Six Young Iranians Were Arrested for Making This Video Dancing to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”

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May 21 2014 9:54 AM

Too “Happy” for Tehran

Pharrell Williams’ peppy global smash hit “Happy” might seem like an unlikely anthem for political subversives, but as journalist Golnaz Esfandiari writes, Iran is “a country where being 'happy' is a crime.”

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

The video above might not look like anything unusual—just a group of Tehran hipsters clowning around to the song, one of hundreds of tribute videos that have been uploaded from around the world. (It’s not even the only one from Iran.)

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But this one was deemed particulary “obnoxious” by Tehran’s police chief, 
Hossein Sajedinia, and six of the people who appeared in the video have been arrested. Though they have not been tried, the group were shown on state television confessing to their crime. The Guardian reports:

"We launched a police investigation in cooperation with the judicial authorities and identified and arrested the accused within six hours," he told Isna. Sajedinia said those arrested acknowledged what he described as a wrongdoing.
In the TV programme, the detainees who are talking with their back to camera, appeared to say they were duped and the video was not meant to be posted online.
"They had promised us not to publish the video," a young women said on the programme. Another detainee said they appeared on the video to practise acting. On TV, Sajedinia warned Iranian youth that the police was vigilant and prepared to tackle those acting against the social norms.

Pharrell himself weighed in yesterday:

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