A Viral Dance and ‘Happiness Campaign’ Frustrates Iran’s Clerics

A new form of protest against the government is rocking Iran: a viral dance craze set to an upbeat folk song where crowds clap and chant the rhythmic chorus, ‘oh, oh, oh, oh.’

In cities across Iran men and women of all ages are gyrating their hips, swirling their arms in the air, and chanting the song’s catchy lines, according to videos posted on social media, television news channels like BBC Persian and Iranians interviewed.

People are dancing on the streets, in shops, at sport stadiums, in classrooms, malls, restaurants, gyms, parties and everywhere else they congregate. In Tehran traffic was stopped in a major highway tunnel for an impromptu dance party to the song. Young women, hair uncovered and flowing, dance in parks and young men performed a choreographed hip-hop dance.

A group of men in Tehran dance to the viral song that is driving what’s being called the “happiness campaign.”

“It’s obvious that joining this dance trend sends a strong message,” said Mohammad Aghapour, 32, a DJ who goes by the professional name DJSonami, in an interview from Tehran. “It’s a way of protesting and demanding our freedom and happiness.”

In most countries dancing and singing in public would not be considered taboo. But in Iran, dancing in public, especially by women and between men and women, is banned. Although the rule is regularly defied enforcing it has been arbitrary. Music, dancing and singing are deeply rooted in Iran’s culture and attempts by Islamic clerics to take that way in their 43 years of rule has by and large failed.

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