Earlier this year, Iran caused a bit of a stir when it decided to arrest seven young Iranians for posting a YouTube video of them dancing to Pharrell's ubiquitous song "Happy." There was some brief outrage and eventually the story went away after the seven were released from jail. Today they learned that they have received suspended prison sentences, but that's only part of the story.
The small details went generally unnoticed. According to reports, after 100,000 people saw the video, the six were held in prison for three days, where they were not allowed to use toilets, kept in solitary confinement, and were reportedly forced to perform squats while naked in front of female guards. The director of the video was said to have been held longer.
Meanwhile, Iranian authorities ransacked at least one of their homes and eventually forced the six to confess to their crimes on national television. What were their crimes? As the Telegraph explained:
Authorities arrested the group for contravening Iran’s strict vulgarity laws, which prohibit public displays of dancing, and paraded the six on state television, forcing them to express remorse for their behaviour.
This week, there seem to be sighs of relief that the six Iranians who danced in the video as well as the other person who directed it, received suspended sentences. That's ridiculous.
As the Guardian noted, so long as they behave themselves for three years, they won't be forced serve sentences ranging from six months to one year, along with 91 lashes. Jail time for the video, lashes for violating Islamic norms.
Speaking with the AP, their lawyer said:
The happy part of the verdict is that it's a three-year suspended sentence. The verdicts won't be carried out unless my clients are found guilty in a court of law for the next three years."
Back in May, it was speculated that their release was secured by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who was hailed as a moderate by everyone with an internet connection, but vetted by Iran's Guardian Council before he could even run for president back in 2013. Rouhani tweeted a vaguely supportive statement.
"#Happiness is our people's right. We shouldn't be too hard on behaviors caused by joy." 29/6/2013— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) May 21, 2014
The sentences by Iranian courts show that what should be, simply isn't. A few Iran critics took the opportunity to remind the world of the greater hypocrisies that coalesce around this episode.
Iran, chair of the largest bloc at the UN Human Rights Council, just sentenced ‘Happy’ dancers to 6 months, 91 Lashes http://t.co/T05I6L1wJD— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) September 17, 2014
The sentencing comes just weeks after Iran hanged two men for reportedly being gay, just two of hundreds of executions to take place in Iran this year.