October 13, 1958—disappeared October 2018
When I speak of the fear, intimidation, arrests and public shaming of intellectuals and religious leaders who dare to speak their minds, and then I tell you that I’m from Saudi Arabia, are you surprised? —Writes Jamal Khashoggi in his column titled; Saudi Arabia wasn’t always this repressive. Now it’s unbearable, for the Washington Post on September 18, 2018.
Jamal Khashoggi fate hangs in balance. His absence for the past two weeks increases fears that he may have been killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The cameras that saw him entering the Consulate early this month have no evidence of him leaving. His fiancé waited outside the front door of the consulate, but later as time went by the consulate authorities said that he’d already left through the back door.
Khashoggi went to Indiana State University for an MBA. He began his journalistic career in the 1980s. Until the 1990 he had worked at the Saudi Gazette, Okaz, Al Sharq Al Awsat, Al Majalla, Al Muslimoon. He spent his longest tenure at Al Madina—1990-1999—serving as managing editor and acting editor in chief. It was during this period that he travelled as a foreign correspondent through other Islamic countries i.e., Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait and the Middle East. He had already joined the movement Muslim Brotherhood and had befriended Osama Bin Laden whom he dissuaded from violence but later severed contact after the 9/11 tragedy. Sources allude that he allegedly served in the Saudi government and the United States’ intelligence during the Afghan-Soviet war.
The turnaround came in 2003 when he was fired from the Editorship of Al Watan for allowing criticism of a Wahabi leadership—that too barely two months into his tenure. Khashoggi was yearning for reforms in the Arab world that would rid the land from authoritative and corrupt regimes. He was rehired in 2007 and served Al Watan for another 3 years before another forced resignation. This period saw a lot of his liberal ideas and his distaste for the strict religious rules. Another criticism, published in the paper against Salafist ideology, riled the information ministry. Khashoggi still had ties with the Saudi intelligence elite. He launched an independent television news channel, AL Arab, from Bahrain with the help of Bloomberg Television but the transmission was closed down by the Bahrain government on the very first day.
Khashoggi started appearing on Al Jazeera, Dubai TV, MBC, and BBC etc. for his political commentary and wrote for Al Arabia, but in 2016 Saudi Arabia banned his news and appearance on media citing his criticism of the US President Donald Trump. It was then that Khashoggi went into self-exile to the United States. He wrote columns in Washington Post and appeared on media outlets lambasting Saudi Arabia for their role both nationally and internationally.
With young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s rise to power, he promised an embrace of social and economic reform…. But all I see now is the recent wave of arrests. Last week, about 30 people were reportedly rounded up by authorities, ahead of the crown prince’s ascension to the throne. Some of the arrested are good friends of mine, and the effort represents the public shaming of intellectuals and religious leaders who dare to express opinions contrary to those of my country’s leadership. …
Son of a textile merchant of Turkish origin from Medina, Khashoggi comes from a prominent family in the Saudi Arabia. His grandfather served as the personal physician to King Abdulaziz Al Saud; his uncle Adnan Khashoggi was a high profile Saudi Arms dealer with alleged ties to the Iran-Contra scandal and; Dodi Fayed was a cousin to Khashoggi.
It was painful for me several years ago when several friends were arrested. I said nothing. I didn’t want to lose my job or my freedom. I worried about my family.
I have made a different choice now. I have left my home, my family and my job, and I am raising my voice. To do otherwise would betray those who languish in prison. I can speak when so many cannot.
Khashoggi’s life has been directed by his passion and zeal for change and betterment of the Arab masses. David Ignatius of the Washington Post remembers him, in 2011, calling for an Arab renaissance that is free of authoritative regimes and corruption. The international community of journalists and intellectuals were shocked to hear that the Saudi monarchy could go to such lengths to have a dissident silenced. Sadly the United States has not announced any rapprochement for their Saudi Allies for committing a crime of this magnitude.