Jamal Khashoggi would have known risks of entering Saudi consulate

Not even royals are exempt from being ‘disappeared’ by despotic Wahhabist regime

Jamal Khashoggi: a man who knew too much. Photograph: Mohammed al-Shaikh/AFP/Getty Images

Jamal Khashoggi: a man who knew too much. Photograph: Mohammed al-Shaikh/AFP/Getty Images

 

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi had been a regime insider for decades and knew how the kingdom’s rulers and security services dealt with dissidents. He should have been wary of entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia has a tradition of kidnapping and disappearing not only critical commoners but also reformist royals.

Nasser al-Sa’id, founder of the Arabian Peninsula People’s Union, was the highest-profile opposition figure when he went missing in Beirut in 1979 shortly after praising the ultra-fundamentalist seizure of the grand mosque in Mecca late that year.

Loujain al-Hathloul, a women’s rights campaigner arrested repeatedly at home, was abducted from the United Arab Emirates in late 2014.

Prince Sultan bin Turki was abducted from Geneva in 2003, then freed and kidnapped a second time after boarding a flight from Paris to Cairo in 2016. Turki bin Bandar, a police major assigned to the royal family, disappeared from Morocco in 2015. In September that year, a minor prince, was rendered to Saudi Arabia while flying in a private jet from Milan to Rome.

Harsh crackdown

In November last year, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri to fly to Riyadh where he was held and compelled to leave his post. Under Lebanese and French pressure, he was released and returned to Beirut, where he repudiated his resignation.

Since his father’s enthronement in January 2015, Bin Salman has initiated largely cosmetic reforms and carried out a harsh crackdown on liberal and conservative dissidents.

The death penalty continues to be applied and at least 100 people have been beheaded this year.

The kingdom’s western allies have tackled neither abductions nor executions due to dependence on Saudi oil and political and economic clout. Consequently, Riyadh seems to believe it can act with impunity. Khashoggi was a man who knew too much.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Khashoggi worked as a journalist for the English-language Saudi Gazette and the Arabic daily Okaz, government mouthpieces. During this time he repeatedly met al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, then involved in the US-Saudi campaign to drive the Soviet army out of Afghanistan.

Wahhabi anger

Khashoggi briefly edited another Saudi daily, al-Watan, but was fired after publishing commentaries about the influence of the puritan Wahhabi religious establishment. He moved to London, where he served as adviser to the Saudi ambassador to Britain, Prince Turki al-Faisal. Khoshoggi accompanied him to Washington. Prince Turki had been director of Saudi intelligence from 1977-2001. He resigned 10 days before al-Qaeda’s attack on New York and Washington.

Khashoggi returned to Riyadh, where he again edited al-Watan from 2007 to 2010. He was appointed director of Bahrain-based Al-Arab satellite news channel, owned by independent-minded Saudi billionaire Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, who was detained and fleeced by Bin Salman during his anti-corruption campaign last November.

Khashoggi was also a life-long supporter of the pan-Arab Muslim Brotherhood, seen by Riyadh as a major challenge to Wahhabism, the sect upon which the Saudis have spent billions of dollars to export to the Muslim world. He openly declared his backing for the Brotherhood in a recent Washington Post column.

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