A dead journalist, multiple arrests, and ever-increasing tensions between America and its Middle Eastern allies: the mysterious disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has taken the international community by storm.
On Oct. 2, Khashoggi entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey and never left. At first, the Saudi government claimed that he was, despite popular misconceptions, alive. When pressed for more details, their account changed. The Saudi government claimed a fistfight involving Khashoggi broke out in the consulate, ressulting in Khashoggi’s death. Now, after an investigation, it is believed that the journalist was killed, then dismembered, within the government building.
As an outspoken journalist against the Saudi government, Khashoggi had been under the threat of attack. He was a controversial voice in the media, publicly advocating for women’s rights and free speech. He opposed much of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in other countries and took a Pro-Palestinian approach to the Israeli-Palestine conflict.
As a result of the initial investigation, Saudi Arabia has fired five top officials and arrested 18 others. These include Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s adviser Saud al-Qahtani and deputy intelligence chief Major General, Ahmed al-Assir. With these firings, the Saudis acknowledged that Khashoggi was in fact killed inside the consulate. He had entered the building in order to obtain a document for his upcoming marriage. It is suspected that his criticisms of the Saudi government ultimately led to his demise.
Audio tapes have been released by the Turkish government, which appear to confirm that Khashoggi’s murder and dismemberment took place in the consulate. This recording has rendered it increasingly difficult for the international community to accept the Saudi’s allegation that the journalist’s death was an accident.
The Trump administration has threatened “very severe” measures against the Saudi government in response. President Donald Trump believes that the arrests are a “great first step,” but he would like to speak with officials as the investigation wraps up. He also emphasized to Congress that any imposed sanctions on the government would not affect arms sales.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan believes that the arrests do not reach high enough into the Saudi kingdom’s ruling circles. In a speech he gave on Oct. 23, the president commented that “It will not satisfy the public by just pinning this kind of matter on a few security and intelligence officers” and that “covering up this kind of savagery will hurt the conscience of all humanity.”
King Salman and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia met with members of Khashoggi’s family. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry wrote on Twitter that they shared “their deepest condolences and sympathy to the family of Jamal Khashoggi,” and “may God rest his soul.” Even with these measures, President Erdogan implored King Salman to put the 18 Saudi suspects on trial in Istanbul in order to appear before a fair and impartial jury.
With the body still missing and conflicting accounts coming from the Saudi government, no one is yet satisfied with the investigation. Vice President Pence said that the murder was “an assault on a free and independent press” and that the Trump administration “is determined to use all means at its disposal to get to the bottom of it.”