UW student: 'Happy' video arrest bolsters Iran stereotype



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Posted on May 21, 2014 at 11:13 PM

Updated Thursday, May 22 at 6:34 AM

Six Iranian young people are free after their music video to the popular song "Happy" landed them under arrest.

According to the International Campaign for Human Rights, the director is still in custody.

"I've done plenty of it and I've never been arrested," said Shirin Lotfi.

Lotfi is an Iranian student at the University of Washington who travels regularly to her hometown of Tehran. She calls music videos posted online a common form of self-expression for youth in her county.

"Actually last night I almost cried," Lotfi said. "This happens a lot. I even have some with my friends."

For Lotfi, their arrest and subsequent parading in front of state TV bolsters a perception of Iran that she and others are trying to change.

"It makes me stand out even more because when I say I'm Iranian, everyone's like "Ah... you're Iranian? You don't look Iranian. You don't act Iranian," Lotfi said. "And I'm like, 'How does and Iranian look? Do you even know?"

The reasons for the arrests are hazy, but the youth were forced to apologize for their obscene video that offended public morals.

"I saw how they were dressed and it reminded me of Seattle," Lotfi said.

Lotfi's friends sent her text messages when they learned of the video, now at the center of international controversy. One wrote, "You're going back to that country?"

“I think those youth really wanted to show the world that it’s not as dangerous. We’re not as crazy,” Lotfi explained.

Pharrell Williams, the musician behind the pop hit, tweeted "It's beyond sad these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness."

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also tweeted his own quote from last year: "#Happiness is our people's right. We shouldn't be too hard on behaviors caused by joy."

Though the six participants are free, Lotfi hopes the world doesn't focus on their arrest.

"Look at us behind the wall. We're like this. We dress like this.  We're just like you. We listen to the songs you listen to," she said. "Iranians are happy people."