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Young Iranian fans arrested over Pharrell Happy video

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A group of six young men and women have been arrested and forced to repent on state television in Iran after they appeared in a video dancing to Pharrell William's hit Happy.

The homemade music video, titled "Happy We Are from Tehran", was uploaded to YouTube last month. It shows the fans dancing around on a rooftop and in a private flat to the beats of Pharrell's eponymous upbeat tune.

"We have made this video as Pharrell Williams' Fans in 8 hours, with iPhone 5S. "Happy" was an excuse to be happy. We enjoyed every second of making it. Hope it puts a smile on your face," reads a message at the end.

The video was part of a global phenomenon that has seen hundreds of covers of Happy uploaded and promoted on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook feeds across the world.

The Pharrell fans appeared on state TV in Iran yesterday to confess to making the video, which Tehran's police chief Hossein Sajedinia described as "obnoxious".

"We launched a police investigation in cooperation with the judicial authorities and identified and arrested the accused within six hours," he told Iran's official news agency Isna.

During their appearance on TV, the group said that they had no idea the footage would be broadcast.

"They had promised us not to publish the video," a young women said on the programme.

The broadcast included a warning for young people not to get involved in viral videos, with Tehran police describing thehigh-spirited broadcast as "a vulgar clip which hurt public chastity".

"Our dear youths should try to avoid these kinds of people," said Sajedinia. "Like actors, singers, and these kinds of problems. Try to avoid it."

The original video drew in over 165,000 views on YouTube before being removed after it attracted the attention of Iran's morality police.

But the crackdown and TV confession appear to have backfired as far as public opinion is concerned.

Already, two more covers of Happy made in Iran have sprung up in YouTube, while Iranians and others reacted with fury to the fans' public humiliation.

"Iran is a country where being "happy" is a crime," tweeted Iranian journalist Golnaz Esfandiari, as the hashtag #freehappyiranians was rapidly picked up and distributed online.

Pharrell himself tweeted, "It's beyond sad these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness."

The episode came as President Hassan Rouhani delivered a speech over the weekend arguing that Iran should embrace the internet rather than view it as a threat.

"We must recognize our citizens’ right to connect to the World Wide Web," said Rouhani. He has urged greater personal freedom in Iran on several occasions since being elected last year, but faces opposition from influential conservative forces such as the country's Revolutionary Guards.

TV confessions are common in Iran. Human Rights groups have denounced this method of extracting statements that may have been made under duress from the state.

It's not clear in this latest incident whether the group had access to lawyers, or when or how they will be tried.

Photos: Rex Features

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