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Iran’s Rohani stands up for #Happiness after video arrest

AFP file picture
3 min

Iran’s President Hassan Rohani on Wednesday posted a tweet defending the right to "happiness", a move widely seen as supporting a group of Tehran youths briefly detained for singing and dancing to Pharell Williams’ hit “Happy" in a video online.


In a message posted on his official twitter account, Rohani wrote “#Happiness is our people's right. We shouldn't be too hard on behaviors caused by joy," reiterating parts of a speech he gave in June, 2013, less than two weeks after winning the Iranian presidential elections.

On Tuesday, Iranian police announced they had arrested six youths – three men and three unveiled women – for taking part in a Tehran-made “Happy” video in which they are seen dancing on rooftops, in a stairwell, and a walled-off driveway, wearing sunglasses and western-style hipster clothes while laughing and smiling.

"After a vulgar clip which hurt public chastity was released in cyberspace, police decided to identify those involved in making that clip," Tehran police chief Hossein Sajedinia was quoted as saying at the time.

Later Wednesday, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) said that those participating in the video had been released.

“All people who made the "happy" video (have been) released today, except the director of (the) video,” the organization announced in a tweet, citing a source close to the youths’ families.

A viral trend

Williams’ song has sparked a viral sensation in virtually every corner of the world, with people showing off their hometowns by singing and dancing in the streets. But in Iran, some see the trend as promoting the spread of Western culture, as laws in the Islamic Republic ban women from dancing in public or appearing outside without the hijab.

US R&B singer Williams also reacted to the news of their arrest, tweeting late Tuesday that “it’s beyond sad these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness”.

Before their release, the youths told a state TV broadcast that they had been deceived and that the video was never meant to be posted online.

“They had told us that this video won’t be released anywhere and that it was for our own joy,” one of the women said.

Campaigned for tolerance

Ahead of his election, Rohani, a moderate, campaigned for greater cultural and social freedoms in the Islamic republic, specifically urging police tolerance over the veil. On Saturday, he also spoke out about the Internet, saying it should be seen as an opportunity.

“Why are we so shaky? Why don’t we trust our youth?“ he was cited as saying by the country’s official IRNA news agency.

Hard-liners, however, accuse Rouhani of failing to take the necessary actions to stop the spread of the “decadent” Western culture in Iran.

Last week, hard-liners marched over women not wearing hijabs and dressing provocatively.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

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