UPDATE: The six people arrested have been released, according to Gawker.
For months, Pharrell fans have been spreading “Happy”ness across the planet through harmless dancing videos. But the dancing is no laughing matter in Iran, where six young Iranians have been arrested and forced into a televised apology for their homemade ode to joy, The New York Times reports.
The video, titled “Happy in Tehran,” was uploaded to Youtube in April and viewed 165,000 times, gaining international traction on numerous news and entertainment sites. But police took action once they learned of the clip, humiliating the viral filmmakers by forcing them to repent on state television. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (via Iran’s ISNA News Agency), police chief Hossein Sajedinia called the video “vulgar” and said it “hurt public chastity.”
In an edited video of their confession, the Iranians claim they were tricked into making the clip and weren’t aware the video would be posted online. “They told me they are making a feature film and they had a permit for it,” one man allegedly says during the confession.
The whole ordeal has angered other Iranians, and it ironically contradicts Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s recent weekend speech about embracing the power of the Internet and pushing their culture forward. “We must recognize our citizens’ right to connect to the World Wide Web,” Rouhani said, according the IRNA news agency. “Why are we so shaky? Why have we cowered in a corner, grabbing onto a shield and a wooden sword, lest we take a bullet in this culture war?”
In an April interview with Iranian journalism site IranWire, one of the dancers said the women in the clip “covered (their) hair with wigs” in order to adhere to Islamic dress codes. The goal of the video, she added, was to promote hope and “tell the world that Iran is a better place than what they think it is.”
Pharrell, who wrote the empowering, chart-topping anthem that inspired the dance video, expressed his disgust on Tuesday through a simple tweet. “It’s beyond sad,” he wrote, “these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness.”