After authorities arrested six young men and women who produced a Tehran version of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” video, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s message at a graduation ceremony of miltary cadets was, “Be angry with us and die in your anger.”
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) May 21, 2014
Iran’s President Rouhani, in a reflection of his trademark smile, is perhaps better aligned with Tehran’s happy youth.
— Pres. Hassan Rouhani (@drRouhani) May 17, 2014
Following the video makers’ arrests, IranWire reports:
The group appeared on state television’s evening news broadcast, grouped in a row facing Tehran Chief of Police Hossein Sajedinia, and confessed to being deceived into appearing in the clip by an unnamed man and woman. Sajedinia advised the young people during the broadcast not to be deceived into appearing in corrupt film productions, and with a smile complimented the swift reaction of his security forces. “These [agents] were able to identify [these young people] within two hours, and within six hours had arrested them all,” he said.
While complimenting the speed of his forces, Sajedinia neglected to mention during the broadcast that the clip has been on YouTube for a month, had over 100,000 views. Though at the time of their arrest access to the clip in Tehran had been disrupted.
IranWire reached a source informed about the nature of the arrests. “All of the young producers received phone calls informing them that a friend had suffered a car accident and required their help. When they arrived at the address they had been given over the phone, security forces were waiting to arrest them.” Security forces have also allegedly threatened the families of those arrested that if they speak to any media about the detentions, their children will not be released.
The source said that each family has paid a bail of 30 million toman, the equivalent of $10,000, and been told if they comply with the demand not to speak to any media outlets, their children will be released tomorrow, Wednesday.
Among some quarters of the anti-Western anti-imperial left, I imagine this story will be deemed unnewsworthy. Perhaps there will even be suggestions that — as Iranian authorities claim — the videomakers were duped. If you believe that, you might as well get all your news on Iran from Press TV.
Some people think they have to shout in anger to change the world, but the shouts more often come from those who have a clearer view of what they want to destroy than a vision of what they want to create.
No doubt the #FreeHappyIranians wanted to have fun, but they also knew they were pushing boundaries. Theirs was an act of joy, defiance and courage.
Negar Mortazavi, an Iranian freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C., told Mashable that she wasn’t surprised the six people were arrested. When Mortazavi first saw the video, she thought it was dangerous to upload it online, considering its content. “Not wearing hijabs and dancing, boys and girls together — that’s three big red flags,” she said.
But being happy, wanting to dance, finding joy in life — these are not trivial indulgences of a Westernized elite or symptoms of a corrupted youth. These are universal human desires.
Ayatollah Khamenei might hold the most power in Iran, but six young men and women whose names we might never know seem to better represent a nation that too often gets reduced to crude stereotypes by its enemies — and its own leaders.
Update: Rouhani just slipped on his dancing shoes:
"#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