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Iranians Arrested for Dancing to Pharrell’s ‘Happy’

Iran Happy Video Arrests Pharrell Williams

UPDATE: According to Mashable, the Iranians who starred in the “Happy” tribute video have been released on bail, while the director remains in custody. One of the stars, Reihane Taravati, posted a selfie on Instagram with the caption, “Hi I’m back thank you @pharrell and everyone who cared about us love you all so much and miss you so much.” 

A group of young Iranians were arrested this week for the simple crime of dancing to Pharrell’s “Happy” in a tribute video. The Huffington Post reports that up to eight people connected to the clip were detained by police after uploading the video to YouTube.

While the original has been taken down, copies of “Happy We are from Tehran” are still up on the site. It shows three women dancing without veils with three men in an apartment and on a rooftop, and occasionally touching. It all seems innocent and chaste by American standards, but it’s apparently enough to warrant an arrest in the Islamic country.

In the video below, which purportedly comes from state-run channel Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, the youths are shown confessing for their crimes, claiming they were told it was going to be for a film that would never be broadcast. Tehran police chief Hossein Sajedinia said, “After a vulgar clip which hurt public chastity was released in cyberspace, police decided to identify those involved in making that clip.”

Law enforcement reportedly contacted the video’s producers and told them a friend had been seriously injured in a car accident (a pretty dastardly move, even by Walter White’s standards) luring them to a location where they were then detained. “Our dear youths should try to avoid these kinds of people. Like actors, singers, and these kinds of problems. Try to avoid it,” Sajedinia added.

Support for the young people has gone viral thanks in part to the Twitter hashtag #FreeHappyIranians. Pharrell himself tweeted, “It’s beyond sad these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness.” A few weeks ago, one of the video’s stars told Iran Wire about their motives.

“Outside Iran anybody can do this,” she said. “We want to tell the world that Iran is a better place than what they think it is. Despite all the pressures and limitations, young people are joyful and want to make the situation better. They know how to have fun, like the rest of the world.”

That said, they knew the risks in making it, so rather than the film it with professional equipment, they used an iPhone 5S. And to conform with Islamic dress code, the women wore wigs. “We were really afraid,” she said. “Whenever somebody looked out of a window or someone passed by, we ducked behind a door to make sure we were not seen.”

As of now, it’s unclear how long they will be detained and what charges they face.