From David Anthony Hohol…
Iran is a beautiful country and so are its people. During my time there, I have never seen a group more disconnected from their nation’s leadership, never seen a government less representative of its populace. In nearly a decade, I never once came across an individual in full support of the Iranian government and its policies. People on our side of the global village forget, or are unaware of the fact, that prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution, which was brought on by American interference and their installation of the Shaw, Iran was the most progressive country in the region. Nowhere in the Middle East were women treated with more equality, was secularism more infused, and both critical thinking and creativity more encouraged.
I’ve been to underground night clubs in Tehran, enjoyed fine malt whiskey in Isfahan, and watched scantily clad dancers on Kish Island, all of which are forbidden. I’ve cruised up and down tree-covered Valaisr Street, the longest in the Middle East, windows rolled down, music pumping everything from Eminem to Metallica, as cars and SUVs filled with young men and women laugh, dance, and flirt the night away. Such is real life in Iran.
But like so much of the leadership in the region, their government lives in denial.
As many have heard by now, six young Iranian nationals uploaded a video tribute to the Pharrell Williams song “Happy”. They recorded and edited it on an iPhone, uploaded it to YouTube, then promoted it on Facebook and Instagram. They were, for a lack of a better term, being normal, having fun and being happy, embracing their youth and creativity and using the tools afforded to them by a technological revolution that knows no borders or limitations, regardless of government or country. They were also taking part in what has become an online global phenomenon, resulting in literally hundreds of cover versions of the happy tune being recorded in well over one hundred countries. If nothing less, this collection of young souls wanted to demonstrate that although they live in the midst of censorship and difficulty, they too experience joy and happiness, they too see the world around them, want to others to see that they do and want to connect. Connectivity is the underlying current from which all social media flows and has become the life blood of today’s generation in the process. The youth of Iran are no different. They are as much a part of it as anyone else.
Ironically and perhaps befittingly, almost immediately after Iran’s president denounced Internet censorship, these six young Iranians were arrested and forced to repent on state television for the horrible offense of proclaiming themselves to be “Happy.” Tehran’s police chief issued a statement saying that the youth of Iran “will not to be seduced by… a vulgar clip, which hurt(s) public chastity.”
Are you @#%^ing kidding me?
The arrest of the young dancers, and their televised public humiliation, has angered Iranians at home and around the world. Such actions once again reveal the total disconnect the government has with its own people and further still, from the global village of which they are a part. Such crackdowns serve only to make the Islamic Republic of Iran look fearful, ignorant, naive, ridiculous, and above all else, a very weak participant in the international culture war being waged online and beyond.
It’s when taking all this into consideration that a silly video of young people being happy becomes both beautiful and important; a shiny splinter of the human soul from which we can all draw upon. In the end, its message is simple – wherever you may find yourself in this big, wide world, don’t stop being happy and most of all, don’t stop being human. In the end, our humanity is all we will ever have to truly call our own.