Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has seemingly waded into the debate surrounding the arrest of a group of Iranians for recreating a tribute to Pharrell Williams’ Happy video.
On Wednesday a Twitter account operated by Rouhani’s aides tweeted: "#Happiness is our people's right. We shouldn't be too hard on behaviors caused by joy." 29/6/2013
The tweet is believed by many to reference the incident, which was branded “a vulgar clip which hurt public chastity” by Tehran police chief Hossein Sajedinia.
"#Happiness is our people's right. We shouldn't be too hard on behaviors caused by joy." 29/6/2013— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) May 21, 2014
The arrests saw hundreds of protesters repost the video with the hashtag #FreeHappyIranians. Even singer Pharrell Williams tweeted his dismay, calling the incident “beyond sad”.
Rouhani’s appears to reference a previous speech he delivered on 26 June last year.
Giving hints he would consider loosening some of the restrictions imposed by the country’s “morality police”, he said: “Happiness is our people’s right.
“We should not be strict toward the people. People follow the morality codes by themselves and are careful about them.”
“Rouhani appears to have taken a position in what appears to be a pretty high profile publicity stunt by the police or whoever organised the arrests.”
But Karami stops short of suggesting there will be more from Rouhani on the issue.
“This is part of a coordinated effort by his team. I don’t think he is going to directly address this issue. This is about as much as you might expect for now,” he said.
But he added: “It makes people hopeful, it gives people a certain level of hope that the President understands some of the needs of the people.”
Moderate cleric Rouhani was elected last June with a clear 51% majority, beating conservative Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf and hardline nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.
Since the arrests the performers in the video have “confessed” on Iranian state TV.
One woman, with her back to the camera says: “They had promised us it won’t be broadcast.
“They told me they are making a feature film and they had a permit for it. They said those things and they fooled me."
A presenter addresses a policeman to ask: “Officer please give some advice to those who take advantage of our young people.”
He replies: “Here’s my advice to them. They should be absolutely certain that we were able to discover and identify these individuals in a very short time. We will certainly find out about who they are and confront them."
On Wednesday afternoon there were unconfirmed reports on Twitter that the arrested performers had been released on bail - though not the director of the video.