JAMAL KHASHOGGI – THE MAN WHO DESIRED DEMOCRACY IN SAUDI ARABIA

 

The disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi has sparked a diplomatic row between United States, its European allies and Saudi Arabia sending global markets reeling, and potentially leading to creation of another wave of uncertainly and chaos in Middle East.

Jamal Khashoggi aged 59 currently a U.S. permanent resident lives in Virginia, had fled Saudi Arabia in September 2017 considering his critical stance against the Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, and the country’s king, Salman of Saudi Arabia over various issues including Saudi Arabian led military intervention in Yemen. He served as general manager and editor-in-chief of Al-Arab News Channel and as editor for the Saudi Arabian newspaper Al Watan, turning it into a platform for Saudi Arabian progressives.

Khashoggi had a very illustrious journalistic career starting 1985 when he first started working as a correspondent with Saudi Gazette later to become deputy editor-in-chief of Arab News the leading English newspaper of Saudi Arabia, and served in the post from 1999 to 2003. Trouble started for Khashoggi when he was fired from the post of editor-in-chief of the Saudi Arabian daily Al Watan. He had allowed a columnist to criticize the Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyya who is considered as the founding father of Wahabism which didn’t go well with Saudi Arabian regime. The shadows of his liberal and progressive ideals for the reformation of society started telling upon his career and he had to venture into voluntary exile in London considering threat to life from extremists groups.

Interestingly, Khashogi began to work as editor-in-chief of Al Watan for a second time In April 2007, and ironically his liberal and progressive ideals again turned up as the road block in his career. This time he had allowed a column of poet Ibrahim Al-Almaee challenging the basic Salafi premises in Al Watan in May 2010 and he was again forced to resign. Though Al Watan announced that Khashoggi resigned as editor-in-chief “to focus on his personal projects” however, such statement from the media group carried no value considering known official displeasure expressed by Saudi regime through other channels.

In September 2017, after crown prince Mohammed bin Salman centralized the Saudi government under his control, Khashoggi left Saudi Arabia and settled in the United States. He became a columnist for the Washington Post and reinvented himself as the crown prince’s most prominent critic in the West.

He began writing for The Washington Post in September 2017, continuing thereafter in the Post, he criticized the Saudi Arabian-led blockade against Qatar, Saudi Arabia’s dispute with Lebanon, Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic dispute with Canada, and the Kingdom’s crackdown on dissent and media and freedom of speech. Though Khashoggi supported some of Crown Prince’s reforms, like allowing women to drive, but he also condemned the Saudi Arabia’s arrest of Loujain al-Hathloul, who was ranked 3rd in the list of Top 100 Most Powerful Arab Women 2015.

Noteworthy, Jamal Khashoggi rose to become the most famous political analyst of the Arab world and was seen frequently on major TV news Networks in United States and Britain.  He had recently launched a political party ‘Democracy for the Arab World Now’ which was posing a great threat to the Saudi Crown Prince and regime. He wrote in a Washington Post column on 3 April 2018 that Saudi Arabia “should return to its pre-1979 climate, when the government restricted hard-line Wahhabi traditions. Women today should have the same rights as men. And all citizens should have the right to speak their minds without fear of imprisonment.”

This brief background of Jamal Khashoggi gives us a vivid idea about his journalistic career and all the values he stood for. Khashoggi was last seen October 2. Security video shows him walking into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. It is suspected that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, dismembered and removed from the building in pieces.

The matter of his disappearance after he went into Saudi embassy in Turkey to collect some documents for his planned wedding to his Turkish fiancée has turned out into a very grave diplomatic row between United States and Saudi Arabia. Interestingly, going against the domestic intelligence which points towards the involvement of Saudi Government in disappearance and possible murder of Khashoggi, US President Trump said has suggested “rogue killers” could be behind the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey while speaking with the reporters on Monday.

Unconfirmed reports in international media say Saudi Arabia is preparing to admit that Khashoggi died as a result of interrogation that went wrong. Meanwhile Turkey claims to have evidence that Khashoggi was killed inside the embassy.

Who Killed Jamal Khashogi?

This question might get shrouded in the mystery like several such acts and happenings witnessed world over but peeping through the principles and ideals for which Jamal Khashoggi stood for and expressed over years only has one pointed reference which relates to ever growing power of radicalization in contemporary Middle east society. Khashoggi stood for freedom of expression, liberty and democratic values which he always expressed through his write up and conversations through various media channels world over. His unflinching faith in democracy and its values made him dream of democracy in Saudi Arabia, a country under a totalitarian absolute monarchy where the decisions are made not by the masses but the royal family and religious establishment in accordance with Sharia. A country where the ideals of humanism get consumed in fanaticism and orthodoxy, anathema sets in with every question which challenges the power of monarchy rooted in religious bigotry.

If the reports of Jamal Khashoggi’s cold blooded murder are true, and if he indeed was killed inside Saudi Embassy, we can be certain and sure of one thing and that is irrespective of the fact who his killers are. It can be fairly attributed to the murderers of freedom of speech and all the connected ideals of human existence which have posted humans on top of pyramid of life. Saudi Arabia cannot wash off its hands from his disappearance and suspected murder considering all the circumstantial evidence leads to the Saudi Arabian regressive and repressive regime not only in this case but over years through umpteen muzzling of free and democratic voice in their country.

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