Iranian Police Have Arrested A Group Of Young People For Dancing To Pharrell’s Happy

UPDATED: And now each member of the group has been given a suspended sentence of 91 lashes and six months in prison...


by Sophie Wilkinson |
Published on

Whenever we remember that it’s illegal to dance in Iran, we find it physically impossible to not do a double take.

But it’s actually a law that's so strictly enforced by the government that a group of people have been arrested days after posting a video of them dancing to Pharrell’s Happy on the streets of Tehran. Some reports are saying that eight people were arrested, but others say 13. Just to add insult to injury, Iranian authorities aren’t confirming the number.

The video is part of a wider trend for young Muslims around the world hijacking Pharrell's song Happy in an attempt to rebrand their religion. The British version had over 1.5million views.

It's certainly true that this video gives us an entirely different view of the Iranian capital, and we see loads of attractive, young people – all involved with the art scene there – dancing around in Western clothing, which is also frowned upon. In parts, it looks like the sort of houseparty you’d go to in 2009, except with the most annoyingly-catchy song of 2014 playing instead of MGMT. You can take a look at the video here.

Neda, one of the video’s stars recently told Iranwire, according to Bloomberg: ‘We couldn’t believe that 10,000 people would watch it in just one day. And the number is growing.’

However, the police weren’t impressed, with chief Hossein Sajedinia saying the ‘vulgar clip’ had ‘hurt public chastity'.

Weird, we can’t really imagine anyone wanting to bone to Pharrell’s song, which was made for the children’s film Despicable Me 2. Lapdance, maybe. She Likes To Move, possibly. But Happy? Nah.

The dancers have now told state television that they’re actors and claim they were tricked into making the video as they thought it was an audition for a film. 'They told me they are making a feature film and they had a permit for it,' one man told state media. ‘They said those things and they fooled me,’ one female detainee said. ‘They had promised us not to publish the video.’

It could very well be that this is the truth, or they’re just scared and lying to cover their backs. You can see the state TV broadcast below.

Pharrell is – quite rightly – livid that the people have been arrested. ‘It is beyond sad that these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness.’

This, sadly, isn’t the first time Iran and its morality police (and when we say morality police, we literally mean people who patrol the streets to enforce Islamic clothing rules and other codes of conduct) have criminalised people for the simple act of dancing. In 2007, the police raided a dance party, arresting 230 people for dancing and listening to a female vocalist. It’s also illegal for women to sing in public in Iran. Yes, really.

And, in 2002, Mohammed Khordadian, an Iranian emigrant who had moved to California, was arrested trying to re-visit his country to see relatives after his mum died. His crime? Teaching Iranian dance to people in California. Black market videos of his dances made their way to Iran, where he garnered a huge following among young girls. So he was held in prison for several months and then banned from the country for ten years.

#FreeHappyIranians is now being Tweeted across the world. And while we're into that, to be honest, we can't see Iranian authorities taking much notice of Twitter, sadly.

**UPDATE: It was announced on Wednesday that each member of the group has been sentenced to 91 lashes and six months in prison, all of which have fortunately been suspended, according to their lawyer ****Farshid Rofugaran, speaking to Iran Wire… **

** **Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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