Young Iranians Arrested, Sentenced to 91 Lashes For Singing, Dancing to Pharrell's 'Happy'

( [email protected] ) Sep 22, 2014 06:45 PM EDT
'Happy' Iranian Youths Rendition
The arrest of the group, sparked a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #FreeHappyIranians. (Photo: Screen grab of Youtube video)

Six Iranians who appeared in a video singing along to Pharrell William's hit song "Happy" were recently arrested and given a suspended sentences of 91 lashes and six months in prison for what authorities deemed "obscene behavior."

According to the Iran Wire, the sentences are suspended for three years, meaning that if any of the offenders are found guilty of a similar offense, the punishment is then carried out.

Those accused, including four men and three women, were detained by police in May after they were shown lip synching to "Happy" and dancing to the tune in the streets and on rooftops in Tehran, the capital. The women appearing in the clip were bare headed in violation of the Islamic dress code enforced after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

"We have made this video as Pharrell Williams' Fans in 8 hours, with iPhone 5S. "Happy" was an excuse to be happy. We enjoyed every second of making it. Hope it puts a smile on your face," reads a message at the end of the video, titled "Happy We are from Tehran."

However, the Islamic Republic was angered by the video, which was posted on Youtube and received nearly a quarter of a million views, accusing the group of producing a "vulgar clip which hurt public chastity".

Hossein Sajedinia, Tehran's police chief, said: "Following a series of intelligence and police operations and after coordinating with the judiciary, all the suspects were identified and arrested.

"After a vulgar clip which hurt public chastity was released in cyberspace, police decided to identify those involved in making that clip."

The arrests in May drew condemnation from Pharrell, who took to Twitter to voice his opinion: "It's beyond sad these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness," he wrote.

Related: Pharrell Williams Says 'It's Incredibly Arrogant Not to Believe in God,' References Bible 

Moderate President Hassan Rouhani also indirectly expressed his disapproval:

"The way to deal with cultural issues is cultural work, not policemen and (detention) vans and strong-arm tactics," the president told a gathering of conservative clerics in the religious city of Mashhad earlier this month.

Siavash Taravati, the brother of one of the females arrested, said that he is "outraged" by the accusations.

"The IRIB's (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting) action in showing the "confession" of my sister and her friends (...) is just outrageous," he told The Telegraph.

"Apparently they first arrest people without any charge or civil right to defend themselves, then interrogate them and then make them confess and finally broadcast their show."

He also criticized the tactics police used when arresting his sister and her friends:

"We understand the security forces arrest [my sister] when she was at home and alone," he said. "The arrested people are being held at Vozara detention centre but as to which force is holding and interrogating them no one has any clue."