'Happy' Iranians Forced to 'Repent' on National TV
The six Iranians arrested for making a tribute video to Pharrell Williams' hit song "Happy," in which unveiled women danced with men, have since been released. However, they were forced to "repent" on national TV - after reportedly undergoing serious abuse.
The video was reportedly uploaded to YouTube late last month; one upload of the six dancing in Tehran to Williams' catchy song promoting happiness has already garnered over half a million views on YouTube since being posted Monday.
A source close to those arrested said armed police raided the home of one of them on Sunday, wantonly destroying private property in the house as they arrested the woman and her friends, reports The Daily Beast.
In jail, the six reportedly were not allowed to use the toilet, put in solitary confinement and constantly interrogated about the clip and comments they had made to foreign media. The women were reportedly forced to strip naked and perform squats before female officers.
The persecution and humiliation reached a head on Tuesday, when they were forced on national TV in front of Tehran Chief of Police Hossein Sajedinia. They "confessed" being tricked to appear in the video, while lined up with their backs to the camera and the women appearing with large head coverings.
Sajedinia, in the role of interrogator and morale preacher, praised the crackdown during the TV broadcast, saying "these (agents) were able to identify (the six dancers) within two hours, and within six hours had arrested them all."
Clips of the dancing video shown during the "confession" were blurred out, apparently for "modesty." The national broadcast, in Farsi, can be seen here:
Siavash Taravati, who directed and filmed the "criminal" video, said that in the "confession" broadcast it was apparent how terrified the six were.
While the young Iranians were in jail, allegedly Iranian police threatened their families saying that if they spoke to the media their children would not be released.
The six eventually were released, but only after paying a bail of 30 million toman ($10,000), or 40 million toman in the case of one of the women. Reportedly several cell phones, computers and cameras were confiscated as well, in addition to the personal affects destroyed during the arrest.
Who's calling the shots - Rouhani or Khamenei?
Apparently a court battle still awaits the six Iranians. Neda, one of the six, wrote on Instagram after being released "thanks for thinking about us. We’re finally released after three days in prison. We’re waiting for the court date. Thanks a lot for caring about us.”
Pharrell Williams on Tuesday responded to the events on Facebook, posting a link to an article about the arrest, adding the words "it is beyond sad that these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness." Williams began a global campaign around his hit song earlier in the year, calling for people around the world upload videos of themselves being "happy" with the song.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also responded to the incidents on Wednesday, just before the six youths were released. He said on Twitter "#Happiness is our people’s right. We shouldn’t be too hard on behavior caused by joy.”
But in light of the crackdown on the "happy" Iranians those comments have either revealed the very limited extent of "moderate" Rouhani's control over the Islamic regime, or his own dishonesty. Rouhani has reportedly opposed the country's "morality police", called for a reduction of censorship, and supported Facebook as a welcome phenomenon.
Rouhani also marked Women's Day in late April by confessing that Iran still has a lot to work on in terms of women's rights, a fact exemplified by the fact that the six youths were arrested for having women appear unveiled, aside from mixed dancing.
However, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei spread a very different message on Women's Day, saying "equality between women and men is a Western matter and completely wrong. [Gender] equality is not always the outcome of justice."
Khameini has likewise made his extreme antagonism to Israel and the west very clear, calling the Jewish state an "illegitimate and bastard" regime last November; in January he revealed nuclear talks with western states are simply a stalling tactic.