The New York Times has a report about the abduction and murder of a young Kurdish journalist in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Zardosht Osman has become a symbol, much like Neda, the young Iranian woman gunned down in last year’s elections protests in Tehran. However, Sam Dagher, the Times’s reporter, is wrong to say that there was no reaction from the local government. He appears unaware that Khabat, an organ of Masud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, reported the murder, but refused to identify Zardasht Osman as a journalist, simply saying it was a student. They likewise refused to discuss the security forces present, and simply suggested terrorists got him.
To suggest the Kurdistan Regional Government will investigate is nonsense: The force accused of the kidnapping and torture is run by Masrour Barzani, an American University graduate who happens to be Masud Barzani’s son. Like Saddam’s sons Uday and Qusay under the old system, he’s untouchable. But even if Masrour wasn’t directly involved, the Kurdistan Regional Government did not investigate the murder, allegedly by Kurdish security, of a Lvin journalist in 2008, nor have they investigated the 2005 murder of an opposition politician in Duhok. Nor, for that matter, have the Kurdish authorities investigated why Jalal Talabani’s nephew opened fire on a peaceful opposition rally this past summer.
Why is this relevant? So many officials — Democrats and Republicans both, but, alas, mostly Republican veterans of the previous administration — are seeking to cash out in Iraqi Kurdistan. This is their right, and it is not necessarily against the law (although some apparently entered into lobbying well before they could under U.S. law, and others seem to have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act). But we should certainly recognize the optics of American officials — many bragging of their ties to the White House or General Jones at the NSC — partying it up with a regime increasingly despised by the general populace. Kurdistan may once have been the Other Iraq, but it is transforming into time bomb of anti-Americanism waiting to explode. At the same time, the White House’s refusal to speak up for human rights in Iraqi Kurdistan has emboldened the Kurdish government to become ever more bold in their abuse.