Iran frees Happy video dancers on bail, director remains in custody: Reports

A screengrab from the video of six young Iranians dancing on rooftops to US singer Pharrell Williams' hit Happy. The six were arrested for the video but have since been released on bail. -- PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE
A screengrab from the video of six young Iranians dancing on rooftops to US singer Pharrell Williams' hit Happy. The six were arrested for the video but have since been released on bail. -- PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

TEHERAN, May 21, 2014 (AFP) - Six young Iranians arrested for dancing on rooftops to US singer Pharrell Williams' hit Happy in a video that went viral on the Internet have been released on bail, reports said on Wednesday.

The reports were confirmed by Teheran-based fashion photographer Reihane Taravati, who along with her friends was arrested for what Teheran police chief Hossen Sajedinia called a "vulgar clip which hurt public chastity." "Hi I'm back," Ms Taravati said in a post on the Instagram website.

She was allegedly shown on state television Tuesday night repenting for the homemade video that was posted on YouTube last month and shared widely on Facebook and Instagram.

Recorded on a smart phone, the video shows three girls dancing in a room, on rooftops and in secluded alleys alongside three young men to Williams' Happy tune.

The clip has since gone viral, and been viewed more than 265,000 times.

Ms Taravati also thanked Williams for showing support during her brief detention.

The singer had protested over the treatment of the young Iranians on Twitter, saying: "It's beyond sad these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness" - referring to the idea behind his original video of dancing in the streets and be happy.

The Iranian authorities are yet to confirm the dancers' release on bail.

But according to sources on social media close to the youths, the clip's director remains in custody, facing an array of charges including "deceiving" the group.

The reports of their release came amid an apparent message of support for the group by Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, who is China on an official visit.

"Happiness is our people's right. We shouldn't be too hard on behaviours caused by joy," a Twitter account believed to be run by his close aides, #HassanRouhani, quoted the president from a speech in June 2013 shortly after his election.

Rouhani, a self-declared moderate, has long claimed to be for more social freedoms in Iran. But his push has been opposed by traditionalists and ultra conservatives that hold sway in the establishment.

The report of their arrest on Tuesday sparked a media frenzy and a storm on social media, with many Iranians expressing shock and some observers questioning whether it was a "crime to be happy in Iran." In the video, the girls are seen not properly observing the hijab, a series of rules that oblige women in Iran to cover their hair and much of their body when outside.

Dancing is prohibited in the Islamic republic, while mingling with the opposite sex is strictly frowned upon.

Conservatives are wary of young Iranians abandoning the values of the Islamic republic in favour of a Western lifestyle - a phenomenon authorities and leaders say is part a "soft-war" against Iran.