The 2010 murder of young journalist Sardasht Osman shocked the world

By Mufid Abdulla:

Sardasht Osman

Sardasht Osman

This is an edited version of an article that first appeared on 11 May 2010, shortly after the brutal murder of Sardasht Osman. Three years on, journalists continue to be victimised in the south of Kurdistan and Sardasht’s killers still walk free.

This is the shocking story of the young journalist, Sardasht Osman, who was kidnapped on 4th May 2010 and two days later his body was found near to the PUK headquarters in Mosul. This crime has not only shocked many people in the south of Kurdistan, where the murder took place, but the news has shocked people all around the world. Sardasht was a correspondent for several websites and electronic newspapers. The air of Kurdistan is thick with a sense of injustice, and, as the body of Sardasht is taken back to Erbil from Mosul, people are asking what will happen next and, perhaps, who will be next?

Everyone from my parents’ generation who lived through the civil war is worried; that was a very bloody conflict and the two ruling parties, the KDP and the PUK, are still an influential force in Kurdistan. This was a brutal act upon young Sardasht, who was kidnapped in broad daylight and murdered in a cold-blooded way two days later. There is a responsibility among all our nations, and especially amongst the world of journalism, not avert our eyes from the realities of this situation. There is a continuous conspiracy against the free press in the south of Kurdistan.

Amnesty International have raised their voice and urged the authorities in Kurdistan “to set up an investigation line on this crime and bring the murderers to justice”. As stated in the New York Times, by Sam Dagher, one of Osman’s friends has accused the KDP security forces in Erbil of committing this crime. Other comments have included; eminent Kurdish writer Jalal Dabag, who described the murder “as another crime against Journalism”; the communist party of Kurdistan “express disbelief as to how it could be possible in the centre of Erbil, the regional capital, and in the daytime to kidnap and take someone to Mosul, considering all of the control points of the security surrounding Erbil”; Kurdistannet.org “asked for the resignation of the minister for security” and they are holding the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) responsible for this crime.

The Islamic Union of Kurdistan has stated that “this is a frightening alert to the lives of our citizens in Kurdistan, and we request from the authority to devote time and resources to find the killers”. Kurdish newspapers in general are urging for a mass response to this crime. The Kurdish website sbeiy.com has contacted the chief-of-police in Erbil about the case and was told that the police do not have any information about the death or kidnapping. Is this possible? The KDP’s central committee for media has issued a statement on Monday condemning the crime but not as anything new, just a routine piece to fill the media gap.

The President of Kurdistan’s spokesman issued a condemnation statement in which it is promised that these murderers will be brought to justice. People want the President of Kurdistan and other leaders to come down from their tourist resorts and come to meet the people in the cities and towns of Kurdistan.

The committee of the members of Kurdistan Parliament belonging to the Gorran movement issued a statement on the 6th May. The students and lecturers from the University of Sulaymaniah have demonstrated in front of the University as a protest against the killers of Sardasht Osman. One of the lecturers in the College of Economy and Administration, Rizan Hama Rashid, told reporters that, “this nation has shed so much blood for their freedom and liberation; nobody understands what this is for”.

Also, today, 78 Kurdish writers and intellectuals have united to condemn the murder of journalist Sardasht Osman. Feelings and fear are running high. The prominent human rights activist and writer Kadir Nadir has described the ruling parties as al-Qaida and Erbil as Guantanamo Bay. He continues to comment about the ruling authority in Erbil that, not even Hitler or Mussolini could stop the wave of history; it means that the ruling clans cannot stop the process of history. In reality today’s Erbil is similar to Fallujah, not Dubai, as the KDP ruling leader wishes it to be. Youth movements all over Kurdistan – Halabja, Ranya, Qaldse, Erbil – in different ways have expressed their anger and condemnation of the barbaric killing of this courageous young man.

The Minister for High Education in Kurdistan, Dr Dlawar Aladdin, stated in the Voice of America that this crime looks more like a personal matter rather than a political one. I am not surprised at this well-educated man from the UK for this elaboration. Regardless of whether or not this is a ‘personal’ crime, the authorities still have a duty and the responsibility to work out what has happened.

Karwan Saleh, a Member of the Kurdish Parliament, has stated that “it is obvious that Sardasht Osman was kidnapped on 4th May in front of the security people of the University”.

Lvinpress and their editor-in-chief Ahmed Mira – who has himself been subjected to an assassination attempt – have warned that the authorities of the KRG as likely to be responsible for all cases like this in Kurdistan.

Finally, Erbil can be a brutal place. That has been demonstrated this week by the savagery inflicted on Sardasht Osman. Journalists are powerless as the tide of bullets and violence creeps ever higher. Events like this are more likely to ignite an uprising and civil war than anything else. The two ruling parties up to now could not avert such a crime, which most of the time seems to be conducted in competing against each other in economic corruption. The KRG cannot help but see that the dominance of these two ruling parties is a burden to the people. The only answer for this crime is for the President and the KRG to come to people and explain to them why this has happened and what kind of measures they have to take in order to stop such occurrences.

The question begging an answer is this: how is it possible – in broad daylight and in front of the security officers – that such a kidnapping and subsequent murder has taken place?