Earlier this year, seven young Iranians were arrested for creating a video in which they danced to Pharrell’s “Happy.” Posted on YouTube earlier this year, the video depicts six dressed-up guys and girls (their director stayed behind the camera) dancing around in an alley, on a roof, and in a living room to the hit song. Islamic Republic law states that women are not allowed to dance in public, and all seven of the group were detained that month. Now the sentence has been announced: jail time (six months to a year) for taking part in the video, and 91 lashes each for “ignoring Islamic norms.”
But there is good news, according to their attorney Farshid Rofugaran. “The happy part of the verdict is that it’s a three-year suspended sentence,” he said. “The verdicts won’t be carried out unless my clients are found guilty in a court of law for the next three years.” According to Rofugaran, they can accept the verdict or appeal within the 20 days after it’s delivered – he maintains that he will move forward in accordance with the group’s wishes. “My clients did act in a video, and their actions are contrary to religious requirements, but are not crimes to deserve legal punishment,” he continued. “Saying prayers is a religious obligation in Islam, but no one gets jail terms for not saying prayers… We are happy that both the prison sentences and the lashes are suspended.”
Originally published in May, the video shows the six twentysomethings dressed in goofy costumes, one of them wearing a hat similar to Pharrell’s. While some of them danced occasionally with each other in pairs, there was no blatant lewdness in the project. In their homemade credit reel, they listed their names left a simple message. “We have made this as Pharrell Williams’ fans in eight 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.” After their arrest, the seven Iranians were made to release repentant messages on state television, and were forced to say they regretted making the video. However, they had Pharrell’s support. “It’s beyond sad these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness,” he tweeted.