On October 2, 2018, in a quiet, suburban neighbourhood of Istanbul, a man walked into the Consulate of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, his fiancée waiting for him outside, in order to sort out some paperwork to certify their marriage the next day. One would expect the man to walk out minutes later, having handled the bureaucratic process. The man never walked out of that consulate; his name was Jamal Khashoggi.
Jamal Khashoggi was a prominent Saudi journalist, and a close friend of the ruling House of Saud. He was the head of a major Saudi television network as well as a contributor to The Washington Post. He had gained a reputation as a liberal progressive after he, as Editor of the Al Watan newspaper, had allowed one of his journalists to publish an article criticizing the founder of the state religion, Wahhabism, for which he was fired and exiled. While he was officially exiled, he maintained amicable relations with the Saudi elite, going on to form the Al Arab television network with Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal and continuing to publish his opinion articles on the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television network.
This cozy relationship between Khashoggi and the ruling elite of Saudi Arabia soured, however, after the rise of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), son of King Salman, and his policies. As a part of a so-called “anti-corruption” campaign, widely seen as a scheme to eliminate all opposition to MBS’s eventual ascension to the throne, the Crown Prince arrested many influential Saudi millionaires, including Khashoggi’s business partner Prince bin Talal, which the journalist has criticised. Khashoggi has also criticized the Crown Prince’s role in continuing the Saudi-Yemen war, causing the deaths of needless amounts of poor civilians. While he was supported the Crown Prince’s social policy to improve the rights of women in Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi has criticized the arrest of many feminist activists in the Kingdom as being hypocritical. Khashoggi has expressed support for the ideals of the Arab Spring.
Because Khashoggi never exited the Saudi consulate, a cat and mouse game began between the Governments of Turkey and Saudi Arabia, with the governments of the West caught in the middle, all sparring for real story of the journalist’s disappearance. The Saudi Government first claimed that Khashoggi had left through a rear door in the consulate, a door that did not exist. The Turkish Government then leaked information to the press that it had obtained intel that Khashoggi has been killed inside the consulate. A few days later, video and audio evidence was also leaked to the Turkish press. In an unusual move, the Saudi consulate and consular residence was subject to a search by Turkish police, which found evidence of “painted over walls” and “chemical smells.” Then came a bombshell: the Turkish Government had identified a team of thirteen Saudi officials who had arrived and left the day of Khashoggi’s disappearance. Further sleuthing by the Internet of the surveillance footage released by Turkish police found that some of the suspects were linked to Crown Prince bin Salman. The Turkish Government accused the “hit team” of torturing, murdering and dismembering Khashoggi inside the consulate and disposing of the body parts in a forest. There were even accusations that the team had individually sawed off each of Khashoggi’s fingers while he was still conscious. Finally, on 20 October 2018, the Saudi Government admitted that Khashoggi was indeed killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in a “fistfight.” In an attempt to absolve himself of blame, the Crown Prince ordered the arrest of fifteen Saudi citizens, including several of his close advisors. It has been suggested by many sources, along with the Turkish Government, that such an order to assassinate Khashoggi could only be issued by the Crown Prince or the King himself, implicating the upper echelons of power in the Kingdom with a barbaric and premeditated murder.
This is a regime that considers allowing women to drive or watch sports as progressive. This is also a regime that regularly beheads dissidents and funds terrorism. This is the same regime that, for the past fifty years, has oppressed women by denying them their human rights. Why are people surprised that this regime would orchestrate the assassination of a prominent Saudi critic?
The form of ultra conservative fundamentalist Islam practised by this state, Wahhabism is the ideology that inspired terrorist groups, like ISIS and Al Qaeda, to murder hundreds upon thousands of innocent people. It is their ideology that compelled Al Qaeda to kill three thousand innocent Americans in the horrible attacks of September 11th. It is their ideology that compelled ISIS to behead foreign aid workers and to publicly execute homosexuals. It is their ideology that requires women to have written permission from a man to simply walk outside. This is the ideology promulgated by the Crown Prince and his King father. Simply put, human rights-respecting nations should not facilitate this barbaric behaviour.
Why is it that liberal Western democracies, countries that support human rights and women’s emancipation, flock to continually support the barbaric activities of this autocratic regime? Trudeau continues to praise his arms deal with Saudi Arabia whilst also criticising its human rights record. It’s time that Western democracies stop supporting the Saudis with their weapons or their investments. All these weapons, all this money, and all this support is what allows the House of Saud to continue its reign of terror against the people of the Arabian peninsula under its occupation.