Saturday, May 15, 2010

The murder of the journalist Sardasht Osman in Iraqi Kurdistan

  • 14/05/2010

This report is written by a group of people who are experts in different walks of life, which focuses our minds on the main issues that need to be addressed in the case of kidnapping and killing of the young Kurdish journalist Sardasht Osman in the regional capital controlled by KDP. It is the duty of the Kurdistan authorities to address these issues. However, on Friday, the KDP politburo issued a statement which diverted the attention from the main issues and attempted to start an internal conflict with Goran movement. It will be wrong for Goran to fail in this trap. Despite the KDP statement, these issues are outstanding and it is for the KRG authorities to address them. Otherwise the credibility of the KRG is seriously under question.

The sequence of events

According to relatives and friends, Mr. Osman was abducted by a group of men in a white minibus immediately after he was dropped off on Tuesday morning, 4th May 2010, by his brother Sardar Osman opposite the main entrance of the liberal arts college of the University of Salahaddin. He was to have graduated from the university in June with a degree in English.

Sardar Osman, who said he did not see the kidnapping, said that his brother got out in front of the Fine Arts Institute, where at least half a dozen soldiers from the well-trained Zerevani unit, which is under the control of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), guard the gate at all times.

Another brother, Beshdar Osman, said that his brother received a threatening phone call in January, telling him to leave Erbil. “The reason was his writing,” he said.

On Thursday, 6 May 2010, Bashdar found the remains of this brother, bearing signs of torture and gunshots in the head, in the suburbs of Mosul province, which is outside the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), but where KDP maintains an influential presence.

The pieces of the puzzle

First: Is Iraqi Kurdistan penetrated by terrorists?

“This work is beyond the capability of one person or one small group,” read a statement issued on Thursday, May 6th, 2010, and signed by 75 Kurdish journalists, editors and intellectuals.

Can an external group penetrate the city, kidnap a journalist student during the daylight in a public area and transfer them across the KRG borders? The New York Times on May 7th, 2010 elaborated further: Some Kurdish journalists and Mr. Osman’s friends accused members of the security forces, which are controlled by the parties, of direct involvement in the crime. Reporters without Borders on May 6th, 2010 provided another explanation: The city of Erbil, where Osman was kidnapped, is mostly controlled by the KDP, whose leader, Massoud Barzani, is Kurdistan’s President. His son, Masrur Barzani, heads the KDP’s security services.

Second: Are vehicles unchecked during inter-governorate travel?

Kidnappers will have to travel through security checkpoints to reach Mosul from the regional capital Erbil. Can an external group pass a kidnapped individual in a vehicle and move via all the security checkpoints, including the main one, which is on the regional border with Iraq? The simple answer is this: it is almost impossible. The statement by 75 Kurdish journalists gets close to answer this questions: “To kidnap a journalist in the regional capital; taking him outside the Kurdistan region; and killing him, raises serious questions. This act cannot be done by one person or a small group of people. We believe the Kurdistan regional government and its security forces are responsible first and foremost and they are supposed to do everything in order to find this evil hand.”

Third: Who controls the KRG capital, where the abduction occurred?

Erbil and Duhok and controlled by Kurdistan Democratic Party, which is led by the president of Kurdistan region, Mr. Masoud Barzani.

Fourth: Why was Sardasht Osman murdered?

The Committee to Protect Journalists provided the answer: Osman’s brother, Bashdar, told CPJ that he was convinced that Sardasht was killed because of a critical article he wrote in the independent daily Ashtinam in April about a high-ranking Kurdistan Regional Government official. “In the last few months my brother received a number of phone threats, demanding that he stop meddling in government affairs,” he added.

Four: Are KRG officials honest to their constituents?

There is a discrepancy in the statements of Abdul-khaliq Ta’lat, the chief of Erbil police. After receiving threats, the late Sardasht Osman wrote that he contacted the officer Abdul-khaliq Ta’lat, the chief of Erbil police about death threats he was receiving; and yet the very chief of the police, on 04 May 2010, told the pro-KDP website that, “up to now, we have not information about kidnapping of Sardasht [Osman], and we did not know that he was threaten before”.

But Sardasht Osman wrote an article on 21 January 2010, entitled ‘The first bell of my murder rang,’ stating: “Yesterday, I informed the dean of my college about the insult and death treats that I received last night [on my mobile]. The dean informed me that this is a police issue. I wonder whether there is a country on this planet that students receive death threats and yet the college [staff] don’t care, and sit pathetically. I was not shocked as I have known for sometime that the colleges in this country are not our place of peace. After that, I contacted the officer Abdul-khaliq Ta’lat [chief of Erbil police]. He told me, “the mobile number [from which your receive threats] is perhaps from overseas, or you have a personal issue. Is it possible that [these threats] may be repeated for a number of times, while Erbil is calm, and these things hardly happen in Erbil? In humorous smile, I wondered if these threats are from [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy. How could I be reassured when it is only few days when a friend of mine was assaulted and forced out of the city?”

But still, the Chief Tal’at claims that he was not aware of the threats that Sardasht Osman was receiving via his mobile.

Five: Why the silent in the official media outlets?

There was hardy any report in the official or party media outlets. The daily Khabat newspaper, which is backed by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) reported on its 3465 issue, dated: 07 May, 2010 that the remains of the Kurdish student were found in Mosul province on the 6th of May, 2010.

According to Khabat, Sardasht Osman was the student of the English college of the University of Sallahadin in Erbil. On Tuesday, 04 May 2010, he was kidnapped by a group of people and was found killed in Mosul. The security and police agencies of Kurdistan Region have opened an investigative case and will report the result to the authorities.

It is interesting to note that, unlike all other news reports, the pro-KDP news item describes Sardasht Osman as student, and not as journalist, and additionally ignores the fact that he was kidnapped by armed men in Erbil, the regional capital which is under a strong control of the KDP security forces controlled by only certain members of the ruling Barzani clan

Six: Similarities between the murder of Soran Mam Hama and that of Sardasht Osman

Both the lates Soran and Sardasht are native Kurds. They were known for their critical writings on the KRG officials. Both received threats before slayings occur, and both were murdered outside the KRG region. However, the late Soran was a resident of Kirkuk, which under the control of the Iraqi central government, and was killed in his hometown. The late Sardasht was a resident of Erbil, which is under the control of the KRG, and was kidnapped and transferred to Mosul, which is also under the control of the central government.

Unless these issues are addressed by the authorities in Kurdistan the current civil outrange would keep its momentum.