Some believe that this was a quiet dismissal for Mr Esmaili. I disagree. Before this, he was in charge of prisons. Now he is one level higher where he can send people to prisons. If anything, this looks like a promotion.
There is no question that Esmaili should be placed under arrest. But this is Iran after all.
The reaction of the regime shows that brutality still rules.
More importantly, it shows fear. The regime is sending a message that anyone who rises against the regime will be violently put down, and anyone who helps the regime do this will be rewarded. That it will not back down.
The question we have to ask ourselves is: why now?
What is it about recent developments inside and outside of Iran which has made the regime so nervous? After all, the 2009 Green uprising is over. Its leaders are under house arrest. Iran has a new president who is a former insider and popular with the people. So what is making the regime so nervous and fearful these days?
The European parliament recently made a trip to Iran. It was the first such trip in seven years.
One of the issues which was looked at was internet in Iran.
This an interesting issue as it touches other important topics, such as freedom of speech as well as the power struggles between the different factions.
For example, we see recently saw that Rouhani’s government is trying to liberalize access to internet sites in Iran. Iran’s Minister of Culture (son of the powerful Ayatollah Jannati) publicly lambasted filtering of sites such as Facebook in Iran by likening it to “attempts to make videos and fax machines illegal immediately after the 1979 revolution.” He is right, that move did not work, nor does trying to block access to Facebook as the site apparently has 4 million users in Iran. People get around government filters by using Virtual Private Networks (VPN).
But will the minister for Culture succeed in officially liberalizing internet access in Iran? That depends, on the higher powers such as the security apparatus within the system and whether he can win the power struggle against them.
The Dutch European MP Marietje Schaake was part of the European delegation which visited Iran recently. We are friends on Twitter and I must say that when it comes to Iran, she is one of the most inquisitive and articulate European politicians on Twitter. She talks about this issue and the issue of human right in Iran.
On the 24th of March she spoke at the Atlantic Council in Washington DC about her visit. My friend Barbara Slavin moderated the session. I highly recommend it.