New Details Emerge on Coercion of “Happy” Youths During Detention
TV Reporter Worked with Interrogators to Elicit Confessions
The morality police pressured the participants in the “Happy in Tehran” video during their detention to implicate Reyhaneh Taravati and Sassan Soleimani and file complaints against them, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has learned.
On May 19, 2014, six youths were arrested by the morality police and taken to the unit’s station at Vozara (Khaled Eslamboli) Street in Tehran for their role in the video. They were released two days later on bail amounts of between $10,000 and $16,600 each.
The other individuals arrested in the case were Neda Motameni, Afshin Sohrabi, Bardia Moradi, Roham Shamekhi, and “Sepideh.”
Last year Soleimani told “Zendegi Ideal” (Ideal Life) magazine that following his photo shoot for Hassan Rouhani’s presidential campaign, he was asked to suggest a color for the campaign and he picked purple, which became the campaign’s official symbol.
“During the first hours of interrogation, agents coerced the detainees to blame everything on Sassan Soleimani as the mastermind and Reyhaneh Taravati as the person who uploaded the video on YouTube,” a source told the Campaign.
“The idea for making and producing the video was a group decision with almost equal participation by all the kids,” the source added. “In fact, Sassan Soleimani presented few ideas. He was more involved in editing.”
“They threatened them with a gun. They put a gun to the head of one of the detainees and told him if they did not cooperate they would kill them and get rid of their bodies so that no one would find them.”
During the detention of the six participants in the video, a news crew from the state radio and television organization prepared a report. The source said the TV reporter pressed the interrogator to be more forceful with the detainees to make sure they would talk about being deceived into dancing in the “Happy” video.
One morality police agent was heard saying that the reason for the arrests was that the women were dancing “naked,” i.e. without a headscarf or the traditional Islamic dress.
The Campaign has also learned that the female detainees were forced to agree to a body search, and had to take off all their clothes in front of female police agents. They were also denied the use of toilets for several hours.
The detainees, who were repeatedly harassed and threatened for “spreading corruption,” spent the night in the station’s basement, which smelled of urine and feces. In the morning, some detainees had visible insect bites.
Some of the six detainees were assaulted during their arrests. One of them had bruises from being beaten by the police. Agents filmed the homes of the detainees and took personal items including computers, books, passports, and some paintings.
“During the arrests, some participants in the ‘Happy’ video were so shocked that they suffered heart and breathing difficulties. One of them was suffering from asthma and became really ill,” the source said.
On May 20, a senior police officer visited the detainees, who complained of filthy conditions and mistreatment by female agents. The senior officer then turned to the station’s agents and asked for an explanation. One of the female officers, who had been more aggressive than the others, was angered by the detainees’ complaints and threatened them with even harsher treatment if arrested again.
After the inspection by the senior officer, a new officer was put in charge of the detainees, their area of detention was cleaned up, and they were given fresh blankets.
The source also told the Campaign that on the second and last day of detention on May 21, several senior morality police officers warmly welcomed the families of the detainees with tea and fruit. The families were there to post bail.
“They talked respectfully with the families and promised that they would try to prevent problems for the detainees who were students. They also promised to sort out the return of personal items such as passports and national ID cards to the detainees as soon as possible.” University students are routinely expelled and banned from further study for activities disapproved of by the authorities.
The source added that the confiscated items have not yet been returned although some of the detainees got their mobile phones back when they were released.