Supplied with nothing more than an iPhone 5S, a group of youth in Iran took taking advantage of the global phenomenon that has become Pharrell Williams song “Happy.”
Within an eight hour time frame, they created their own version of the song – singing, dancing, chewing gum and otherwise expressing their “happiness” in Tehran. Of course, the youths are not attired in accordance with the rules of the Islamic Republic (no head coverings, no proper body coverings), and the men and women intermingle and dance with one another as if in a very PG music video. For this, they were arrested and forced to repent on state television.
The video went viral (more than 100,000 views on YouTube) and defeated the censors for almost a month before the youths were arrested. State television did not report on this fact, claiming instead that the accused were identified and arrested within six hours. Their arrest received global news coverage.
That expressions of joy are considered so frightening by the Iranian authority is the victory here. That they are that afraid of a giggle is telling of their inability to retain control over a youth who, while not desiring to give up their lives in a revolution, do wish to simply live, and be happy, is a victory in and of itself.
More interestingly, within a very short time frame from their arrest, the youths (whose names are unknown) were released. One of them immediately went on Instagram, posted a selfie, and thanked everyone.
What is more, their video spawned not only many copycats in Iran (YouTube and social media are a flutter with Iranians presenting their own home-made versions of “Happy”), but even inspired a group of young Americans to make a “Happy” video in solidarity with the Iranian youths. The American video, titled “Iranian&American Happy song by Pharrell Williams,” includes visuals of the Iranian video in the background, as well as a subtitle in English and Persian making it clear that the video was produced “in support of the ‘Happy’ Iranian youths who were arrested and jailed for dancing to the Pharrel Williams song.”
The youth might have lost this battle of freedom, but if this surge moves forward, it is the authorities who will lose the war.