Human Rights Activists in Iran’s Spreading Justice team (HRA-SJ) has identified and profiled Sarmad Nazerfard as the individual responsible for the assassination of Mousa Babakhani in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Mousa Babakhani was a member of the Central Committee of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), a known opposition party of the Islamic Republic. Nazerfard is believed to have assassinated Babakhani before fleeing to Iran.
According to sources close to HRA, it is believed Nazerfard was commissioned by the security services of the Islamic Republic, namely the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Organization.
Erbil police and third party news sources have confirmed that Nazerfard shot and killed Babakhani in an Erbil hotel on August 6th, 2021. An informed source stated to HRA-SJ, “The room where Mousa Babakhani’s body was found is a room registered to Nazerfard, who is also wanted by the Erbil police.”
Sources revealed to HRA-SJ that Babakhani traveled to Erbil to meet with Nazerfard. The two were in contact the night preceding the assasination.
Nazerfard allegedly stayed at the Goli Soleimani Hotel for eight months and had been in contact with Mr. Babakhani for several years, working to gain his trust. According to Ismail Sharafi, a member of the Central Committee, Mr. Babakhani believed that Nazerfard was a friend.
Hotel staff testified that Mousa Babakhani entered the hotel on his own and reported directly to Nazerfard’s room. Nazerfard reportedly confiscated Babakhani’s personal belongings, including his mobile phone. Sourced believe Nazerfard carried the belongings with him upon fleeing to Iran.
Nazerfard Flees to Iran
It is believed that Nazerfard entered Iran via the Iraq-Iran border at Khanaqin. According to the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Security Agency, in Erbil, Sarmad Nazerfard travelled to the border town of Khanaqin after leaving Babakhani.
According to the KDP, “Nazerfard was not a member of the Peshmerga or even a member of the party and his relationship with Mousa Babakhani was not a party affiliation at all.” The source continued, “Sarmad’s name does not exist in any of the party’s organizational records.”
Who is Sarmad Nazerfard?
Born in Baghdad, Nazerfard, immigrated to Iraq at least four years before fleeing to Iran. Kamal Karimi, a member of leadership of the KDP, confirmed in an interview with the judiciary that the history of Sarmad Nazerfard’s presence in Erbil dates back at least four years. According to Karimi, “Sarmad Nazerfard, also known as Saman Abdi and Sarmad Abdi in Erbil, had been in friendly relations with Mr. Babakhani after arriving in Erbil and had met him regularly.”
According to Kamal Karimi, Sarmad Nazerfard regularly traveled to Iraq and Khanaqin and always claimed that he was going to Baghdad to visit his father. According to Karimi, Sarmad even told the hotelier when he was about to leave the hotel after Babakhani’s assassination that he had to go to Baghdad immediately to visit his father.
The Role of the IRGC
There is a long history of IRGC commission murders in Iraqi-Kurdistan.
A member of KDP leadership stated, “Although we do not have reliable information about Nazerfard’s relationship to Iran’s security agencies, the Revolutionary Guards have previously carried out such work, and through this agency, people from Iran are given missions.” “They have previously come to Kurdistan to carry out sabotage and assassination.” Nazerfard, and those believed to have commissioned his services must be held accountable.
Extra-territorial targeted killing outside of war is a violation of international human rights law prohibiting the arbitrary deprivation of life. “Iran has long practiced extra-territorial assassinations against dissidents abroad. This illegal practice of state-sanctioned targeted killing must be condemned by the international community and perpetrators must be brought to justice,” said Skylar Thompson, Senior Advocacy Coordinator at HRA-SJ.
More information on Nazerfard can be found via this link to his unique Spreading Justice profile. If you have any additional information on Nazerfard you can anonymously submit to HRA-SJ here.
For media inquiries please contact HRA Senior Advocacy Coordinator Skylar Thompson at [email protected]