Friday, May 30, 2014

The Happy Iranian Video

Michael L.

All right, I simply cannot listen to this tune again.  Sure, it's snappy, but if I never hear it again in my life that will be just fine.

In any case, this is the actual video that allegedly got these Iranians in trouble with the authorities.

Writing for the Gatestone Institute, Avideh Motmaen-Far tells us:
After repenting on the national television, they were released on bail. The video, showing six Iranian young men and women dancing a carefree dance to Pharrel Williams' popular song, "Happy," was released in YouTube around a month ago. The initial impression was that this video was a "homemade" production. Soon after, an unusual wave of media attention was directed to this video. In an interview with IranWire, one of the youngsters who had danced in the video stated that the clip had been made with the aim of promoting the idea that Iran is a better place than many people in other parts of the world think.

In addition, Reihaneh Taravati, the art director of this video -- who was recently arrested and then released on bail -- had earlier criticized those who show the situation in Iran as "dark." She produced as evidence the very fact that a number of youngsters had been able on their own to release such a video while living in Iran. It was later revealed, however, that the video was not homemade, and that the director of the video was none other than Sasan Soleymani, the person who had made Rouhani's presidential campaign clip and had chosen purple as his electoral campaign color.

Parallel to this, on May 3, 2014, a campaign, named "My Stealthy Freedom," was launched on Facebook by the Iranian journalist, Masih Alinejad. This campaign encourages Iranian women to unveil in desolate places when there is nobody around -- hence, "stealthy" -- take pictures of themselves, and post them on their Facebook profiles. However, Alinejad also claims that the word stealthy is used deliberately to show that women are discriminated against in Iran...

None of this happened without warning. As soon as the "Happy" video appeared on the internet, for instance, Reza Parchizadeh, a political analyst and scholar at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, warned against being fooled by such propaganda, and called it an attempt by the Rouhani administration and its advocates to show to the world that they have made good on their promises. As he later wrote on his Facebook page: "These days it seems that there is a covert war going on between the reformist faction and the conservative faction of the Islamic Republic, with the people being its cannon fodder. The regime has reached a point where both sides sacrifice people for their own sake: one side encourages the people to do unconventional things to show that the situation has changed and the other side suppresses them to show that nothing has and neither is going to change."

Events and campaigns such as these, while claiming to be protests against the Islamic Republic, are really just caricatures of protest. Whereas in Tunisia and Egypt social media were used to mobilize the people to protest in public and overthrow tyrannical regimes, campaigns and events such as "Happy" and "My Stealthy Freedom" only scare away the people from public protest by directing them to do the undoable far from the public eye. One does not achieve freedom by dancing on rooftops and unveiling in desolate places. Freedom is only accomplished by standing eye to eye with the forces of oppression.
So, according to Avideh Motmaen-Far the whole thing is basically a political hoax designed to put a smiley face on a sinister regime.

What I would argue is that, whether or not this is true, it still represents a good sign.  My understanding, limited as it surely is, is that Iranian society, irrespective of their government, is among the more open and sophisticated cultures in the entire Muslim world.  Of course, that is not really saying much given the fact that the entire Muslim world is notoriously closed.

I suppose I still have enough lingering counterculture influences within me to think that young women dancing in a video made within a repressed society like Iran is a positive thing.  Obviously, we do not want to make too much of this particular little story, but it seems to resonate with people and definitely does so with me.

For those of you who anticipate listening, yet again, to "Happy" with all the enthusiasm that one normally reserves for root canal surgery, you can skip it and just get a sense from the picture below.

Not a burka in sight.


And, I have to say, if this was a PR stunt by the Rouhani administration then it was brilliantly done.

They definitely fooled me... but who says that is difficult?

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