Why Did The “Happy” Dancers Of Iran Land Up In Jail?

Pharrell Williams’ fans in Tehran got arrested for creating their own version of the Oscar-nominated song “Happy”. But what was so offensive about the video that drew the ire of local authorities, leading to the arrest of six people?

UPDATE: After several days of interrogation, all six of the arrested dancers  who appeared in the "Happy in Tehran" fan video were released on bail on Wednesday, according to the expatriate news site Iran Wire.

On the same day, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani posted the following tweet:

Pharrell Williams’ Oscar-nominated song “Happy” has become a global phenomenon. From the United States to Ukraine, the track has become more of an anthem for people – in over 140 countries – who want to share their joy with the world.

However, for fans in the Iranian capital city of Tehran, this expression of happiness turned out to be one of the biggest regrets of their lives.

At least six people have reportedly been arrested for appearing in a YouTube clip in which boys and girls can be seen dancing on the streets to Pharrell’s hit song.

What’s more, the detainees were forced to repent for their “crime” on Iran's state-run national television on Tuesday. Men and women, who purportedly appeared in the controversial video, were shown “confessing” on camera.

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Tehran's police chief, Hossein Sajedinia, confirmed the arrests, according to the semi-official Isna news agency.

He said a group of people were arrested for their involvement in what he called a “vulgar clip" that had "hurt public chastity".

"We launched a police investigation in cooperation with the judicial authorities and identified and arrested the accused within six hours," Sajedinia reportedly told Isna, adding that those taken into custody claimed that they were tricked into making the Happy video for an audition.

Human rights groups believe that such public confessions – an uncommon trend in Iran – are usually made under duress and hold no significance whatsoever.

Pharrell also reacted to the news on social media, condemning the ridiculous arrests.

Going through numerous articles criticizing the Iranian authorities, one can’t help but wonder what could’ve been so “vulgar” about people moving along to a song which was primarily written for an animated movie for children.

Here’s is a list of possible reasons present in the video that might’ve incurred the wrath of the law enforcement officials.

1-    Girls without “Hijab”:

“Happy” Video

In Iran, wearing the hijab or a headscarf and covering the body with loose and long dresses is legally required for females to meet the Islamic dress code.

Only women in the media are allowed to come on television without hijab, but that also to an extent. Foreigners are also prescribed to follow the same rules.

In the video, more than a couple of women – who are not a part of the entertainment industry – can be seen without their heads covered.

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2-      Boys shaking their butts:

“Happy” Video

While music and dancing is not prohibited or illegal in Iran, excessive shaking of butts might not be considered as decent entertainment in the Islamic republic – even if it’s men doing it.

“Happy” Video

3-    Girls shaking their butts:

“Happy” Video

Not only are women supposed to follow a strict code of conduct and dress in Iran, they are also to remain modest and maintain decorum in public.

In a country where men dancing in skin-tight clothes may not be considered appropriate, for women it’s deemed even more reprehensible.

4-    Boys getting too close to girls:

“Happy” Video

Iran, like so many other Islamic nations, follows the custom according to which women are forbidden to hang out with men who are not their ‘Mahram’ (her husband or any unmarriageable kin).

The video shows, in many cuts, girls and boys dancing together which totally goes against Iran’s religious norms and values.

5-    Boys getting too close with boys:

“Happy” Video

Last but not the least, “Happy in Tehran” features men getting too close with the members of their own sex while dancing – another trend which is forbidden in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Iran doesn’t recognize nor supports the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) movement. Homosexuality is a crime punishable by imprisonment, corporal punishment, or in some cases of sodomy, even execution. In fact, according to many sources, gay men have faced stricter punishments under the law than lesbians.

So yeah, men dancing with other males in skimpy clothing may not be considered decent by Iranian authorities.

Although, two other versions of Happy have also been posted online from Iran, the one that led to the arrests of six people was viewed by tens of thousands of people and managed to catch the attention of law enforcement agencies, before it was taken offline.

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