PEN America President Jennifer Egan Calls for Justice for Jamal Khashoggi
PEN America President Jennifer Egan, speaking in Washington, D.C., at the U.S. Capitol at a memorial for Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, 100 days after his murder in Istanbul by agents of the Saudi state. Other speakers included Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Representative Adam Schiff, Senators Chris Van Hollen, Mark Warner and Amy Klobouchar, and 10 other members of the House.
My name is Jennifer Egan, and I’m president of PEN America. As an organization of writers and journalists dedicated to celebrating and protecting written expression, we grieve for our murdered colleague and his loved ones.
100 days ago, Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated for writing honest commentary that pinpointed abuses and cruelty of an autocratic system in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a country he loved and had great hopes for. He was killed for being a professional journalist, a writer who was widely read. As a novelist and journalist myself who works with fellow writers worldwide, Jamal Khashoggi’s murder felt like an assault on our family.
We at PEN America are grateful to members of Congress for holding Saudi Arabia responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s killing and refusing to do business with the man who engineered it. By hewing to principle, you help to ensure that the lurid and horrific facts of Mr. Khashoggi’s slaughter, facts that would strain credulity even in a work of fiction—and I say that as a fiction writer—cannot erase his life and work. Jamal Khashoggi explained in one of his Post columns, “I can speak when so many cannot. I want you to know that Saudi Arabia has not always been as it is now. We Saudis deserve better.”
We can best honor Jamal’s life, his work, and his ultimate sacrifice by insisting upon our right to speak the truth and by protecting those who speak it. In America and abroad, if we do this in his memory, Jamal Khashoggi’s voice will endure, despite the Saudi government’s depraved attempt to silence him. Thank you.