Iran issues lashings, imprisonment sentences for 7 who made Pharrell Williams 'Happy' fan video

An Iranian judge has issued suspended sentences to the seven young Iranians involved in the production and distribution of a music video set to Pharrell Williams' hit song "Happy."

By JC Finley
A photo of the music video participants that was uploaded to Instagram sometime in April 2014. (Instagram/Reihane Taravati)
A photo of the music video participants that was uploaded to Instagram sometime in April 2014. (Instagram/Reihane Taravati)

TEHRAN, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- The seven young Iranians who were arrested in May for making a Pharrell Williams' "Happy" fan video have been sentenced.

Sassan Soleimani, Reyhaneh Taravati, Neda Motameni, Afshin Sohrabi, Bardia Moradi and Roham Shamekhi were sentenced to prison time and lashings, said their lawyer, Farshid Rofougaran. The sentences were all suspended for a period of three years.


The six dancers who appear in the video were sentenced to six-months in prison and 91 lashes while the seventh was sentenced to a year in prison and 91 lashes.

Rofougaran said he is unsure whether his clients wish to appeal.

The group of friends had hoped to make the "Happy" fan video in time for the U.N.'s International Day of Happiness observance on March 20, but missed the deadline. The U.N. Foundation and Grammy Award-winning singer Pharrell Williams teamed up this year to encourage the public to submit YouTube videos featuring people dancing to Williams' "Happy" song in honor of the day.

Despite missing the deadline, the friends decided to upload and share the dance video once it was completed.


Shortly after the video was posted online, Tehran Police Chief Hossein Sajedinia ordered the arrests of those involved for making an "obscene video clip that offended the public morals and was released in cyberspace." Iranian officials released them on bail after their arrests and after forcing the filmmakers to apologize publicly.

"With these sentences, the absurd meets the unjust," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa. "If confirmed, it would be a ludicrous outcome; these individuals will have been convicted and branded criminals purely for making a music video celebrating happiness. The youths should never have been paraded before state TV to 'confess' nor brought to trial."

In Iran, suspended sentences are usually not carried out unless there are repeat offenses during the period of suspension.

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