The group of six young Iranians who were arrested in May for making a viral dance video set to Pharrell’s “Happy” have learned their punishment. On Wednesday, five of them were sentenced to six months in prison and 91 lashes each. The sixth, presumably the director, received one year in prison and the same number of lashes, as the local independent English-language site Iran Wire reports (via Mashable).
There is, however, a small silver lining: their sentences have been “suspended” for three years, meaning they will not actually have to receive said punishments unless they are found guilty of a similar offense during that time. After 36 months, their free to be happy again. Sort of.
So, these six young Iranians are on probation for dancing, or their “participation in the making of a vulgar clip” that “hurt public chastity,” plus some “illegitimate relations between members of the group,” whatever that means. This from the nonprofit, International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Their arrests were originally condemned by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who tweeted in June:
“#Happiness is our people’s right. We shouldn’t be too hard on behaviors caused by joy.” 29/6/2013
— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) May 21, 2014
Corporal and capital punishment is legal in Iran and the practice of lashing is often reserved for instances such as illicit sexual relations, making unproven accusations about illicit sex, or drinking intoxicants. Slate’s Explainer blog says lashes are usually applied to the back and divvied up over the term of a sentence, maxing out at about 50 in a single weekly bout so that the recipient doesn’t drop dead in the process, basically.
Saudi Arabia reportedly serves the strictest lashing sentences in the Muslim world, while countries such as Iran and Sudan usually stick to the more moderate 40 to 80 strokes prescribed in the Quran. And they are typically less severe than the forceful whippings pre-Civil War slaves received in the United States, as Islamic law states the flogger is supposed to hold a copy of the Quran under his arm that will curb his range of motion to prohibit the strokes from being too powerful.