Sites such as YouTube and Facebook are blocked by censors, though many young and Web-savvy Iranians use proxy servers or other workarounds to bypass the controls.
“We should see the cyberworld as an opportunity,” said Rouhani, according to the official IRNA news agency. “Why are we so shaky? Why don’t we trust our youth?”
Hard-liners accuse Rouhani of failing to stop the spread of what they deem “decadent” Western culture in Iran. Last week, hard-liners marched over women not wearing hijabs and dressing provocatively.
While Rouhani pursues a policy of social and cultural openness, hard-liners say the government should be tough to those who challenge interpretations of Islamic norms. They accuse Rouhani of showing leniency and too much tolerance toward those who question Islamic sanctities or women who are not sufficiently veiled.
The dancing Iranians would seem right at home in the West — or indeed in the music video that accompanies Williams’ song. Fans have posted similar videos from around the world, showing people dancing down streets and smiling in choreographed crowds.
But in Iran, some see the trend as promoting the spread of Western culture, as laws in the Islamic Republic ban women from dancing in public or appearing outside without covering her hair with the hijab. The government also bans some websites.
The video that got them in trouble shows hip 20-somethings hamming it up for the camera in sunglasses and silly clothes on Tehran rooftops and alleyways. One of the bearded men goofily dips his female dancing partner.
None of the three women in the video wears a hijab.
The video was posted online several weeks ago. It includes the participants’ first names in a credit roll with outtakes. They describe themselves as Williams fans, adding: “‘Happy’ was an excuse to be happy. We enjoyed every second of making it.”