The assassination by state actors of journalist Jamal Khashoggi on October 2 in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul is a sinister, tragic, and surreal story that might have been out of the playbook of the original secret sect of Assassins in the eleventh century C.E. This secret society of religious fanatics in Persia was known for terrorist tactics and carrying out political assassinations. Whether they got their name from the name of their leader, Sheikh Hasan ibn al-Sabbah, or from eating hashish before their missions to make them fearless and strong, they were a brutal, relentless force accountable to no one.
In carrying out the extraterritorial assassination of Khashoggi, in broad daylight, in its own consular office, the Saudi regime has exhibited on the world stage its own brand of brutality right out of the Middle Ages.
Although Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir finally admitted in an interview with Fox News that the death was a “murder,” in the four weeks since then, as Turkish sources continued to leak what they claimed was evidence of the crime, no one has produced Khashoggi’s body.
How is it possible that in a state-sanctioned execution in a state-owned office building by state-directed assassins the state does not know where the body is?
Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, a monarchy currently run by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), the son of the king. In an absolute monarchy, no one dares to undertake major — or even minor — actions, especially actions such as an assassination by a 15-member “hit-squad” flown in for the occasion with the potential to cause an international incident, without the knowledge and imprimatur of the monarch, or in this case his appointed successor, the Crown Prince. MbS is “running things over there,” according to President Trump.
The hit squad included three members of the Crown Prince’s personal security detail, a Saudi diplomat frequently seen in the Crown Prince’s company (including being photographed with the prince during his visit to the U.S. earlier this year), a senior Saudi intelligence officer, and a forensic doctor and autopsy expert, according to Turkish officials. The forensics expert is head of the Saudi government’s Scientific Council of Forensics. This is not the makeup of “rogue operatives,” as the Saudi government earlier suggested.
When the regime had finally admitted after almost two weeks that Khashoggi had been murdered, Saudi officials first claimed that Khashoggi’s body had been rolled into a carpet and handed over to a “local collaborator.” Since then, their story has changed several times.
Turkish authorities, however, said that they have audio and visual proof that Khashoggi’s body was dismembered and cut up with a bone saw and disposed of. Those authorities also suggested that the body may have been dumped in a nearby forest.
Last Thursday, upon her return from meeting her counterpart head of intelligence in Turkey, CIA Director Gina Haspel briefed President Trump. Haspel is purported to have listened to the audio of Khashoggi’s killing. Even after this meeting, however, U.S. officials have stated that they need additional information before they can form an opinion or take further steps to hold any Saudi accountable.
On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, “Saudi prosecutors yesterday made clear that this was a premeditated murder that took place, and we’re continuing to learn the facts.”
Notwithstanding the apparent reluctance of the administration to call anyone to account for the atrocity, the U.S. State Department has urged that Khashoggi’s remains “be located and returned to his family for a proper burial as soon as possible.”
On Monday, at a special memorial event for Khashoggi attended by politicians, journalists, and activists in London, Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, said she believes the Saudis know where his body is.
“I want to bury the body of the beloved Jamal. Therefore I am asking once again, where is his body? I believe that the Saudi regime knows where his body is. They should answer my demand. For this is not only the demand of a fiancée, but a human and Islamic demand from everyone, every nation.”
“I want justice to be served,” she continued. “Not only for those who murdered my beloved Jamal, but for those who organized it and gave the order [to do] it. These questions are not just my questions,” she asserted, “they are now being asked by millions.”
Last week, Cengiz said she had declined an invitation from the White House. President Trump’s move to invite her appeared to her to be merely “a statement to win public favor,” she said.
While she is “deeply grateful for the solidarity of people all over the world,” she said she is “disappointed in the actions of the leadership in many countries, particularly in the U.S.”
Cengiz is calling upon President Trump “to help reveal the truth and ensure justice be served.” She said that Trump “should not pave the way for a cover up.” She urged that money not “taint our conscience and compromise our values.”
Cengiz described Khashoggi as a “gentle human being, a loving man, a journalist and true believer in freedom and democracy in the Arab world.” She concluded, “Let’s demand justice for Jamal and stand up for his ideals.”
Today, four weeks to the day that Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered, the world deserves answers.
The messenger may have been killed, but his message lives on.
Journalists everywhere therefore call upon the Saudi regime and Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman to stand up and take responsibility, to produce the body and bring to justice those responsible for this gross violation of human rights and press freedom.