Bombshell as Saudis accused of embassy murder
Is this the turning point for Saudi Arabia? The alleged killing of high-profile journalist and dissenter Jamal Khashoggi could mean the West finally turns its back on the oppressive kingdom.
October 2. Esteemed Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a vocal critic of the country’s regime, is visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to collect documents for his forthcoming marriage.
He tells his fiancée to wait outside and gives her a phone number for an aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, instructing her to call if he does not return promptly.
Four hours pass. The embassy closes and Khashoggi has not emerged. She phones the police, and continues to wait through the night.
Now, Turkish officials have claimed that Khashoggi was murdered inside the embassy by a 15-strong team sent directly from Riyadh. They believe his body was smuggled out of the building in a car.
“We have nothing to hide,” said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, inviting Turkish authorities to search the building.
The incident is likely to trigger a major diplomatic row between the countries, whose relations are already deteriorating.
Khashoggi, who has 1.6 million Twitter followers and writes for The Washington Post, is one of the leading critics of the Saudi regime. The Post condemned his alleged murder as “a monstrous and unfathomable act.”
For decades, Khashoggi was a friend to Saudi Arabia’s ruling elite, but he fled to the US last year after the crown prince launched a brutal crackdown on dissent.
Since he was installed as heir to the ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom, the crown prince has purged his opponents and imprisoned journalists and activists.
Human rights abuses have increased in the state, where floggings and public executions were already common.
In an astonishing paradox, the crown prince has also brought in liberal reforms, such as removing a ban on women driving.
Dependent on Saudi Arabia’s vast oil supplies, Western leaders have been content to accept the crown prince’s moderniser image. He and President Donald Trump enjoy good relations, and last year UK arms sales to the kingdom were worth more than £1 billion.
But is this the turning point?
No going back
Inevitably, say some. If the allegations are true, Saudi Arabia has illegally slain a public figure who was charged with no crime. This will send Turkish-Saudi relations reeling and the West must take notice. As for the crown prince, the mask of acceptability is off; he is conclusively revealed as a vicious autocrat. We won’t forget this moment.
Not likely, respond others. As shocking as this alleged murder would be, Western leaders have been fully aware of the scale of murder and oppression inflicted by the Saudi regime for years, yet they are happy to entertain the dictator crown prince for financial gain. There will be short-lived condemnations, and then the circus will go on as before.
- Is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a moderniser or a murderer?
- Will this incident have a lasting impact on the West’s relationship with Saudi Arabia?
- Research the lives of women in Saudi Arabia and the restrictions imposed on them. Produce a five-minute presentation on a day in the life of a Saudi woman.
- Look into Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ascent to power, his clampdown on dissent, and his “Vision 2030” plan for the kingdom’s future. Produce a timeline of major developments since he was appointed Crown Prince in 2017. Include at least seven points.
Some People Say...
“I have left my home, my family and my job, and I am raising my voice.”Jamal Khashoggi
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared on September 28 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, to collect legal documents. Khashoggi was a prominent critic of the Saudi regime, especially Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has led a violent crackdown on his opponents, journalists and activists. Turkish officials — who spoke to the media anonymously — say an investigation has concluded that Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi agents.
- What do we not know?
- What impact the alleged killing will have. The possibility that a person was murdered in an embassy is truly shocking and would be an escalation in brutality for a country that already has an appalling human rights record. However, it has strong financial and diplomatic ties with the West.
- Erdogan was elected in 2014. He too has clamped down on press freedoms, imprisoning journalists, and has dismantled Turkey’s secular culture, replacing it with strict Islam.
- The capital city of Saudi Arabia.
- Turkey opposes Saudi Arabia and its allies’ blockade on Qatar, which saw Saudi Arabia sever all diplomatic and business ties with the wealthy country.
- Expressing views that conflict with those of the government, such as criticising its rulers.
- Saudi Arabia is ruled by its royal family, the House of Saud. Traditionally, power was shared between various royals, but the crown prince has sought to concentrate power in his hands alone.
- People can be whipped in public for a range of crimes including drinking alcohol and blasphemy. The punishment for stealing is having a hand chopped off. The Saudi regime is currently seeking to execute several human rights activists.
- Saudi Arabia produces roughly 18% of the world’s oil, which has been the source of the country’s vast wealth.