Sardasht Othman and message of freedom to stand behind the demonstrations and mass protest of 17th of February

Dashty Jamal Speech in parliament on the anniversary of the murder of Sardasht Osman Kurdish journalist, 15th June 2011 hosted by

John McDonnell Member of UK Parliament

Ladies and gentlemen

On behalf of the International Federation of the Iraqi Refugees I welcome everyone here to mark the first anniversary of the assassination of Sardasht Othman.

I would like to thank John McDonnell for arranging this important meeting. I am sure you all know John McDonnell very well, but I would like to say that John is a socialist parliamentarian who has always defended freedom. He stood firmly against the war on Iraq and he has strongly defended the refugees, the Iraqi and Kurdish refugees in particular. We highly appreciate all his stances and efforts. I also thank Jeremy Corbyn MP, the speakers from the RMT Trade Union, the Green party and the journalists who are with us in this meeting.

I do not want to repeat what the Freedom Umbrella has said about Sardasht Othman, who he was, how and why was he assassinated. I only want to say that Sardasht Othman was a 23 year old man. He had a leftist working class and communist roots.  As mentioned before, he was assassinated after writing an article critical of President Barzani’s family’s wealth and power. As a conscious critic of the social inequality and injustice in the Iraqi Kurdistan, eventually Sardasht took a stand against the rulers and conveyed the massage of freedom and prosperity to the society in Kurdistan. He handed us the banner of a humanist and progressive struggle against class antagonism, unemployment and poverty.

However the story of Sardisht Othman is not only the story of one discontented young man.  His case shows the reality of an authority that has chained 4 million people under the name of Kurdish nationalism.

Therefore on the first anniversary of Sardasht’s death we should look into the reality of this authority and the living conditions of these 4 million people.

As you may be aware, in 1991, with the eruption of the First Gulf war, the masses of people in Kurdistan rose against the oppressive Baath regime and its national oppression. We revolted for freedom, equality and social justice.

In the hope of ending inequality and to improve their lives, the majority of people in Kurdistan supported the Kurdish nationalist parties – especially the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (the PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (the KDP).  Unfortunately, these parties quickly showed their real essence, which is hostile to the goals of people in Kurdistan. In the last 20 years they have imposed a system on the people of Kurdistan that is not different from any of the other tyrannical and parasitic regimes in the region.

These parties and their leaders represent the capitalists and wealthy people in Kurdistan. They achieved a lavish life for themselves but they brought unemployment, poverty, and lack of basic rights for the vast majority of the citizens through plundering the wealth and revenues of the society and diverting it to their followers and relatives. As a citizen once said, these parties came down from the mountains into the cities under the slogan of “ Either Kurdistan or death”, but it soon became obvious that they took Kurdistan for themselves and gave “death” to the  people.

During the last 20 years, under the rule of the KDP and the PUK, thousands of women were victims of so-called “honour killing”. Around 10,000 young people of Kurdistan were killed and maimed in the fighting between these two parties and thousands were displaced and made homeless. Political opponents, communist activists and journalists have been murdered. Thousands of young people have been forced to seek asylum or have been killed by the police on the borders of Iran and Turkey while trying to escape. The rulers of Kurdistan have always resorted to oppression and arms against their political opponents.

They have imposed reactionary and backward laws on the education system. Under their rule, many reactionary Islamic and tribal tradition and norms have been revived, for example female circumcision and polygamy. The youth are deprived of basic rights like the right to choose their place of residence and their partners. Unemployment keeps rising, the young people study but after graduation they do not get employment if they are not supporters of the KDP or the PUK. Hundreds of the top officials of these parties are millionaires who are engaged in corruption in all kinds.

Sardasht Othman wrote an article about these injustices and because of this he was killed. They also killed other journalists Soran Mama Hamma and Abdulstar Sharif.

The people of Kurdistan, in the past, looked in anger at this oppression and corruption. They organized various forms of protests, especially after 2006. However after the assassination of Sardasht, the authority which has been plundering the wealth of the society in the last 20 years was faced by massive demonstrations and protests in the cities of Kurdistan and around European countries. These protests and demonstrations lasted a long period of time and instead of meeting the demands of the people, the authority was weaving plots against them. By making promises, forming the “investigation committee”, and through threatening and blatant oppression they were able to keep the masses in a state of waiting, and conceal the reality behind the assassination of Sardasht. Later they brought a law banning demonstrations. However, the people resorted to massive public protests against this “demonstration law” and took to the streets. The people organized massive and widespread protests which involved Kurdish communities abroad.

We are all aware of the victory of workers and the toilers in Tunisia and Egypt in overthrowing dictatorial regimes. The workers and toilers in the region gained passion, energy, hope and power from these victories in the region. Like a political tsunami, people in North Africa, the Middle East and even the trade unions of the UK and Spain, have been inspired by these gains and victories. The masses in Kurdistan are inspired by these gains as well.

Protests starting on 17th February 2011, which are reflected in these photos, brought about a huge change in Iraqi Kurdistan in the form of a revolutionary movement that has seen thousands of youth from different layers and classes of the society coming to the forefront to stand against this oppression, discrimination, and social injustice in Kurdistan which has prevailed in the last 20 years. They took (Azadi) or Freedom Square for themselves.

10 people were killed by the KDP and PUK milita and hundreds were injured in these protests. After 62 days the demonstrations were suppressed by military forces and heavy weapons on 19th April 2011.

Since 19th April beatings, arrests, harassment and prosecuting of activists and journalists continues. According to a report by the Committee of defending freedom of Journalist and Kurdistan Journalist Union, between 3rd March 2011 and 29th March 2011, 37 violations against journalists were registered which included beating, insulting and arresting journalists apart from issuing hefty fines for non-governmental papers and their editors.

This year, they prevented workers in Kurdistan from celebrating May day, the international Workers’ Day. In Arbil, where the KDP rules, all public gatherings and demonstrations are banned. Even opposition members of parliament are abused and beaten up. The latest news is that the International Federation of Iraq Refugees was prevented from holding a gathering in front of the office of the Iraqi parliament in Sulaimanyia to put pressure on the Iraqi government to abolish its agreement with European countries to deport Iraqi refugees. This is the democracy which the nationalist movement parties imposed on the people under their rule.

During these demonstrations in Kurdistan against oppression, discrimination and social injustice, the USA and West chose to stand by the authorities in Kurdistan.  This is while in public they try to appear to the public that they stand by the revolting people in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain against the rulers. This exposes the extreme hypocrisy of the West, while the people have shed blood against the oppressors.

The western media too concealed the reality documented by these photos and that is how the rulers in Kurdistan answered the demonstration with guns (bullets) and the murder of a 12 year old boy was killed. These facts are hardly covered by the western media.

As you are aware thousands of refugees, the victims of the authorities in Kurdistan, are arrested by the European and conservative governments. They are going to be deported back to that cruel and oppressive system.

Sardasht Othman held the banner of freedom and passed it to the revolutionary movement of workers and toilers in Kurdistan. Although this movement has been suppressed for now under the force of the arms, it is certain the protests will restart because the people in Kurdistan want a profound change.

I call on you to support the demands of people in Kurdistan for freedom, equality, and social justice and for a secular and civil authority. Today more than ever the people of Kurdistan need your support. You, who stood against the war on Iraq and defended the children of Iraq, stand by the people of Kurdistan.

Sardasht Othman , Soran Mamma Hamma and those 10 victims who lost their lives during the latest protests have taught us a lesson. They have become a symbol for freedom and for a free and prosperous future for Kurdistan.

On behalf of all the attendees in this meeting, I call on you to:

1-Condemn the assassination of Sardasht Othman and demand the formation of an independent committee with the involvement of international bodies, as demanded by Sardasht’s family, to investigate the assassination of Sardsht Othman and bring the perpetrators to justice.

2-Demand the abolition of the law banning demonstrations from the Kurdistan parliament.

3-Condemn the suppression of the latest demonstrations in Kurdistan and demand that the killers of demonstrators to be brought to justice.

4- Meet the demands of the demonstrators.

5- Recognize freedom of press and political activity including freedom to demonstrate in Kurdistan.

Let’s keep the memories of Sardsht Othman and all those who lost their lives on 17th February 2011 and the following days, to work together for freedom, equality and a prosperous society high.

Thank you.