Six Iranians are behind bars after they appeared in a fan video set to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” the American hit song that has sold millions of downloads worldwide.
Tehran Police Chief Hossein Sajedinia ordered the arrests of the three men and three women because they helped make an “obscene video clip that offended the public morals and was released in cyberspace,” the Iranian Student News Agency reported Wednesday.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani may think differently, if a post on his Twitter account is any indication.
“#Happiness is our people’s right. We shouldn’t be too hard on behaviors caused by joy,” the post read in what appears to be a restatement of a Rouhani comment from 2013, based on a date accompanying the tweet.
Pharrell himself denounced the arrests.
“It is beyond sad that these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness,” the Grammy Award winner said on his Facebook page.
Just like in Pharrell’s original video, the Iranian fan version features a montage of men and women dancing to the song in a variety of settings.
Reihane Taravati, a woman who said she helped make the fan project, gushed over the reaction to the video in the days before the Tuesday arrests.
“178K VIEWS thank you,” she wrote on her Facebook page last week.
She also posted a picture of people featured in the video on Instagram.
“People of Tehran are happy! Watch and Share Our Happiness!,” Taravati wrote. “Let the world hear us! we are happy and we deserve to be!”
Taravati’s last Facebook post came Sunday.
Pharrell’s not the only one unhappy about the arrests. The Twitter hashtag #FreeHappyIranians has gone viral.
“Is happiness a crime? @Pharrell #freehappyiranians,” @MaedehHP tweeted.
Others poked fun at the fan video’s message.
“They deserve it for lying:) How can any body be #happy in #Tehran or #Iran for that matter,” @Alothman123 wrote.
The National Iranian American Council condemned Iranian authorities for arresting the six men and women and forcing them to repent on state TV.
“There are forces within Iran’s government who want to keep the Iranian people isolated from the world,” the council said in a statement.
“The irony that the Iranian youth were arrested for dancing to a song called ‘Happy’ seems to be lost on the Iranian authorities.”
Incidentally, the arrests came just days after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said citizens should take advantage of the Internet to communicate.
“#Cyberspace should be seen as opportunity: facilitating two-way communication, increasing efficiency & creating jobs,” the president tweeted Saturday. “Govt unhappy w/ current situation; working to increase internet speed for users at home, in offices& on mobiles.”
Rouhani said every Iranian citizen has a right to connect to the Internet, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.
Some on social media made a point to separate the Iranian government from everyday Iranians.
“In a country which Religion and politics are not separated anything could become a crime even happiness,” Hamoun Dowlatshah posted on Pharrell’s Facebook page. “I love you Iran but i hate your government more than anything else.”