Kurdish officials 'likely involved' in killing of Sardasht Othman: NGOs

Kurdish officials 'likely involved' in killing of Sardasht Othman: NGOs
Kurdish authorities were likely directly involved in the 2010  kidnapping and murdering of Sardasht Osman, a young journalist from Erbil, three international press freedom organisations said in a recent investigation.
3 min read
06 May, 2022
Bullet hole in the press pass. Killing of journalist concept (Getty Images)

Sardasht Osman , a 23-year-old Kurdish freelance journalist and university student from Erbil, the capital city of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, was kidnapped on 4 May 2010. His body was found dead the following day in the city of Mosul, centre of Ninewa Province.

Three key press freedom organisations, the Free Press Unlimited (FPU), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists CPJ on May 3 published their joint investigation entitled “The Assassination of Sardasht Osman: Debunking the Official Story”, in which they revealed that top Kurdish officials are likely to be behind the cruel and cold-blooded murder.

“Sardasht Osman was a courageous and talented 23-year-old citizen journalist, who wrote about corruption and political mismanagement within the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in a period of political upheaval,” reads the investigation.

“On 13 December 2009, Sardasht wrote a satirical article accusing the family of President Barzani of corruption and nepotism, a ‘red line’ in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). The article, titled: ‘I Am In Love With Barzani’s Daughter’, juxtaposed the hardships of average Kurdish citizens with the lavish lifestyle of the Barzani family.”

Sardasht Othman
Sardasht Othman, a Kurdish freelance journalist, was kidnapped on May 4th, 2010, his body was found dead the following day in Mosul, photo screen shotted from the investigation.

“Sardasht was kidnapped in Erbil and assassinated because of his writings. Twelve years later, no one has been arrested and convicted for his kidnap and assassination, and there are serious allegations that officials linked to the Barzani family were involved in the murder,” the investigation team said.

“This report reveals serious flaws in the official investigation into the kidnap and assassination of Sardasht, and finds credible allegations that Kurdish authorities were directly involved in the murder.”

On 22 May 2010, Massoud Barzani, the then president of the Kurdistan region set up a special investigation committee to investigate the assassination. After four months, the committee concluded that Sardasht Osman was killed by terror group Ansar al-Islam for failing to keep his promise to help the group.

Both Ansar al-Islam and the family of Sardasht Osman dismissed the committee’s findings.

On Thursday, the family of Sardasht Osman in a statement affirmed they have not abandoned their right to legally pursue those who were behind the killing of their son.

Also on Thursday, a number of journalists in Sulaimaniyah city commemorated the assassination of Sardasht Othman.  

"Out of the 22 journalists murdered in relation to their work in Iraq since the assassination of Sardasht, eight were reportedly killed in the KRI. Progress in all of these cases has been non-existent, slow or invisible to family members, colleagues and the public. Such impunity leads to self-censorship and obstruction of a free flow of information," reads the report . 

Rebin Hardi, a prominent Kurdish writer, told The New Arab, “Sardasht’s killers are unknown. In any country where perpetrators of the crimes could not be found, then the authorities are behind the crimes.”