Couple holding hands (© Shutterstock)
(© Shutterstock)

Wanting his marriage proposal to be memorable, a young man in Arak, Iran, arranged flower petals in the shape of a heart on the floor of a popular mall in March, surrounded the area with colorful balloons, and proposed marriage to his beloved while onlookers cheered.

Photos and videos of the moment quickly went viral.

But the couple’s moment of joy quickly turned to horror. They were arrested for offending Islamic mores on public decency and later released on bail.

Their “offense is very clear and there is no need for explanation,” Mostafa Norouzi, deputy police chief in Arak, told the local press. He said it was unacceptable for young people “to do whatever is common in other places of the world and disregard mores, culture and religion” in Iran.

The Iranian regime’s Fars news agency called the public proposal “shameful” and claimed it could promote “immorality.” Fars demanded “harsh” punishment to stop such displays from being repeated by others.

“Happy” music also put on notice

Just a few weeks before the couple in Arak were arrested, journalists in Semnan were banned from covering the musical group Rastik at Iran’s annual Fajr Music Festival, because state officials found the band’s music to be too “happy.”

“This band performs happy music and if clips from their performance are published on social media, the enemy will take advantage of it,” the deputy director of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Sima Rajabi, said in a February interview with the Islamic Republic News Agency.

Worse than being too cheerful, “there are women who play instruments in this band and therefore members of the media are absolutely forbidden from taking photos or filming,” Rajabi added.

The U.S. steadfastly supports the Iranian people. “We ultimately want the Iranian people to have their voices heard,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview on peace and stability in the Middle East in February. “They’ll make their voices heard. They’ll assert their power. These are smart people, capable people, with a deep and rich history.”

This story draws from the Associated Press.