Iranian police seem to have a problem with people being happy and dancing to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.” Seven men and women made a video of themselves singing along to the tune on rooftops in Tehran, and the video went viral within days. But there wasn’t a happy ending. Within four days of being posted to YouTube, the video was deleted and the participants were arrested.
According to Bloomberg News, the arrested individuals were forced to appear on Iranian TV for an interrogation. The group members said they didn’t realize the video was being made for the public and thought that it would be private. During the video interrogation, a police officer informed them that it was against the law to dance in mixed company, and warned others against doing the same.
“We want to tell the world that Iran is a better place than what they think it is,” one of the video-makers, who went only by “Neda,” told IranWire in an April interview. “Despite all the pressures and limitations, young people are joyful and want to make the situation better.” Neda also told IranWire that they were “really afraid” while filming: “Whenever somebody looked out of a window or someone passed by, we ducked behind a door to make sure we were not seen.”
Ironically, earlier this week, President Hassan Rouhani encouraged the country to embrace the Internet. But Twitter is still banned in the country, unless you're a government official.
Iranians have expressed their anger about the arrests and created the hashtag #FreeHappyIranians to support those arrested:
Although subsequent videos have been posted on YouTube since the original was removed, there’s no word on whether any other arrests have occurred.
Yesha Callahan is editor of The Grapevine and a staff writer at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.