Updated: May 22nd, 7:30 a.m.
The six young Iranians who were arrested for appearing in an original tribute to American singer Pharrell Williams’s hit song “Happy” on the Internet have been released, according to members of the group, though the director of the film remains incarcerated, according to CNN.
Officials reprimanded the men and women, who claimed they were tricked to participate in the video, during Tuesday’s evening news broadcast on state television, IranWire reported. Tehran Chief of Police Hossein Sajedinia implored them not to be deceived again and he also praised his security personnel’s quick reaction of identifying the individuals.
“It is beyond sad that these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness,” singer Pharrell said of the individuals in a post on his Facebook page. The hashtag #freehappyIranians spread quickly and voices around the world called for the young people’s release.
On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appeared to tweet in their defense with a quote from an old speech; singer Pharrell responded directly to the tweet.
The video features three unveiled women and three men dancing to the pop song in the streets and on rooftops in Tehran, the capital of Iran. The country has conservative laws in place restricting the type of content residents can broadcast on television and the web, as well as a rule forbidding women from appearing in public without a veil.
According to IranWire, the video existed online a month before authorities made the arrests, and was viewed by more than 165,000 people. The families paid the Iranian equivalent of $10,000 for the men and women’s release from jail, according to the article.
The popular song, which has been widely hailed for its uplifting message, includes lyrics about sunshine, a hot air balloon and understanding the meaning of happiness. The chorus includes repetitions of the phrase: “Can’t nothing bring me down.” Williams first wrote and produced the song last November. Featured on the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack album, it reached No. 1 on the charts in the United States and at least 20 other countries.
Other individuals around the world have made similar homemade videos inspired by the song. Williams, a multi-Grammy Award winner, was moved to tears during an interview with Oprah Winfrey when she showed him the global impact of his music.
“It’s overwhelming because I love what I do,” a sobbing Williams said. “I just appreciate the fact that people have believed in me for so long, that I can make it to this point to feel that.”
Rob Maiden, captain of the Dallas Mavericks dance team, showcased his talent in a dance routine with his 15-year-old son set to the song during the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s championship game last month. The popular a cappella group Pentatonix also generated their own version which has since gone viral. Additionally, comedian Ellen DeGeneres earlier this week brought the members of the Detroit Academy of Arts & Sciences show choir to her studio for a live serenade of “Happy.”