Alongside the horrid statistics of 113 hangings in one month (a “record” so far) in Iran, other human rights news hit the headlines.
Although some of these abuses might seem trivial in relation to capital punishment, they are reminders that the abuse of human rights in Iran permeates all of its society and is not limited to its prisons.
Nearly happy ending to “Happy” video
Six young people get together to make a video based on Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy”. They dance, “sing”, laugh, play-act and seem…happy. Here are the closing credits of the video: “We have made this video as Pharrell Williams’ fans…”Happy” was an excuse to be happy. We enjoyed every second of making it. Hope it puts a smile on your face.”
The video was uploaded to youtube and suddenly, they are all arrested for creating an “obscene video clip that offended the public morals” and undergo humiliation while in detention. President Rouhani disagreed and used Twitter to show so: “#Happiness is our people’s right. We shouldn’t be too hard on behaviors caused by joy”.
Within days, the video garnered over a million views, the participants apologized on national television and were released on bail but the clip’s director, Sassan Soleimani (who happens to have also produced Rouhani’s election videos), is still in solitary confinement awaiting prosecution. The freed participants were pressured to file a lawsuit against Soleimani in order to portray him as the ringleader.
The incident sparked a flurry of efforts by the authorities to impede social media and to ensure the enforcement of wearing hijabs.It also raised questions as to whther it was not a clever PR ploy by Rouhani and his team to show a “happier” side of Iran.
Kiss on cheek in Cannes sparks hate
The red carpet at the Cannes film festival – Leila Hatami, Iran’s leading actress offers her hand to Gilles Jacob, the president of the festival, who in turn kisses her cheek.
This kiss was seen back home as an “inappropriate presence” which was “not in line with religious beliefs” and hurt the “credibility and chastity of Iranians”.
A complaint was filed by Hezbollah Students (affiliated with IRGC) and Hatami found herself facing a public flogging and imprisonment. She bit the bullet and issued an apology “for hurting the feelings of some people” as well as an explanation in that Jacob “had forgotten the aforementioned rules” probably due to his old age (83). Hatami went on to explain that she “was embarrassed to give these explanations” but she probably knew that if she didn’t she would have to face a court and possibly a humiliating punishment.
The charges have not been officially dropped yet but her apology might suffice to get her off the hook…this time.
Showing Hair Justifies Rape
Recently, an article was published on Tasnim, and IRGC site, which epitomizes the huge gulf between basic human rights and the law in Iran.
According to the article, a woman whose head is not covered by a hijab is not only inciting rape but is also oppressing the rights of men around her. A hijab-free woman sexually arouses men who “have a right to have their sexual needs fulfilled” and since she did not ask their consent to show her body, they did not need her consent to have sex with her. By not having sex with her, the men who had to “endure” her hijab-free presence are being oppressed because they have to restrain themselves.
If people being happy can land them in jail and a kiss on the cheek can lead to a public flogging, what would be the fate of a women speaking out against such a flimsy justification of rape?