Jamal Khashoggi’s Disappearance Shows the Danger Critics Face

Jamal Khashoggi blank opinion washington post

Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi critic, is missing in Turkey. He was last seen entering the Saudi consulate. His fiancée waited outside the consulate but he never exited the building.

Unnamed sources from the Turkish police told the NYTimes that footage from the security cameras did not show Jamal leaving the consulate on foot.

Today, BBC reported that Turkish officials think Jamal was murdered in the Saudi consulate. So far, they haven’t shared any proof to support their claim.

Although Turkey and Saudi Arabia do not see eye to eye on a range of issues, Turks wouldn’t place such a serious allegation if they didn’t have evidence to back it up.

Saudi Arabia denies the Turkish claims. They claim that Jamal Khashoggi left the consulate shortly after he entered. Muhammad bin Salman even vowed to let the Turkish officials enter the Saudi consulate to look for him.

What might have happened to Jamal Khashoggi

Despite Muhammad bin Salman’s unusual offer, there is a theory about what might have happened to Khashoggi inside the consulate.

Although the security camera footage didn’t show Jamal Khashoggi exiting the consulate, they do show a slew of consulate vehicles entering and exiting the building.

There is a prospect that Khashoggi was maybe smuggled out of the consulate in one of the vehicles. Once outside the premises of the consulate, he might have been then killed or smuggled to Saudi Arabia.

As much as we hope that Turks reached a wrong conclusion, Khashoggi’s mysterious disappearance isn’t a surprise. If Saudis face no rebuke from Washington, that won’t be a surprise either.

The Saudi monarchs are notorious for kidnapping their critics living in exile abroad. They are an absolute monarchy and do not tolerate dissent.

Prince Sultan bin Turki

One of them was Prince Sultan bin Turki, who criticized the Saudi leadership on its’ human rights records calling for reforms. While attending a breakfast at King Fahd’s palace in Geneva, a group of masked men attacked and handcuffed him. To subdue him, they also injected him with a chemical compound. He was flown to Riyadh against his will.

The Saudi ambassador in Switzerland then showed up at the Genevan suite Prince Sultan had been staying at and asked his entourage to get out saying that the Prince was now in Riyadh. The hotel manager was with the ambassador, which shows how compliant the Swiss are to the Saudi monarchs.

Years later, the Swiss subservience to the Saudi monarchs would grow more shocking after Swiss officials do not act on Prince Sultan’s complain about his kidnapping.

The Prince was luckier than most Saudi dissenters. Due to his seniority in the state, he was allowed to go to Boston for medical treatment. Once there, he filed a complaint against the Saudi leaders and even presented medical evidence that corroborated his claims but the Swiss officials did not budge.

They did not share any details on the pilots of the plane that took Prince Sultan to Riyadh or the flight schedule showing when the plane arrived at the Geneva airport.

But his luck ran out. In 2016 when planning a trip to see his father in Cairo, he accepted an offer from a Saudi consulate to fly on a private jet. Rather than land in Cairo, the plane landed in Riyadh where Prince Sultan was arrested. Since then, he has not been heard from.

Saud bin Saif-al-Nasr

Then there is the case of Saudi bin Saif-al-Nasr. Though he did not have the title of the ‘Prince’, he was a Royal nevertheless albeit a minor one. He made the fatal mistake of criticizing the Saudi monarchy on Twitter.

A year later, when the infamous letter from an unnamed Prince surfaced that called for the removal of King Salman, Saud supported it.

On his Twitter account, he tried to rile up the Saudi public against the monarchy. The Saudi leadership saw it as an act of treason.

As in the case of Prince Sultan, Saud also accepted an offer to fly private to Rome. He never reached Rome but some claim he was destined to an underground Saudi prison. There has been no news about him either.

Prince Turki bin Bandar

Another high-ranking Saudi official, Prince Turki bin Bandar ended up in a Saudi prison twice. The first time he faced jail was after he disputed a matter of inheritance. On his release, he moved to France. Once there, he shared videos in which he called for reforms in Saudi Arabia.

All of a sudden, he was gone. There was no trace of him until a Moroccan newspaper reported that Prince Turki bin Bandar had been arrested in Morocco before boarding a flight to France and deported to Saudi Arabia.

Before his disappearance, he shared with a friend a book he had been writing in which he prophesied that he would either be kidnapped or assassinated.

What it means for Critics worldwide…

Saudi critics in exile fear the same fate. Jamal Khashoggi was one of them. He pledged to keep writing because the critics in Saudi prisons could no longer do so. It led him to leave his job, his family, and his country, all of which he loved.

It must have been a difficult decision to take. But why do so many Saudis living in privilege suddenly turn against the system that gave them respect, status, and wealth?

As a critic myself, I have a lot of naysayers around me who ask why do I even bother? What can I do through a blog? Why get yourself into undue trouble? What is the point of wasting hundreds of hours every year when nothing is going to come out of it?

I can say that you only feel the urge to criticize that which you care about. If I didn’t feel strongly that the United States could play a productive role for once, I wouldn’t bother criticizing the American foreign policy.

If I didn’t feel that rather than bomb the poorest nation on earth, Saudi Arabia could play a constructive role in solving crises in the Muslim world, I wouldn’t criticize them.

If I didn’t feel that China by giving its’ partner nations economic and political freedom, could replace the US world order with something better, I wouldn’t criticize them.

Richard Nixon put Noam Chomsky on his ‘enemy list’ due to his stance on the Vietnam War. Like Saudis, Nixon didn’t like dissenting voices either and put only yes men around him. The rest is history.

Nixon will forever be an emblem of abuse of power, forever disgraced. While his critic Noam Chomsky inspired generations of political dissidents all over the world becoming the most influential mind of the last century.

In a world full of Richard Nixons, we need Noam Chomskies.

We don’t need cheerers we need critics.


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