Jamal Khashoggi, a well-established Saudi Arabian journalist who had been living in the United States since mid-2017, has been missing since October 2, 2018, and is presumed dead. He was last seen entering the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in order to handle marriage paperwork.
After two weeks of denials, Saudi authorities admitted that he had been killed inside the consulate, but offered an implausible explanation. Turkish officials continue to investigate his case, and leaked audio footage suggests that we was killed in a violent manner before being dismembered with a bone saw.
Khashoggi began his journalism career as a correspondent for the Saudi Gazette newspaper. As a journalist, he was known for his coverage of Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, and the Middle East, particularly for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and his multiple interviews with Osama Bin Laden before he became the leader of al-Qaeda.
In addition to his career as a journalist, he was a political commentator, appearing on Saudi and Arab channels. He also worked as media advisor to Prince Turki bin Faisal, former head of Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Directorate, who once served as the Saudi ambassador to the United States.
Once close to the inner circles of the Saudi royal family, he has been subject to a rigorous silencing regime by the Saudi authorities in recent years. He was dismissed from his position as editor-in-chief of a progressive paper, Al-Watan, in 2003 and again in 2010. Later he was appointed as the general manager of the Al Arab news channel, but it was shut down shortly after its launch in February 2015. He was banned from media appearances after his critical remarks on President Trump’s Middle East policies at a conference held at the Washington Institute in November 2016. His column in one of the most widely read Arabic dailies, Al-Hayat, was canceled and his Twitter account banned.
Concerned about his safety in Saudi Arabia, he went into self-imposed exile and moved to the United States. In September 2017, he began to write for the Washington Post as a columnist, where he continued to do so until his disappearance. In his first article, he expressed fears of being arrested and concerns over the safety of his friends in Saudi Arabia. He wrote, “I have left my home, my family, and my job, and I am raising my voice.” He continued to criticize the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s actions in connection with the recent crackdown in Saudi Arabia where many high profile arrests had taken place.
He was also outspoken about the declining status of free expression in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world. His latest article was published on October 17, which was sent to the Washington Post by Khashoggi’s assistant a day after his disappearance. Calling for free expression in the Arab world, the article reflects on the failed promises of Arab Spring and state-run narratives that command the members of Arab society.
October 20, 2018: After two weeks of denials, the Saudi government acknowledges that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, claiming that he was killed in a fistfight—a claim that draws immediate disbelief.
October 18, 2018: A number of senior officials withdraw from a major economic forum to be held in Riyadh on October 23 in response to Khashoggi’s disappearance. France, Germany, the U.K., and the Netherlands suspend political visits to Saudi Arabia, demanding clarifications on the disappearance of Khashoggi.
The United States asks Turkey for an audio recording of Jamal Khashoggi’s death, which could provide evidence that he was tortured before he was killed inside the Saudi consulate.
October 15, 2018: A Turkish forensics team searches the Saudi consulate.
October 11, 2018: President Trump says the United States is assisting Turkey with the investigation of Khashoggi’s disappearance.
October 10, 2018: More than 20 U.S. Senators sign a bipartisan letter directed at President Trump, triggering the terms of the Global Magnitsky Act, which demands an investigation on whether foreign persons are responsible for an extrajudicial killing. This could result in the imposition of sanctions against Saudi Arabia.
Leaked surveillance footage shows both Khashoggi and the purported team that killed him.
October 6, 2018: The Consul General of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul gives a tour of the Saudi consulate building to Reuters news agency to show that Khashoggi is not on the premises.
Meanwhile, Turkish sources claim that Khashoggi was killed inside the building.
October 5, 2018: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says in an interview with Bloomberg News in Riyadh that he believes the journalist left the Saudi consulate in Istanbul alive, but the Kingdom does not support these claims with evidence. He says Turkish authorities can search inside the consulate.
October 4, 2018: Turkey summons the Saudi ambassador in Ankara to the foreign ministry. Saudi officials announce on Twitter that they are closely following Khashoggi’s case and working with Turkish authorities on his investigation.
October 3, 2018: The Saudi government issues a statement confirming Khashoggi is missing but says that he disappeared after he left the building. Turkish authorities claim that he never left. No video evidence is released confirming that he left the building alive.
October 2, 2018: Khashoggi enters the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in order to collect paperwork confirming his divorce from his former Saudi wife, in order to marry Hatice Cengiz, his fiancé. Cengiz was waiting outside for him but when he did not come out for several hours, she contacted the Turkish police concerning his safety.
Evidence later emerges that 15 Saudis, including a forensics experts and security and intelligence officials, arrive in Istanbul on both commercial and private flights.
September 28, 2018: Khashoggi makes a first trip to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in order to inquire about obtaining documents needed for his planned second marriage. He is told to come back the following week to collect them.
September 2017: After several months in self-imposed exile, Jamal Khashoggi starts writing columns for the Washington Post.
IN THEIR WORDS
His columns in the Washington Post can be found here.
His off-air conversation with BBC Newshour program released after three days of his disappearance.
FREE EXPRESSION IN SAUDI ARABIA
Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy, has long failed to create an enabling environment for free expression for its people. The expansive media coverage of and strong international concern over Khashoggi’s disappearance and demand for urgent explanation for it brought up a strong debate on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. The recent crackdown in Saudi Arabia, where many, including more than 15 journalists and human rights activists, were arrested creates a climate of fear, instead of a new reform era, as promised by Prince Salman two years ago. Khashoggi was one of the journalists who fled from the crackdown.
PEN America immediately released a statement on October 6 condemning the reported assassination of Khashoggi. Our response was quoted prominently in the Associated Press and Washington Post, among other outlets.
Read PEN America’s statements on Jamal Khashoggi here:
PEN America staff have also spoken out expressing our concern to the Daily Beast, Politico, Al Jazeera, and others, as well as taking part in and speaking at a vigil in front of the Washington Post office in Washington, D.C.:
- Daily Beast
- Al Jazeera
- Washington Post Vigil
- The New Yorker
- Teen Vogue
- New Civil Rights Movement
Watch PEN America Washington Director Thomas Melia’s interview with al-Araby TV here. The clip has been translated below.
Host: “Reports regarding U.S. agency awareness of Khashoggi’s targeting have raised the intensity of questions here about an affair involving a well-known journalist who writes for one of the biggest American newspapers and who resided in the United States.”
Thomas Melia: “If the reports are accurate, then the U.S. agencies had an obligation to inform Jamal Khashoggi of the danger and should have advised him against going to that consulate or to Turkey, if Saudi Arabia, which is supposedly our ally, was developing a plan to kidnap an individual living in America.”
We have also engaged on the case with both houses of Congress, and are pleased that, in a major positive step, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee used the Global Magnitsky Acton October 10 to formally require the administration to make a determination within 120 days of whether an extrajudicial killing or other form of gross human rights violation has been committed against Khashoggi; if so, this would automatically trigger sanctions. We will be continuing to follow the case closely and to advocate for the Saudi regime to provide clarity about Khashoggi’s whereabouts at the earliest possible time.