By Isha Dalal
On October 2, Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent journalist and critic of the Saudi Arabian government, went missing after walking into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
According to the BBC, the purpose of his visit was to retrieve a document confirming that he had divorced his ex-wife. Khashoggi was about to get married to his fiancée. He previously visited the consulate on September 28th, but he found out that he would have to return on October 2nd. In the Washington Post, Khashoggi’s fiancée wrote that Khashoggi did not believe anything “bad could happen on Turkish soil.”
His fianceé, Hatice Cengiz, waited for over 10 hours outside the Saudi Arabian consulate but Khashoggi never returned.
In the two weeks following Khashoggi’s disappearance, the Saudi Arabian government denied any foul play. Prince Khaled bil Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, stated that reports of a death or disappearance were untrue and that the journalist had left the consulate after a timespan between a minute and an hour. However, the Saudi Arabian narrative changed on October 20th. In the subsequent days a Saudi official stated that Khashoggi died in a chokehold after resisting the Saudi government’s attempts to return him to Saudi Arabia. His body was then rolled into a rug to then be disposed of. Saudi officials denied that the crown prince ordered the killing of Khashoggi. Instead, the Saudi foreign minister claimed that the murder occurred in a “rogue operation.” On October 25th, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor was quoted saying “information from the Turkish side affirms that the suspects in Khashoggi’s case premeditated their crime,” on Saudi state TV. President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stated that the Saudi government was planning the killing of Khashoggi for days in advance, and that there were multiple teams of Saudi nationals that arrived in Istanbul in the days prior to the journalist’s death. The Turkish government also stated that the journalist was tortured and killed on Saudi Arabian consulate premises. The Turkish government claims that there is audio and video evidence to support this, and Turkish officials that have seen them have gone on record detailing the content of these tapes. The contents have included orders being told to Saudi agents about the consequences if they did not comply with orders.
The intelligence on the killing has been filtered through the Turkish resources, and the Turkish have been disseminating the story and related information to the public. According to the Center of Strategic and International Studies, a think tank based in Washington D.C., this incident has become relevant to the general public around the world because of the graphic details that have been released regarding the murder, the number of people that knew the journalist, and that Khashoggi wrote for the Washington Post, a newspaper based in the United States.
Due to the death, there is a sense of urgency among Saudi journalists in terms of what genuine journalism will become in the Middle East. The Saudi government disseminated a reminder of its legislation against cyber crimes. Sharing rumors, propaganda, or fake news could mean five years in prison and up to $800,000 in fines. This is part of Saudi Arabia’s long history of suppressing voices that disagree with the regime. If journalists do not comply with the governments regulations the implications are drastic. After the current Crown Prince consolidated his power, hundreds of activists were arrested and about 15 journalists were sent to prison.
The world is watching as Khashoggi’s death raises the debate of how the Saudi government responds to dissent within and regarding the ruling regime.
Isha is a sophomore in Silliman. You can contact her at email@example.com.