Apparently, dancing to a song about happiness in Iran can get you arrested.
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 Students’ 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 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 the singer’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.
The arrests come amid growing support on Facebook for an unrelated project featuring photographs submitted by women who appear without the country’s legally required head scarves.
The page, created May 3, now has 331,000 likes.
“This is the voice of Iranian women who have been censored all their lives in Iran,” said London-based journalist Masih Alinejad, who created the page, told HLN, CNN’s sister network. “And now social media is giving them the opportunity to speak out, to be themselves.”
Conversely, Iranian officials and some journalists denounced an Iranian actress who extended her hand in greeting to a film festival executive and received a kiss on the cheek from him, according to media reports.
The BBC reported that a conservative journalism organization run by Iran’s state broadcaster said actress Leila Hatami engaged in “unconventional and improper” behavior by extending her hand to Cannes Film Festival president Gilles Jacob.
For his part, Jacob dismissed the controversy over kissing Hatami on the cheek.
He said on Twitter that she represented “all Iranian cinema” and called the uproar over the kiss needless controversy “over a usual custom in the West.”
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 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.”