VIDEO: Iranian 'Happy' dancers in jail after Rouhani's pro-Internet speech

Ahram Online , Wednesday 21 May 2014

Described by Tehran police chief as a 'vulgar clip which hurt public chastity', a 'Happy' YouTube video causes the arrest of six Iranian youths

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani arrives at Pudong International Airport, ahead of the fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit in Shanghai May 20, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

Iranian police arrested six people on Tuesday for posting a video on YouTube showing them dancing to the globally popular song Happy, a move that caught the attention of numerous news websites around the world.

In the roughly five-minute video, three men and three unveiled women dance in various locations in Tehran, capital of the Islamic Republic of Iran, to Happy playing in the background.

"It's beyond sad that these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness," Pharrell Williams, singer of the Happy song which appeared on the soundtrack of the US movie Despicable Me 2, said on his official Twitter account on Tuesday.

Tehran police chief Hossein Sajedinia, on the other hand, described the video as a "vulgar clip which hurt public chastity".

“Following a series of intelligence and police operations, and after coordinating with the judiciary, all the suspects were identified and arrested," Al-Arabiya news website quoted Sajedinia as saying to Iran's ISNA news agency.

The agency added that the six youths had "confessed to their criminal acts."

With most of citizens lacking access to YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, cyber politics continues to be considered a controversial issue in Iran.

Ironically, both current president Hassan Rouhani and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have official Twitter accounts, which both leaders regularly use.

On Tuesday, Rouhani said Iran should embrace the Internet rather than see it as a threat, Reuters reported.

"We ought to see [the Internet] as an opportunity. We must recognise our citizens' right to connect to the World Wide Web," the official IRNA news agency reported Rouhani as saying.

"Why are we so shaky? Why have we cowered in a corner, grabbing onto a shield and a wooden sword, lest we take a bullet in this cultural war?" he was quoted as saying in his weekend speech.

Nevertheless, in accordance with the Iranian constitution, the supreme leader enjoys a large scale of control over state policies. In 2012, Khamenei established the so-called Council of Virtual Space, a body assigned with the task of censoring Internet activities.

He claimed that the agency would shield Iran from the harm of "the increasing spread of information and communication technologies, particularly that of the global Internet network and its important role in personal and social life."

The body includes the president, the information and culture ministers, the heads of the police and the powerful, conservative Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Happy dance

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