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Student Video Proves You Can Never Be Too Happy (Well, Maybe in Iran)
By: Jeannine Wheeler
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Iran has arrested seven college students who created a video of them dancing to Pharrell Williams’ pop hit “Happy.” Does Iran care about criticism of this latest example of seemingly extremist views on freedom? The jury is out.

At least someone is happy

A group of students, filmmakers, and photographers made the “Happy” video during the Persian New Year at the end of March, which was an instant hit on Iranian social media sites. After the student video went viral, it wasn’t long before the party stopped.

Security forces quickly tracked them down, arresting all the young men and women who appeared in the video.  When interviewed by an Iranian state TV reporter, the students outwardly expressed remorse.

And while they voiced sorrow for their "mistake," arresting authorities could not be shamed for theirs. Said Tehran’s police commander: "They should rest assured that police can very quickly and in a short time discover these cases. We can certainly spot and confront these people," he warned.

But is there a softening among the most senior of Iranian leadership and some sensitivity to world opinion?

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani tweeted (in an unofficial Twitter account widely believed to be associated with the president) a comment he made last year, saying:  “#Happiness is our people’s right. We shouldn’t be too hard on behaviors caused by joy.”

Internal tensions

Although the president is not the most powerful position of influence in the country, and few would accuse of him of overtly liberal views, he is at least less conformist than some who have taken to the streets of Tehran to demand authorities crack down on dress code violations and enforce the code on women. As you would imagine, the women in the video were not covered.

There are unconfirmed reports that some or all of the students have been released, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Reportedly, the video director is still in custody.

The video and its aftermath are yet another manifestation of what appears to be a dangerous balance of forces at work within the country to reform or conform to institutional social values. It is ironic that a “Happy” video is the latest catalyst for spotlighting this dynamic phenomenon.

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About the Author
Jeannine Wheeler is a PR Director who has worked in three countries, including Russia, the US and the UK. She is currently Sr. Vice President of Pure Energy PR, a full-service boutique communications firm with a focus on the energy, healthcare, technology, construction, real estate & land development, tourism & hospitality and food & beverage industries. Jeannine is in the firm's Austin, Texas office.
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