On 4 May 2010 Sardasht Osman was abducted outside his university in Erbil by a group of unidentified armed men. Two days later he was found dead in Mosul.
A final-year English language student, Sardasht Osman worked as a journalist for the Ashtiname newspaper. According to media reports he had recently published an article that criticized a senior Kurdish political figure.
In recent years, there has been a growing pattern of physical attacks on journalists and others in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and neighbouring areas who have expressed criticism of leading members and officials of the two main Kurdish political parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), that jointly hold power in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). In at least two cases, those targeted were killed, but no-one has been held responsible for their murders.
Reporters Without Borders reported several attacks against journalists in the Kurdistan Region in the context of the parliamentary elections in March 2010.
Some journalists have been abducted in the street by armed men wearing civilian clothes, beaten up and then released a few hours or days later.
Earlier attacks reported by Amnesty international include the killing on 21 July 2008 of Souran Mama Hama, a 23-year-old journalist. He was shot dead outside his parents’ house in Kirkuk by men wearing civilian clothes. He too had published articles critical of the PUK and KDP.
On 6 March 2008 an academic, ‘Abd al-Sattar Taher Sharif, aged 74, was gunned down in Kirkuk, apparently for his criticism of the Kurdish leaders.
Since the killing of Sardasht Osman, anonymous threats have continued to be made against the lives of people who have denounced his murder.
Halgurd Samad and Rebin Fatah, two journalists from Erbil who organized demonstrations in Erbil and Sulaimaniya on 10 and 11 May to denounce the killing have both since received death threats via sms messages to their mobile phones, which stated: "if you don't stop this campaign [to end assassinations and threats against Journalists] we will kill you like a dog".
In a further development, Sardasht Osman's brother is reported to have told the media that his body, when found on 6 May, bore marks of torture and that Sardasht Osman had been shot in the mouth by those who abducted and murdered him.