Director of Video Remains Detained

The six young men and women who danced to Pharrell Williams’ hit song “Happy” in a video that went viral on YouTube, and were arrested for it, were released on bail today, one day later. However, the director of the video, Sassan Soleimani, remains detained.

A source close to a family of one of the arrested young people told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the youths were told they would be prosecuted.

The source indicated that the detained youth were not abused during their detention, although their personal belongings, including personal computers and cell phones, were confiscated.

The youths’ dance video received over a hundred thousand views on YouTube before it was taken down and the youths arrested. They were then paraded on state television, where they were forced to issue statements of remorse and contrition.

The incident has reportedly caused widespread revulsion in Iran at the humiliation of the youths for a dance video in which they exclaimed their happiness. Kambiz Hosseini, the Iranian political satirist and host of the weekly TV show “Poletik,” launched a Twitter campaign on May 20,  #FreehappyIranians, which went viral and drew huge attention to the arrest of the youths outside of Iran, and international ridicule has been widespread as well. Pharrell Williams wrote on his Facebook page, “It is beyond sad that these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness.”

It has also cast into sharp relief the battle lines being drawn in Iran between the hardliners, who represent a minority but who control the Judiciary, Intelligence and security services, and the majority of the population, who have voiced their desire for greater personal freedoms with the huge electoral victory of Hassan Rouhani in last year’s presidential election.

Rouhani has repeatedly spoken out in support of greater personal freedoms, including explicit support for the use of the Internet and social media to communicate. Yet to date he has preferred not to take on the hardliners directly or follow his statements with actions.

Rouhani’s tweet on the arrests of the youths was indicative: “#Happiness is our people’s right. We shouldn’t be too hard on behaviors caused by joy.” While not supporting the arrests, this is clearly not an indictment of the judiciary’s actions.

The Campaign calls for the immediate release of the remaining youth, and urges President Rouhani to condemn this needless violation of free expression in the strongest terms, and to use all the powers of his office to protect the basic rights and freedoms of Iranian citizens.