Protests over journalist's murder

There were angry scenes in Erbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdish region, on Monday when students protested against the abduction and murder of Sardasht Osman, a 23-year-old freelance journalist. More demonstrations are expected today in Sulaimaniya.

Many are blaming his killing on the Kurdish authorities, and the New York Times says there are signs that his death is "fast becoming a rallying cry for reformers, particularly among the young".

Sardasht (or Zardasht) Osman was apparently abducted on May 4 when arriving at the University of Salahaddin where he was in his final year of studying for a degree in English. His books and papers were found strewn in the street outside.

Late that night, his body was found dumped in Mosul, 50 miles away. He had reportedly been tortured and shot twice in the head.

While studying, Osman had written for a variety of Kurdish publications, including one for Kurdistan Post last December which criticised President Massoud Barzani and his family for running a monopoly on business and politics in Kurdistan.

According to the Kurd Net website, he sarcastically suggested that he wished that he was married to Barzani’s daughter so that he could be corrupt and benefit from the position.

Kurd Net says Osman later reported that he was receiving death threats:

After writing "I am in love with Massoud Barzani's daughter", his subsequent article suggests that he has received a number of threatening emails asking him to give his real name and to reveal his face in a photograph. He posted a photograph of himself in the article and declared that he is not afraid of death.

The Kurdish Insight website says Osman’s brother believes he was killed because of a critical article he wrote in the independent daily Ashtinam in April about a high-ranking Kurdistan Regional Government official.

The last activity by Osman logged on his Facebook page says "Saro wrote on Masrour Barzani's Wall". Whatever he wrote has since been deleted from the corresponding section of Barzani's Facebook page

Masrour Barzani is General Director of Security and Intelligence in the Kurdistan region and a son of President Barzani.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 11 May 2010.