Tehran’s “Happy” Dancers are Released on Bail

May 21, 2014, 5:12 p.m.

"Thanks for thinking about us," says Neda, one of the six Iranians arrested for posting a music video for Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” on YouTube, in a message on Instagram. "We're finally released after three days in prison. We're waiting for the court date. Thanks a lot for caring about us."

“My sister and her friends wanted to show the world that we still have moments of happiness, even though we face so many problems in Iran,” said Siavash Taravati, whose sister Reihaneh was one of those arrested. “They were only showing their happiness and were arrested for that,” he said. He told Iranwire that his sister had not left the court, but it had been announced that she would be released after her family paid a bail of 40 million toman. Others in the video were due for release after settling a bail of 30 million toman (approx. ten-thousand dollars).

The video, which was uploaded to YouTube last month, shows the six young people– all reported to be 25 or younger– dancing on rooftops in Tehran. The women are not wearing hejab, Iran’s compulsory Islamic dress.

“It is beyond sad that these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness,” said Pharrell Williams on his Facebook page. He also posted a photograph of the group on the site. News of the arrest was widely covered in national media, including the BBC, The Guardian, and Figaro.

The video was part of a global campaign initiated by Pharrell Williams earlier this year, when he called for people around the world to upload photos and videos of themselves having fun. The Iranian “Happy” film  was viewed by over 100,000 people. Tehran was easily recognizable because the air conditioners found on so many buildings in Iran were clearly visible in several scenes. Although this was the first video submitted to YouTube from Iran, other Iranians have also uploaded their versions of the video online.

Last night, Iranian national TV broadcast an interview with members of the group. During the broadcast, they said they were sorry they had made the video and that they had been fooled into doing it. Siavash Taravati said it was clear how frightened the group were during the television interview.

Chief of Tehran’s police force, Hossein Sajedinia also appeared on television, warning the younger generation to be careful not to fall into traps set by ruthless, immoral  people who benefit from making music videos like the one that got Reihaneh Taravati and her friends into trouble. 

Earlier today, President Hassan Rouhani commented on the incident on Twitter, posting : “#Happiness is our people's right. We shouldn't be too hard on behaviors caused by joy." Though this cannot be seen in any way as an official government statement, those following last night's news will no doubt be aware of the apparent disconnect between those who ordered the arrests and the presidential administration. 

Siavash Taravati also told IranWire that although the group’s release documents had been signed and the group had received official warnings, they were likely to be summoned to the court again. He also said that police authorities were still going through personal items that were confiscated at the time of their arrest. Items included mobile phones, computers and cameras taken from their homes.