All in a day’s work

About a dissident Saudi journalist’s disappearance

All in a day’s work

Dear All,

Why does Saudi Arabia get away with any and everything?

Why do the western governments that go on and on about human rights, freedom of expression and terrorist violence stay relatively quiet when the Saudis crush dissent or criticism by means of abduction, murder and intimidation? Why is there no talk of how Saudis have basically dealt with all dissent or rebellion through either violence or redirection? Redirect is what they did in the case of the fundamentalist wahabi uprising that resulted in the siege of Mecca in 1979, they exported all those jihadis to other lands so they could tear apart countries and societies other than Saudi Arabia.

But the behaviour of the Saudi regime seems to have become extraordinarily bold since the advent of crown prince Muhammad Bin Salman, who is known affectionately in the west as ‘the reformer and moderniser’ MBS.

The latest manifestation of this brutal approach to criticism of the regime is the alleged murder of a Saudi journalist who entered the KSA consulate in Istanbul on the afternoon of Tuesday, October 2 — and was never seen again. Turkish police say they have credible information that the journalist was murdered while in the Consulate and his body was chopped into pieces in order to dispose it of.

Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident and critic of the Saudi leadership, had gone to the consulate to obtain a document he needed in order to get married. His fiancee was waiting for him outside, she waited till midnight but there was no sign of him, she returned to the consulate the next morning but there was still no sign of him and he was uncontactable.

When news of Khashoggi’s disappearance or possible abduction spread, the Saudi consulate refuted the claims saying that that the journalist did visit the consulate ‘but he exited soon after’ .They further clarified that he ‘is not in the consulate nor in Saudi custody’. These clarifications are not necessarily false if you believe the rumour that he was killed, dismembered and removed from the premises as, according to this, technically he (or his remains) would indeed have ‘exited’, would not be on consulate premises and neither would he be in custody.

Turkish authorities have fuelled this sensational story with information saying it is credible but not specifying the actual sources. Investigators say they have identified the 15-man hit-squad that arrived and left on the same day, their mission supposedly to eliminate the journalist. The men’s pictures have been published in the media. Press outrage has forced some western governments into making half-hearted statements such as they are “concerned about the incident”.

But is this the same sort of concern that they feel about the way that Saudi Arabi has waged war on its neighbour Yemen by starving and bombing the population? Is this the sort of concern that they feel when Saudi Arabia abducts the prime minster of Lebanon and forces him to resign (but not admit coercion)? The curious case of the Saad Hariri ‘visit’ to Saudi Arabia and his sudden resignation (announced from Saudi Arabia) last year was rather bizarre, not least because he remained so tight-lipped about it.

But now the first journalist who was able to interview him after the incident says that it appears that he was, in fact, held against his will and threatened. Lebanese tv personality Paula Yacoubian had earlier said that this was not the case but now she has told Al Jazeera that it was clear during the interview that Hariri was under a lot of pressure and that he hadn’t wanted to resign.

So why does Saudi Arabia get away with all this? I suppose a major factor is its strategic location which is so important for Israel and the western allies of Israel, who are also hungry for the oil and money involved. Basically, money is a big reason: the Saudis buy billions of dollars worth of arms from countries like Britain and prop up the arms industry all over the world. On an individual level, they allow individuals to work in the country and save up heaps of money, so even these people turn a blind eye to the excesses of the Kingdom — because of the money and, in the case of the Muslims, because they are ‘close to the Holy places of Islam’.

The Saudi regime enjoys the sort of impunity in international law and foreign policy that the USA and Israel do. They are all the best of friends; so obviously they all scratch each other’s backs. However, for people with any conscience or compassion and interest in progress and rational thought, the way the Saudi leadership functions is an anachronism and an abomination, and it makes the world into a more brutal and violent place.

Journalists especially should not allow themselves to be silenced by the petro dollars and the free Umrah trips… Journalism is not a crime and this regime should be held accountable for whatever it is that has happened to Jamal Khashoggi.

Best wishes,

umber
The author is a former BBC broadcaster and producer, and one of the founding editors of Newsline.

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