 Sean Penn was travelling the Iran for the San Francisco Chronicle,
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
Part I -
August 22, 2005:
A culture in deep conflict - Day
Arrival in Teheran – First Impressions – Friday Prayer at the stadium of
the university of Teheran:
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
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,
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
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:
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.
Vl - August 26, 2005:
returning to the United States - Day Five
Bombs at Imam Hussein Square in Teheran –
Meeting with Elaheh Kuyai, Award of the Iranian Film Museum –
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.
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