Tribute to Sardasht Osman on second anniversary of his murder

Today is the second anniversary of Sardasht Osman’s murder. Two years have passed since this 23-year-old journalist was kidnapped by gunmen outside the foreign language department at Salahaddin University in Erbil on 4 May 2010 and was found dead four days later in Mosul with a gunshot wound to his head – two years of complete impunity for his killers.

Reporters Without Borders pays tribute to this young reporter, whose many articles included a much-commented op-ed piece for the Kurdistan Post at the end of 2009 headline, “If only I were Massoud Barzani’s son-in-law.

Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues, who will gather tomorrow to mark this sad anniversary. Reporters Without Borders reiterates its request to the Kurdistan Regional Government to shed light on his murder and again deplores the lack of transparency surrounding its investigation.

Osman’s family has always questioned the independence of the special commission that Kurdistan’s president, Massoud Barzani, set up under the interior ministry’s control to investigate Osman’s abduction and murder.

During a fact-finding visit to Kurdistan in July 2010, a Reporters Without Borders delegation tried to establish the status of the investigation and sought in vain to meet with members of the commission. None of the people the delegation spoke to was able or willing to name any of its members. The flagrant lack of transparency was highlighted in the report that Reporters Without Borders released on 4 November 2010.

The commission issued initial findings on 15 October 2010. It said in a press release that Osman’s murder had nothing to do with his activities as a journalist. It stemmed, it said, from his refusal to cooperate with Ansar Al-Islam, a radical Islamic group linked to Al-Qaeda. Hicham Mahmoud Ismail, a driver and mechanic living in Beji who had been arrested on suspicion of carrying out Osman’s abduction had confessed to transporting him from Shargat (near Tigrit) to Mosul at the group’s behest without knowing he was to be killed, the press release said.

The family immediately disputed the findings. “We not only reject the results of the enquiry but we also condemn its actions and voice our anger at these attempts to portray Sardasht as a terrorist who cooperated with Ansar Al-Islam,” the family said in a statement. “Anyone who knew Sardasht or read his articles knew that he was a secular person far removed from terrorist ideology.”

Ansar Al-Islam issued a statement on 23 October 2010 denying any role in his murder.

Meanwhile, two years have gone by and Osman’s murderers are still at large.

Reporters Without Borders points out that another 23-year-old journalist, Lvin Magazine reporter Soran Mama Hama, was gunned down in his home in Kirkuk on 21 July 2008. We also pay tribute to him today.