A group of six Iranians, arrested on Tuesday for filming a video tribute to Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy,” has been released on bail, reports from Tehran suggest. Police chief Hossein Sajedinia ordered the three men and three women arrested due to what he characterized as an “obscene video clip that offended the public morals and was released in cyberspace.” Also, 1985 called Mr. Sajedinia, and asked for its futuristic lingo back.
The fan tribute, just like the original video, depicts a group of random men and woman dancing to the song in different settings.
One of the six arrested, Reihane Taravati, announced that she was freed on her Instagram account: “Hi, I’m back. Thank you @Pharell and everyone who cared about us love you all so much and missed you so much.” The director of the online video remains in custody.
Taravati and her colleagues made the video back in April. Just days before the arrests, she gushed on her social media accounts about how the “people of Tehran are happy! Watch and share our happiness! Let the world hear us! We are happy and we deserve to be!”
Police say their controversial clip “hurt public chastity.” Under Iran’s repressive interpretation of Islamic law, women must cover their hair and wear loose-fitting clothing meant to preserve their modesty. In the video, the women are seen with their hair down, and wear popular Western clothing styles. The group was also charged with using an “illegal” web site to disseminate an “unlicensed” video. Often, such minor infractions are ignored in Iran — but due to the popularity of the video, Iranian authorities took action.
Officials forced the filmmakers to publicly apologize on state television for having “offended Iranian morale.” In an edited version of this confession, the dancers claimed they were tricked by the director into making the clip, and were not made aware the video would be posted online.
The whole spectacle has angered many Iranians, and comes just after Iranian president Hassan Rouhani made a speech about embracing the power of the Internet and pushing Iranian culture forward. “We must recognize our citizens’ right to connect to the World Wide Web,” Rouhani said. “Why are we so shaky? Why have we cowered in a corner, grabbing onto a shield and a wooden sword, lest we take a bullet in this culture war?” Also, why are you still calling it “World Wide Web?” That’s so 1995. Let’s mail Mr. Rouhani some AOL floppy disks.
Pharrell, the singer and songwriter of the chart-topping anthem, expressed his disgust about the ordeal on the social media outlet Twitter, saying “It’s beyond sad these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness.” Social media sites have started trending the hashtag #FreeHappyIranians. It is unclear what the fate of the six young Iranians will be — but they have definitely spread their message of happiness loud and clear.
Sources: Rolling Stone | Washington Post | BBC News | CNN | Wikipedia