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 Angry protest by Iraqi Kurds over journalist killing  

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Angry protest by Iraqi Kurds over journalist killing  11.5.2010 
By Sam Dagher

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May 11, 2010

ERBIL-Hewlêr, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — Hundreds of university students tried to storm the local Parliament building here in the capital of the semiautonomous Kurdistan region on Monday during an angry protest against the recent abduction and killing of a Kurdish journalist.

The journalist, Sardasht Osman, 23, had been critical of the authorities and the entrenched patronage system, and many of the protesters accused security and intelligence forces of being behind the killing.

The students scuffled with baton-wielding riot police officers. Some waved their shoes and threw water bottles and pieces of broken glass at soldiers and police officers.

“Whose hands are stained with the blood of Sardasht?” they asked.                              

Hundreds protested the killing of a Kurdish journalist and tried to storm the Parliament. AFP photo

Mr. Osman, a freelance journalist and student, was kidnapped last week at the entrance of his college in Erbil. He was later found dead with two bullets in the head on a highway in Mosul, about 50 miles to the west.

The killing sent shock waves through the tightly controlled Kurdish region of northern Iraq, which has prided itself over the past few years on being, unlike the rest of the country, a secure haven for foreign investors, including dozens of oil and gas companies.

Traffic came to a standstill in parts of Erbil on Monday as students, most of them dressed in black, marched from the spot where Mr. Osman was abducted to the Parliament building. A group carried a mock coffin draped in black with the word azadi,
www.ekurd.netmeaning freedom in Kurdish, scrawled on it. Many waved portraits of Mr. Osman.

“Democracy is a delusion here,” said one protester, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution for his comments.

As they reached Parliament, which is barricaded behind giant blast walls, many tried to enter but were forcefully pushed back by the riot police.

Later, the Parliament speaker, Kamal Kirkuki, addressed the protesters from a distance via loudspeakers, trying to calm them, but was met with loud jeers.

A similar protest will be held on Wednesday in Sulaimaniyah, the region’s other major city and the base of a reform movement called Gorran.

There were signs on Monday that Mr. Osman’s death was fast becoming a rallying cry for reformers, particularly among the young.

The directorate of Erbil’s security forces, which are controlled by the region’s governing parties, issued a statement Monday calling Mr. Osman’s killing “a terrorist act” and urging people not to jump to conclusions before an investigation was completed.

On Saturday, the office of the Kurdistan region’s president, Massoud Barzani, said it was “saddened” by Mr. Osman’s killing, while the regional government described it as “a heinous crime designed to undermine the security of the region.”

Mr. Osman had received at least two threats by telephone since January, according to his relatives and friends.

He contributed articles to a number of publications in the region and also wrote under a pseudonym for Kurdistanpost, a Web site based in Sweden. Kurdistanpost is known for its incendiary tone in criticizing the corruption and patronage system associated with the two governing parties.

Since December Mr. Osman had written satirical articles mocking Mr. Barzani, including one titled “I Am in Love With Barzani’s Daughter,” which appeared to violate local taboos.

Namo Abdulla contributed reporting.  

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