Saudi Arabia has seen large-scale domestic developments since King Salman came to power, and then along came Mohammad bin Salman with his radical views. Since then there has been slaughter and arrests and imprisonment of dissident opponents. Riyadh rulers don’t tolerate the slightest criticisms. Critics are seen as traitors by Saudi media and usually the […]
Saudi Arabia has seen large-scale domestic developments since King Salman came to power, and then along came Mohammad bin Salman with his radical views. Since then there has been slaughter and arrests and imprisonment of dissident opponents. Riyadh rulers don’t tolerate the slightest criticisms.
Critics are seen as traitors by Saudi media and usually the international community does not pay attention to their fate considering Saudi’s financial influence, and while Donald Trump continues humiliate Saudi rulers, Mohammed bin Salman still speaks of friendship with the U.S. president.
Regarding remarks by Trump in which the U.S. president said he had warned the king he would not last in power “for two weeks” without U.S. military support, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince said in a Bloomberg interview published on Friday : “I love working with him. You know, you have to accept that any friend will say good things and bad things. You cannot have friends always saying good things about you, even in your own family. You will have some misunderstandings. We put criticisms in that category.”
One critic has been Jamal Khashoggi. Born in Medina in 1958, Khashoggi is one of the most prominent Saudi and Arab journalists and political commentators of his generation. He began his career as a correspondent for the Saudi Gazette and as an adviser to a powerful Saudi prince, Faisal bin Turki (the former chief of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence services).
The young Khashoggi studied journalism at Indiana University in the United States. Since September 2017, he has been gone from Saudi Arabia with the beginning of the crackdown on civil and political activists. He is a nationalist. From 1987 until 1990, he reported for a London-based Saudi-owned paper and is best known for coverage of events in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait and elsewhere in the Middle East.
In 1999, Khashoggi became the deputy editor for the Saudi-run newspaper Arab News. His next position as the editor-in-chief of the Al-Watan paper barely lasted two months before he was dismissed from the post without explanation in 2003. His reformist views made him one of the top Saudi journalists.
In 2010, Khashoggi was appointed general manager of the Al Arab news channel, which was owned by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. The channel shut down barely one day after its launch in February 2015. Khashoggi also served as a political commentator, appearing on MBS, BBC and Al Jazeera channels.
He met and interviewed Osama bin Laden several times in the middle of the decade, before the latter went on to become the leader of the al-Qaeda group. Khashoggi was reinstated as the editor of Al-Watan in 2007, but had to resign again in 2010, for “pushing the boundaries of debate within Saudi society”, according to his personal website.
It is thought that he was forced to resign due to official displeasure with articles published in the paper that were critical of the Kingdom’s harsh Islamic postures. After this event, he went to the U.S. in voluntary exile.
A week before his apparent kidnapping, Khashoggi criticized the Arab states’ silence in the face of Trump’s own comments. He wrote: “Trump sometimes tries to support Arab countries, and we, Arabs, have to pay for it. The biggest threat to the Arab countries and its oil resources is the Trump itself, because he sees the Arabs only as an oil well.”
He has been watched by the Western and Arab media, and he was always asked to express his opinion in light of the acute political issues inside Saudi Arabia. Khashoggi seemed to have double standards. Sometimes he criticized and sometimes praised Saudi politics. He was one of those who supported the fight against corruption in the government, and has been among those who challenged the Islamic awakening in Islamic countries, including Egypt. Khashoggi, known as a journalist opposed to bin Salman, disappeared last Tuesday when he went to register his marriage at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
He went to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to marry Khadija Arzu and asked his fiancé if he did not return to inform Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Khadija never saw him leave the consulate building.
Turkish authorities have confirmed that Khoshoggi did not exit the consulate. The Saudi Ambassador Walid Bin Abdul Karim El Khereiji was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry to explain Khoshoggi’s disappearance. According to eyewitnesses, the Saudi consulate closed doors on Wednesday, October 3rd.
A Turkish security source had previously told Reuters that a group of 15 Saudi nationals, including some officials, arrived in Istanbul and entered the consulate on Oct. 2, the same day Khashoggi was there, and later left the country.
Turkish sources said that authorities believed he was killed inside the consulate. His alleged murder was planned in advance, and the body may have been transferred outside the consulate.
Thomas Friedman, an American journalist, has written about Jamal Khashoggi, criticizing Muhammad bin Salman: “He is the oppressive ruler of the age who does not pay attention to democracy. Around him is a bunch of thugs who give him bad advice.”
Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper, however, has reported that Khashoggi is in Riyadh. Al-Akhbar has also claimed that Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington and brother of Mohammed bin Salman, interfered in this matter. He has allegedly assured Khashoggi he will not be persecuted in Saudi Arabia.
The Lebanese media has claimed that Khashoggi entered one consulate building of Saudi Arabia while his fiancé awaited him outside the building, and that he left another building of the consulate through a corridor connecting the two buildings. Then, he was allegedly transferred to the airport. But all this is unclear.
Evidence points to the kidnapping of Khashoggi by professional kidnappers. It is also possible that he was unconscious and transferred directly to Saudi Arabia by land or sea to avoid Turkey’s strict security measures at airports. Turkey, some have opined, did not imagine such an action from Saudi Arabia. The kidnapping is a dagger in Erdogan’s back, claimed one newspaper.
The fate of Jamal Khashoggi, whatever it actually is, reveals much about the rulers of Riyadh. They apparently do not tolerate any criticism contrary to their claims of reform in Saudi Arabia. Freedom of expression is anathema to Saudi officials.
Saudi officials are railing against other countries that have said Saudi Arabia is little more than a prison for political dissidents. The incident suggests that the current rulers of Riyadh have kept the nation hungry and left thousands of people martyred and wounded. The country has become a threat to international relations.
If Jamal Khashoghi was in fact transferred from Turkey to Saudi Arabia, this is the second time that Riyadh has ignored the sovereignty of another country. In the first case the Saudis kidnapped the prime minister of Lebanon, Hariri, but later released him.