Jamal Khashoggi

This story seems to be creating quite a stir:

Jamal Khashoggi, a well-known journalist and critic of the Saudi government, walked into the country’s consulate in Istanbul last week to obtain some documents and has not been seen since.

His fiancée fears that he has been kidnapped or killed. The authorities in Istanbul believe he was murdered by Saudi agents. Saudi Arabia insists that he left the consulate shortly after he arrived.

So a Saudi walks into a Saudi embassy in Istanbul and doesn’t come out again. The Turkish government, led by the oh-so neutral and trustworthy Recep Erdoğan, says he’s been murdered. Sorry, why do I care?

Mr Khashoggi is a prominent journalist who has covered major stories, including the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the rise of Osama Bin Laden, for various Saudi news organisations.

Okay, it’s not good that journalists are being killed but Saudi Arabia has been oppressing or jailing journalists for decades. And the Turkish government complaining about the treatment of dissident journalists is a bit like the mayor of Las Vegas complaining about light pollution in upstate New York. So why the sudden fuss in the west?

He went into self-imposed exile in the US last year, and has written a monthly column in the Washington Post in which he has criticised the policies of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Ah. So he’s a darling of the US media establishment, and anti-Saudi. Now there is much to criticise Saudi Arabia for, but let’s also remember that their fiercest critics are Iran and, more recently, Turkey who are both locked in an ideological religious power struggle in the Middle East. Perhaps a little skepticism is in order here? How much of this media coverage is being paid for by state-funded lobby groups?

There’s also this:

In truth, Khashoggi never had much time for western-style pluralistic democracy. In the 1970s he joined the Muslim Brotherhood, which exists to rid the Islamic world of western influence. He was a political Islamist until the end, recently praising the Muslim Brotherhood in the Washington Post. He championed the ‘moderate’ Islamist opposition in Syria, whose crimes against humanity are a matter of record. Khashoggi frequently sugarcoated his Islamist beliefs with constant references to freedom and democracy. But he never hid that he was in favour of a Muslim Brotherhood arc throughout the Middle East. His recurring plea to bin Salman in his columns was to embrace not western-style democracy, but the rise of political Islam which the Arab Spring had inadvertently given rise to. For Khashoggi, secularism was the enemy.

Between the uncertainty over the claims, the fact that it’s a squabble between competing Muslim factions in the Middle East, the untrustworthyness of everyone involved, and the journalist in question being a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, I’ve concluded I don’t really care. There are other, more worthy things to get outraged about (this, for example, especially when considered alongside this), and I don’t think either the US or UK should entangle themselves in this mess, let alone burn political capital posturing over it.

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14 thoughts on “Jamal Khashoggi

  1. It’s more that the alleged murder took place at the Embassy. Could you possibly think of a worse place to do it? Anywhere more conspicuous than that? The steps of the Turkish parliament buildings, perhaps?

  2. It’s more that the alleged murder took place at the Embassy. Could you possibly think of a worse place to do it?

    I dunno, it’s technically on Saudi territory. I’m not entirely sure why the Turks are upset about what happens to Saudis on Saudi territory.

  3. “In truth, Khashoggi never had much time for western-style pluralistic democracy.”

    None of them have. I don’t like ‘democracy’ as for 99 per cent of us it involves making an X once every few years and then being helpless whatever the X-men (and women) want to do, however insane. But it is preferable to Muzzie religious power though you’d be hard pressed to find one of them who thinks otherwise.

    The weird thing is how many of our New Friends (registered trade mark) want to use democracy — which they view as an abomination in the eyes of their deity — to get their sandal-clad feet in the doorway of western power. I wonder why?

    PS I also don’t care much about random disappearances in far flung countries. Sorry.

  4. Absolutely spot on, Tim. It’s a matter for the Turks and Saudis to resolve. Besides, I can’t get concerned about Muslim fanatics murdering each other.

  5. I agree that a row between the Saudis and the Turks should not lead to us getting involved. But I think that it is in our interests to find out what happened, and to protest if consulates and embassies are being used as a cover for political murder. That type of thing going unremarked upon might spread, and that’s not good. There’s probably a convention that such activities require some kind of comment/acknowledgement as a form of mild pushback against barbarism, or if not there should be.

  6. “There’s probably a convention that such activities require some kind of comment/acknowledgement as a form of mild pushback against barbarism…”

    The only barbarism we seem capable of pushing back against lately is people who eat too-large pizzas. I mean, c’mon, M&S are marketing burkhas, FFS!

  7. It’s pretty interesting, though, right? Sounds like a spy novel. As long as we don’t actually get involved, I’m all for the papers taking an interest.

    (Of course, we might end up getting involved anyway – yet another reason to disband NATO, or at least kick Turkey out.)

  8. “I have spent years as a journalist claiming that the regime is an evil, lawless bunch of blood-crazed murders. I then placed myself helplessly at their mercy, and found out I was totally rig”
    MESSAGE ENDS

    There’s a few in the BBC that could learn from this. Oops, too late.

  9. So a bunch of people are pulling out of some investment summit or other in protest.

    I’m just wondering – in Saudi do you get the death penalty for your second adultery conviction or already with the first?

    Anyone “pulling out” (sic) of summits because of their home-turf human rights record? Thought not.

  10. “So a bunch of people are pulling out of some investment summit or other in protest.”
    That would be Branson wouldn’t it and who cares about him.?

  11. Tim, I’m surprised you don’t know that embassies *aren’t* foreign soil. That embassy is part of Turkey.

    The grounds are immune from entry from Turks. The higher staff are immune from arrest. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 however does not change ownership of the soil.

    But if they killing took place then it was a murder in *Turkey*. They merely have to wait for the murderer to leave the embassy before they can arrest.

  12. @Matthew M

    “(Of course, we might end up getting involved anyway – yet another reason to disband NATO, or at least kick Turkey out.)”

    To be fair, I don’t think this one’s going to come out looking like Erdogan’s fault.

    Though if this alleged recording ever comes to light, there’ll be some awkward questions about the bug.

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