Missing Saudi Journalist

Darley Boit '21

In October of 2018, Jamal Khashoggi, a liberal Saudi Arabian journalist, went missing in the Saudi Arabian consulate. Khashoggi had been an author and previous editor in chief of the Al-Arab news center as well as editor for Al Watan, a Saudi newspaper. Turning Al Watan into a platform for liberal politics later in his career as its editor, he was very outspoken and had many controversial and liberal opinions about the Saudi Arabian government and crown prince. In September of 2017, he fled from Saudi Arabia, putting himself into exile because he feared retribution from the government because of his unpopular opinions.

On October 2, 2018, Khashoggi entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in order to acquire the paperwork he would have needed to marry his fiance. Because Khashoggi had not returned from the consulate on October 15th, there was a public outcry, mainly from Turkish officials, claiming that he had been murdered. Due to the uproar, Saudi Arabian and Turkish officials investigated the situation.

The Saudi Arabian government initially claimed that Khashoggi had left the consulate alive, but  on October 20th, they changed their claim, stating that he had been spontaneously killed in a fight which had broken out in the consulate. The Saudi Arabian government’s statement changed again when the Saudi Arabian attorney general admitted that the murder had been planned due to Khashoggi’s unpopular political opinions.

Since the investigation, 18 Saudi officials have been arrested for involvement is Khashoggi’s murder, but the main perpetrator has not been revealed. Many Saudis blame Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince, because they believe that the assassination would have been impossible without his support. It is unclear if Salman was actually involved in Khashoggi’s murder, however considering their political past, it is likely that he was at least aware of plans to murder the writer.

Salman addressed the issue publicly on October 24, stating, “ The incident was really painful to all Saudis. I believe it is painful to every human in the world. It is a heinous crime that cannot be justified.” However, his words have done little to protect him or Saudi Arabia as a whole from national and international outrage.

On October 25, the parliament of the European Union voted (with a huge majority) to stop all exports of arms to Saudi Arabia that might be used illegally. In the United States, both republican and democratic parties have voiced their support of restricting arms exports to Saudi Arabia.