"Happy" Video Dancers Sentenced

September 18, 2014

            Six young Iranians have been received a suspended sentence of six months imprisonment and 91 lashes for appearing in a video singing along and dancing to Pharrell William’s “Happy.” The director was also sentenced to one year in prison in addition to the lashes. But the sentences are likely to become null and void over time if the individuals do not commit similar offenses.

            The youths were detained on May 20 and released the following day by Tehran police for appearing in the viral video. The director, Sassan Soleimani, was released on May 29 after nine days in custody. In the YouTube clip below, three women — without hijab — and three men dance and lip synch to the American pop song.

 

            The clip was viewed more than 100,000 times before the six dancers were detained on May 20. Tehran Police Chief Hossein Sajedinia ordered the arrests of the youth for making an “obscene video clip that offended the public morals,” the Iranian Students’ News Agency reported. “They were identified within two hours, and after six hours they were all arrested,” Sajedinia told media. The six dancers were forced to express remorse on state television for making the YouTube clip. Part of the broadcast is subtitled below.

            Pharell Williams and his fans around the world voiced condemned the arrests on social media. “It is beyond sad that these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness,” the singer tweeted on May 20. The hashtag #FreeHappyIranians went viral.
 
           
            A tweet on President Hassan Rouhani's semi-official account may have indicated disapproval of the detention. The following quote from 2013 was posted on May 21.  

 

             Rouhani campaigned for better access to information and less government oversight. After his June 2013 election, Rouhani warned, “In the age of digital revolution, one cannot live or govern in a quarantine.” Rouhani’s minister of culture and Islamic guidance, Ali Jannati, has repeatedly called for lifting bans on social media like Facebook and Twitter. But hardliners have sabotaged efforts by Rouhani’s administration to ease web censorship. The detention came amid an outpouring of support for a Facebook page — “My Stealthy Freedom” — featuring hundreds of pictures of Iranian women without their hijabs. The page has generated more than 656,000 "likes" on Facebook.