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Iran 'Happy' video: Young Iranians arrested for dancing to Pharrell's 'Happy'

Happy in Iran? Certainly not the case for six young men and women who were arrested after a YouTube video was posted of the group joyfully dancing to the hit song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. The group was arrested by authorities in Tehran for their “decadent Western behavior,” according to a report Wednesday from The Associated Press. The six dancers spent a total of three days in jail, and have since been released on bail as they await their “trial.”

Musician Pharrell Williams accepts the iHeartRadio Innovator Award in May. Iranians dancing to his hit song "Happy" have been arrested.
Photo by Kevin Winter

The incredulous news of their arrests quickly spread on Twitter and social media, even prompting a response from Pharrell Williams, who tweeted: "It's beyond sad these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness." The video created by the Iranians has been viewed close to six million times. Says the YouTube video’s “About” page:

A month ago, 6 Iranian boys and girls danced to the famous song by Pharrell Williams called "Happy" on the rooftops of Tehran and uploaded their video on the YouTube. It was widely distributed in the social media. The police decided to track them down and arrest them and make them repent in front of the camera. It then showed this capture on the national TV channels as a bunch of deceived Iranian youth who regretted their deed. In the past 35 years, Islamic Republic has managed to steal freedom and happiness from the Iranian youth and replace it with a culture full of mourning and sorrow. We, too, are human. We, too, have the right to be happy and live happily and learn how to be happy.

According to the IranWire, which carried multiple photos of each of the individuals arrested, all of the dancers in the video are under the age of 25. The group is dressed and seen hamming it up in silly, trendy, western type garb; the women in the video are not wearing the hejab, Iran’s compulsory Islamic dress. Police reportedly raided the individuals' homes, and forced the group to record a statement of regret. YouTube video of that “confession” can be seen here. Says IranWire:

Last night, Iranian national TV broadcast an interview with members of the group, who were seen with their backs to the camera. During the broadcast, they said they were sorry they had made the video and that they had been fooled into doing it.

According to an earlier report from IranWire, a source informed about the nature of the arrests spoke to the news agency and said that “all of the young producers received phone calls informing them that a friend had suffered a car accident and required their help. When they arrived at the address they had been given over the phone, security forces were waiting to arrest them.” Sources say that computers and cell phones were seized from the dancers, and that Iranian police threatened to harm the families of the men and women if any one of them speaks out against their detentions.

A brother of one of the women seen in the video did just that. “My sister and her friends wanted to show the world that we still have moments of happiness, even though we face so many problems in Iran,” said Siavash Taravati, whose sister Reyhaneh was one of those arrested. “They were only showing their happiness and were arrested for that,” he said.

“Thanks for thinking about us," says Neda, one of the six Iranians seen in the video, in a message posted to Instagram. "We're finally released after three days in prison. We're waiting for the court date. Thanks a lot for caring about us."

The video was produced by the Iranians after Pharrell Williams earlier this year called on individuals around the globe to post videos of themselves dancing to his song and having fun. A tweet was posted Wednesday evening on President Hassan Rouhani's Twitter account. Although not mentioning the incident directly, the moderate president would seem to be in support of those who say that the arrests were a fanatical response.

#Happiness is our people's right. We shouldn't be too hard on behaviors caused by joy. – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Says the AP report: The case was another reminder of the tensions that exist at the highest levels of Iranian power, with hard-liners determined to maintain the status quo while moderates try to push through change — be it improved relations with the West or a loosening of morality clampdowns at home.

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