A journalist is believed dead after entering a Saudi consulate in Turkey. According to the Turkish government, Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by the Saudi Arabian government. Khashoggi is a Saudi citizen, a Washinton Post contributor, and perhaps most importantly, a critic of the House of Saud.
Khashoggi went to the consulate to procure paperwork certifying that he had divorced his wife, in order to marry his fiancé, Hatice Cengiz, who is a Turkish national. Turkey’s government stated that he never left the building and is likely deceased.
Saudi Arabia, while not yet being an official NATO member, is a prominent U.S. partner. The existence of serious allegations regarding the likely murder – or at the very least imprisonment – of a journalist in one of their key consulates should have the State Department questioning whether the two nations share common values.
Khashoggi Goes Missing
Khashoggi’s fiancé told the authorities that he was required to submit his cell phone to Saudi officials upon entering the building – a practice that is not uncommon. As a precaution, he told Cengiz that she should contact an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan if he did not return. When Khashoggi failed to return, she posted a tweet indicating that she did not believe he was killed, but that she was waiting for official confirmation.
Turkish officials later announced that they believed Khashoggi was murdered inside of the consulate and that his body was transported out of the building. Investigators working with the Turkish authorities stated that a team of 15 people arrived at the consulate on the same day as Khashoggi arrived. It is believed that this group dismembered the journalist’s body and removed it.
Turan Kislakci, the head of the Turkish-Arab Media Association, told The New York Times that Turkish officers did not see Khashoggi leave when they monitored their surveillance cameras. They also stated that they saw diplomatic vehicles entering and leaving the premises.
The Saudi Arabian government has denied the allegations, claiming that they allowed reporters to enter the building to see that Khashoggi was not present. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stated that he welcomed Turkish authorities to search the consulate.
“We have nothing to hide,” the prince said, claiming that the journalist exited the building “after a few minutes or one hour.” He also indicated that the Saudi government is “very keen to know what happened to him.”
Who Is Jamal Khashoggi?
Khashoggi was a journalist who contributed to the opinion section of The Washington Post. He was also a vocal critic of the Saudi Arabian government and fact that Riyadh has taken a harsh approach to members of the press who criticize the country’s leadership lends some credence to the allegations of murder or imprisonment.
While the Saudis have denied the accusations, an official with Turkey’s AK Party told CNN Turk (the Turkish outlet of the American media agency), that there was evidence proving that Riyadh was involved in the alleged assassination. However, they have not yet made this evidence public.
The relationship between Saudi Arabia and Turkey has long been contentious. Earlier this year, the Saudi Crown Prince slammed Turkey, stating that the country is part of a “triangle of evil” along with Iran and radical Islamic terrorist groups.
The tension between the two countries is nothing new – their mutual dislike goes back to the days of the Ottoman Empire. While a military conflict is not likely to arise between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, this new development will place more strain on the relationship, further complicating the already difficult situation in the Middle East.
But what about the U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia? While it has long been apparent that common values are not shared by all American allies, can we still remain partners when journalists go missing, presumed murdered? The right to a free press is the base upon which the people’s relationship with the government rests. If a partner nation is willing to kill a reporter who criticizes the government, perhaps it is time to re-examine this not-so-special relationship.