OFF Journalist Jamal Khashoggi Feared Dead for Criticism of Saudi Crown Prince
New York (October 9, 2018) — The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) demands an independent international investigation into the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who is believed to have been killed by Saudi operatives last week during a visit to the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. In statements to the media, anonymous Turkish officials said that they believe Khashoggi was murdered, dismembered, and later removed from the consulate by a 15-person hit team that had arrived days prior in anticipation of his visit. The government of Saudi Arabia has officially denied the allegations, but it has failed to produce any evidence that Khashoggi left the building alive or any explanation for his disappearance while in Saudi custody.
Khashoggi, who participated in the 2018 Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF), is a writer and expert on Saudi issues, and is a frequent commentator in international media outlets about the recent economic and social reforms undertaken by the Saudi royal family. HRF calls on the international community to commission an independent investigation into Khashoggi’s fate, and to demand the full cooperation of both Saudi and Turkish authorities.
“The disappearance and apparent extrajudicial killing of Jamal Khashoggi is an outrage. Dictators like Mohammed Bin Salman have been emboldened by the West’s decades-long reticence to stand up to them, even rhetorically. Putin is poisoning spies on British soil. Erdogan is kidnapping teachers from Moldova to Malaysia. The Saudi monarchy has already been surveilling and beating up activists on foreign soil, and now it appears that it is using its diplomatic missions to assassinate those who dare to speak truth to power,” HRF Chairman Garry Kasparov said. “Where is the outrage, the condemnation, the demand for a full investigation? Khashoggi’s disappearance is a disturbing reminder to democratic leaders around the world that it is far past time for free countries to push back against tyranny before these murderous practices spread further.”
Using his experience of having worked closely with the Saudi government and state media, Jamal Khashoggi has long provided the West with an insider’s perspective on the Saudi royal family. In mid-2017, he relocated to the United States so he could write without fear of reprisal. Since then, Khashoggi’s coverage has become increasingly critical of Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (often known as “MBS”), a leader who has garnered a reputation for being a “reformist” even as he has launched a violent campaign against activists and critics. Khashoggi wrote that his critiques of MBS’s policies were offered “respectfully” and commented that “while MBS is right to free Saudi Arabia from ultra-conservative religious forces, he is wrong to advance a new radicalism that, while seemingly more liberal and appealing to the West, is just as intolerant of dissent.”
Khashoggi disappeared on Tuesday, October 2, after entering the Saudi consulate to pick up a document certifying a prior divorce so he could marry his fiancée Hatice Cengiz, a woman of Turkish nationality. Cengiz went with him to the consulate, and waited for him for hours before calling Turkish authorities to denounce his disappearance. According to The Washington Post, Turkish officials have since stated that they have “concrete proof” that Khashoggi was assassinated in a premeditated attack executed by a team of 15 Saudi operatives. Turkish authorities have reportedly asked to search the consulate for a second time for evidence as a part of their investigation. Saudi Arabia has officially denied the allegations, but has offered no proof that Khashoggi ever left the consulate.
Speaking as a fellow exiled Arab intellectual, OFF speaker Iyad el-Baghdadi commented: “Jamal Khashoggi’s loss is hard on us because he represented the hope that people, even establishment people, can be made to see our struggle and our hopes and dreams – that we can sit with them, talk to them, and they'll be open to changing their minds. By attacking Jamal, Saudi Arabia has killed this hope, and the message to us is clear – we're all in danger. If the Saudi authorities do not immediately reveal his whereabouts, there needs to be global pressure for an international investigation.”
The photo above was taken during OFF 2018 and depicts Jamal Khashoggi with activists Nasser Weddady, Iyad el-Baghdadi, and Omar Mohammed. If Khashoggi has in fact been assassinated, OFF will have lost a respected and beloved member of its community.
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.
To learn more about Saudi Arabia’s continuing human rights abuses, watch Manal al-Sharif’s presentation at the Oslo Freedom Forum in New York here. To learn more about Khashoggi, listen to this episode of the “Arab Tyrant Manual” podcast, which features a conversation with Khashoggi that was recorded during OFF 2018.
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Call on Saudi Arabia to reveal Khashoggi’s whereabouts and to cooperate with investigations into his disappearance.