Earlier this week, CNN reported that six youths from Iran were arrested for posting a “Happy Video” on YouTube. Today, it was announced that the Iranian youths have been released from jail.
For those who are not up to date with this latest Iranian crisis, the six young men and women — Neda, Bardia, Roham, Reihanet, Spdh, and Afshin — in the “Happy Video,” were arrested for their Westernized behavior. The “Happy Video” is a fan-made homage to Pharrell Williams of the musical group N.E.R.D. He is celebrated for producing and writing numerous songs for many popular artists, including Kanye West, as well as scoring highly successful movies, most recognizably Despicable Me.
The “Happy Video” is shown below, in which the six Iranian youths wearing colorful clothing, stylish sunglasses, and bright bandannas are dancing to Happy.
After viewing the video, it doesn’t look offensive in any way, shape or form. What is wrong with six Iranian kids dancing in a “Happy Video”? Apparently, the six violated mandatory traditions such as women covering their heads, a requirement of strict Islamic religious laws. There are also moments in the “Happy Video” when men and women danced together, which is forbidden and punishable by Iran’s sharia-influenced code of law.
Making matter worse for the six terrified youngsters, the city of Tehran’s police chief was reported to be deeply offended and declared the video “obscene.” Even the Iranian state media called it “vulgar” and condemned the sacrilegious behavior of the six.
On Tuesday, the culprits were paraded on Iran state television, with their backs to the camera, apologizing for having made the “Happy Video” and uploading it to YouTube. This forced apology may have added to the popularity of the “Happy Video” which has received almost 700,000 likes since it was first uploaded back in April.
The “Happy Video” controversy may also be reflection of the broad clash between Iran’s religious conservatives and the faction represented by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a supposedly modern Iranian cleric elected nearly a year ago to replace the ultra conservative Ahmadinejad.
President Rouhani’s supporters claim he intends to ease the political and social restraints in Iran, which includes internet censorship. However, it should be noted that critics of the Iranian political regime are not convinced Rouhani is a moderate. Many believe he is just doing whatever he must to reduce the international pressure and crippling economic sanctions on his beleaguered nation, while continuing the Ayatollah’s oppressive policies domestically.
Rouhani even took to his Twitter account to address the uproar over the video:
— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) May 17, 2014
His first tweet said nothing about using the internet for free personal expression, so Rouhani returned later and tweeted the following:
Half a world away, Pharrell Williams added his opinion, via his Facebook page, about the arrests of the six Iranian youths:
“It is beyond sad that these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness.”
On the international scene, the “Happy Video” has gained the support of many people, especially with the use of the hashtag, #FreeHappyIranians, which went viral. Eventually, the six young men and women in the “Happy Video” were released, but at this time, the director is still in custody.
Supporters of the ‘Happy Six” have taken their cause to social media, especially on Pharrell Williams’ Facebook page. Once such supporter, Iranian born Hamoun Dowlatshah, posted the following on Pharrell’s wall:
“In a country which religion and politics are not separated, anything could become a crime, even happiness. I love you Iran, but I hate your government more than anything else.”
[Image via Youtube Screencap of “Happy Video”]