Happiness might have run its course for the six young Iranians who were arrested in May for singing and dancing their way through Tehran to the popular song by Pharrell Williams. Local reports indicate that the group that made the "Happy in Iran" music video received their sentence on Wednesday: 91 lashes and suspended prison terms.
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— Persian Banoo (@persianbanoo)September 17, 2014
According to a report from the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, the group was found guilty of "participation in the making of a vulgar clip" and "illegitimate relations between members." Five of the participants were handed six-month suspended jail sentences, while the director reportedly received a one-year suspended prison term. Each group member was sentenced to 91 lashes.
"A suspended sentence becomes null and void after a certain period of time," the group's lawyer, Farshid Rofougaran, told Iran Wire. "When it's a suspended sentence, the verdict is not carried out, but if during this period a similar offense is committed, then the accused is subject to legal punishment and the suspended sentence will then be carried out as well." he said. In this case, the sentence will expire after three years.
The video, which showed three women without veils singing Pharrell Williams's hit along with three men in locations throughout Tehran, was posted online in April and quickly racked up more than 165,000 views before it was taken down. Copies of the video continue to circulate, however.
The participants were arrested in May on the grounds of violating the country's vulgarity laws, and were forced to publicly apologize on Iranian state television.
In the broadcast after the group's initial arrest this spring, government authorities referred to the video as an "obscene video clip that offended the public morals," according to the state-run Iranian Student News Agency. The Iranians were shown being questioned by a police officer.
"Our dear youths should try to avoid these kinds of people and these kinds of problems," the police officer told a reporter. "They should be absolutely certain that we were able to discover and identify those individuals in a very short time."
The initial arrests sparked the hashtag #freehappyiranians, and drew international response and criticism, including from the song creator himself. "It is beyond sad that these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness," Pharrell posted on Facebook.
Back in May, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani weighed in on the arrests as well, tweeting:
Social media reports at the end of May, indicated the group had been granted bail before the trial. The video's art director, Reihane Taravati, posted a picture of herself on Instagram at the time with the caption, "Hi I'm back. Thank you @pharrell and everyone who cared about us love you all so much and missed you so much."
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Additional reporting by Olivia Becker