Home > Iran, Islam > Happy? You bet!

Happy? You bet!

Picture this. You live under one of the most repressive regimes possible, a dictatorship not only enforced by thugs, which would be bad enough, but by Islamist thugs, so that ideology and faith gone astray are stirred into the already unpalatable mix. (Gallup’s most recent rankings of positive emotions find Iran at #93 on a list of 138 countries. As for highest negative emotions in the world, Iran comes second only to Iraq.) You chafe, you fret, there must be an outlet. Iran’s population is young, often hip, and not easily cowed, as we saw in June 2009 when boys and girls in practically equal numbers took to the streets to protest rigged presidential elections.

These youths are irrepressible in their thrust toward freedom. Today, theirs is not a political struggle—they don’t want regime change, they don’t challenge the existing order, they don’t even care about the sinister robed and turbaned clowns in power. They have chosen a different route. You won’t let me write or express myself? Okay, I’ll sing, how about that? You won’t let me have the life I want? Then I’ll dance. Just try and stop me.

This is the new face of Iranian protest. A few weeks back, when Iranian boys and girls thought they could join the rest of the world (excepting dictatorships) in videotaping and posting themselves dancing to the Pharrell Williams song “Happy,” they were predictably thrown in jail for not respecting Islamic values of modesty and restraint. The police chief gloated as he described proudly how the six culprits–including the director, Sassan Soleimani, who goes by Sol–had been identified, received a phone call pretending that one of their friends had been involved in an accident and thus reeled in. The perpetrators of the hideous crime of daring to want to enjoy life were let go after a while, except Sol who spent nine days in jail, but the phenomenon gathered speed. After the first nasty arrests, other young people came forward with yet another videotaped “Happy” dance, this one right on the streets of Tehran, all the way to the foot of the white Azadi tower.

And there’s more. A “Happy Iranians” Facebook page, dozens of hashtags on Twitter, more videos being churned out with the Pharrell Williams song. This gentle movement winding its way through Iranian society must be keeping more than one mullah awake. How many people can the Islamic Republic punish? The new Iranian spring doesn’t feature street vendors setting fire to themselves (as did the man who brought about the Tunisian revolution), young women assassinated by the regime’s henchmen or massive and bloody demonstrations. Instead, kids dance in visible and joyful abandon to a pop song, and on the site “Stealthy Freedom,” with half a million likes, daring young women throw aside their headscarves and, bareheaded, pose for photos by waterfalls and highways, in meadows and in front of cityscapes (https://www.facebook.com/StealthyFreedom) The new protesters are healthy, joyful, determined and dancing rings around the awful regime.

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  1. June 8, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    The youth of Iran is using the “soft power of song” to stand up to tyranny. Bravo!

  2. MB
    June 8, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    What fun! Good to see another side of Tehran.

  3. Melinda Barnhardt
    June 10, 2014 at 11:49 pm

    I am moved to happy tears by this. Thank you so much, Saideh. I had read about the first video in the Iran Times International, but had missed the news of more. All the way to the Azadi tower: Yes!!!

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