Allyson Cartwright, Contributing JournalistLast Modified: 00:52 p.m. DST, 22 May 2014
TEHRAN, Iran — Three men and three women were arrested in Tehran after posting a YouTube video of themselves dancing to Pharrell Williams’s hit song “Happy."
The video entitled “Happy in Tehran” was deemed obscene by the Tehran police chief, Hossein Sajedinia. The country, however, has rallied around the six young Iranians and is criticizing the government for being too socially restrictive.
Subsequently, five of the dancers in the video have been released, but the director is still being held in police custody, according to CNN.
The “Happy in Tehran” video depicts the Iranians dancing around different locations to the song “Happy”. Most notably, the three women were publicly unveiled—a punishable offense in Iran. It became a viral video in Iran and was shared all over social media. When it was posted in April, the video garnered more than 165, 000 views on YouTube before it was blocked.
After the attention that the video received, it also caught the attention of Tehran police who determined that making the video was criminal. Police Chief Sajedinia explained to the state-run Iranian Students' News Agency why the video creators had been detained, “After a vulgar clip which hurt public chastity was released in cyberspace, police decided to identify those involved in making that clip.”
Sajedinia decided to make an example out of the creators adding, “Our dear youths should try to avoid these kinds of people. Like actors, singers, and these kinds of problems. Try to avoid it.”
The police tricked the video creators into their arrest, a source told Iran Wire. The sources said, “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.”
After the arrest, The Huffington Post says a public interrogation was held on Iranian state TV. On Iranian TV, the video creators were identified as “actors” who were coerced into making the video for an audition and told that it would not be aired.
The Iranian regime that has been in power since the 1979 revolution enforces conservative, religious values that result in the limitations of internet publication. The “Happy in Tehran” video represents how social media has been used globally to rebel against this kind of hardliner authority. After the arrests of the creators, most people seemed to defend them. Other Iranians reposted the video adding “#FreeHappyIranians” in support of the detained.
Even the president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, came to the defense of the creators. He tweeted today, in reference to the five creators’ release, a quote he made last year, “#Happiness is our people's right. We shouldn't be too hard on behaviors caused by joy.” Reuters reports that Rouhani has been vocal about his opposition to harsh internet censorship saying in a speech from this weekend, “We ought to see (the Internet) as an opportunity.
We must recognize our citizens' right to connect to the World Wide Web.” Pharrell Williams, the singer of “Happy”, also spoke out in support of the six Iranians. The Grammy Award winner posted on his Facebook page, “It is beyond sad that these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness.”
The video credits seem to suggest their intentions were just that harmless as it reads, “We have made this video as Pharrell Williams' Fans in 8 hours, with iPhone 5S. 'Happy' was an excuse to be happy. We enjoyed every second of making it. Hope it puts a smile on your face. © All Rights Reserved by Sol Production.” According to the video creators, the purpose of the video was to celebrate the UN's International Day of Happiness. Neda, one of the arrested dancers told Iran Wire, “We wanted to tell the world that the Iranian capital is full of lively young people and change the harsh and rough image that the world sees on the news.”