TEHRAN, Iran — In a lopsided vote, the Iranian Parliament today outlawed “being conspicuously happy or taking pleasure in life” within the nation’s borders. The controversial law’s first offenders, six Iranian teens arrested for posting a video online in which they dance to Pharrell Williams’ hit song “Happy,” have been released on bail but reportedly suffered abuse while in custody.
Parliament Chairman Ali Larijani said the decision to outlaw “glee, gayness and all similarly-pleasant feelings”–at least those displayed openly–came after Iranian leaders realized that their people were managing to find some small amount of enjoyment and satisfaction in life, despite efforts by the government to create an oppressive and joyless society.
“Apparently, there are people using the Internet, the company of their friends, and music to have fun and experience delight,” Larijani said. “It’s extremely troubling.”
“Do these people know where they are?” Larijani continued. “There’s nothing fun or happy about living in Iran, and anyone who acts otherwise is either crazy or deceitful—and both deserve punishment.”
The law specifically mentions “engaging in dancing meant to spread joy” as an example of punishable behavior. Indeed, even before the law was officially passed, six Iranian teenagers had already been arrested for violating it.
On Sunday, Tehran police stormed the teenagers’ houses and arrested them for producing and starring in a YouTube video in which they danced to the mega-hit “Happy.” While in custody, the teens were reportedly deprived of bathroom privileges and the females were strip-searched; and on Tuesday the group was put on national television and forced to confess their crimes, apparently as a deterrent to other would-be lawbreakers.
“The Youth of Iran are being corrupted by the depraved and insidious amorality of the West,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a statement Tuesday. “These six were dancing and singing with an obvious exuberance and love of existence that threatens the very foundation of this Godly nation.”
All six have been released but still face charges, and police authorities are alleged to have threatened the teens’ families with harm if they did not post the significant bail required for their children’s release.
Larijani responded to critics—including Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who charged that “Happiness is [the Iranian] people’s right”—by arguing that “when it comes to pleasure, it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
“Today it’s dancing,” Larijani warned. “Tomorrow it could be puppy parades and falling in love. We needed to stop this before it got out of hand.”