Death of a Critic of Iraqi Kurdish
By Namo Abdulla
Who Killed Sardasht Osman?
October 6, 2010
Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — Recently, Iraq’s Kurdish
authorities accused an Islamic militant group of
responsibility for the abduction and murder of a
campaigning journalist, Sardasht Osman.
Mr. Osman was a young freelance journalist who
leveled harsh criticisms at the leadership of Iraq’s
semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, writing about
allegations of nepotism and corruption.
In a televised confession, a man identified by the
Kurdish security forces as Hisham Mahmoud Ismaeel,
said to be a member of the radical Sunni group Ansar
al-Islam, said last week that he was the driver of
the mini-bus in which Mr. Osman was kidnapped
outside his college here in Erbil on May 4.
Kurdish journalist and student Sardasht Osman, killed in May after writing articles
critical of the rule of Kurdistan president Massoud
Mr. Ismaeel accused Mr.
Osman of having ties with Ansar al-Islam, and said
that he was taken to Mosul and killed because he had
not kept a promise to do — unspecified — work for
the radical group. But he was not specific about the
nature of the alleged ties that Mr. Osman had with
The announcement was the preliminary result of a
secret inquiry set up by the region’s president,
Massoud Barzani, about four months ago. But it has
failed to convince many people, who believe rather
that Mr. Osman was a secular journalist who was
killed for the scathing Web posts that he had
written against the Kurdish authorities.
Public skepticism about the official version
increased after Ansar al-Islam itself denied that it
was behind Mr. Osman’s murder.
“If we kill or kidnap someone, we will announce it
ourselves. We don’t need anybody to lie for us,” the
group said in a statement that was published in
Kurdish newspapers. “We consider the kidnappings and
killings we may carry out a prayer for which we
shall get rewarded by God.”
Ansar al-Islam is a Kurdish offshoot of Al-Qaeda. It
has been defunct since the outbreak of the 2003 war,
when the United States bombed its bases in the
Hawraman region near Sulaimaniyah. Its leader,
Mullah Krekar, now lives in Norway.
Mr. Osman’s family said they were “shocked” by the
findings, describing them as nothing but a
“scenario” set up by Mr. Barzani’s ruling Kurdistan
Democratic Party (KDP) to defame the character of
Mr. Osman. He was particularly critical of Mr.
“The truth is that Sardasht was a journalist and
that he was assassinated because of his journalistic
work and criticism of the injustice of Kurdish
society,” said Mr. Osman’s brother, Bakir Osman. He
insisted that his brother was secular, not a
However Nerwan Azhee, a spokesman for the Kurdish
security forces in Erbil, dismissed criticism of the
“They are all illegitimate and baseless
accusations,” said Mr. Azhee, who said that Mr.
Osman himself was not suspected of being a
terrorist. “We have hard evidence to prove that he
was killed by Ansar al-Islam.” He added, “We are
going to publish more detailed evidence about Mr.
Osman’s link to the group.”
Independent and opposition newspapers have started a
campaign raising questions about the inquiry. While
his killing is the most serious incident so far,www.ekurd.netKurdish
journalists have long complained of harassment,
intimidation, assaults and arrests by the Kurdish
authorities. In 2009, 357 such cases were recorded
by the Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate.
The findings seem to have actually fueled rather
than soothed the anger of the people, who staged
Kamal Rauf, editor in chief of Hawlati, the first
independent newspaper in the Kurdish region, says
the committee that carried out the investigation was
“I cannot say the findings are untrue. This needs a
backup,” said Mr. Rauf. “But they are not
Even those who believe in the results of the
investigation fear that the abduction of a writer
during rush hour in Erbil indicates a resurgence of
Ansar al-Islam in what has until now been the safest
region of Iraq.
As the United States prepares for next year’s full
withdrawal after it has reduced the size of its
troops to an almost 50,000, one questions remains to
be posed: Is Kurdistan, which has portrayed itself
as democratic secular, secure, going to survive?
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author or news agency, atwar.blogs.nytimes.com
The Kurdish journalist Sardasht Osman was critical
of the Kurdistan regional government KRG and its
head, Massoud Barzani.
He wrote extensively on how corrupted Barzani’s
government has become. But it seems the Barzanis –
the powerful tribe which Massoud leads – could not
tolerate his criticism,www.ekurd.netparticularly in an article
which appeared in the online journal, Kurdistan
last article, "I
am in love with Massoud Barzani’s daughter" was a
satire of the privileges you would carry if you did
belong to the family of the Kurdish president
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