We all have heard of and enjoyed the fictitious stories in films like the murder in the orient express, murder in the Nile, murder on the dancefloor and so on and so forth. But hardly anything can match the real-life gruesome murder of a journalist in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in all its viciousness and barbarity. Even more striking is that this killing would be remembered by the world for the blatant and repeated lies by the Saudi government after perpetrating this gruesome murder.
Jamal Khashoggi (JK), a Saudi national of Turkish heritage and an American green card holder, was a journalist contributing to a number of newspapers including the Washington Post. He had been a thorn on the side of the brash young crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) and to the whole of the Saudi royal family for his political and religious views. It is not because he was propagating non-fundamentalist Islamic ideology, but because he upheld Muslim Brotherhood ideology and advocated moderation of the extremist Salafist/Wahhabi ideology, which is the cornerstone of the Saudi royal family’s existence.
This ideological battle that pitted between Khashoggi and the Saudi royal family was going on for quite some time. The conundrum was that when MbS had been implementing, as the moderniser of Saudi Arabia, such things like women be allowed to be educated, women be allowed to drive etc., which Khashoggi had been advocating; battle royal emerged on other issues that led to his brutal death. On issues like Saudi’s blockade of Qatar, Saudi’s relentless killing of Yemenis, Saudi’s surreptitious support of extremist Islamic groups round the world etc., Khashoggi fell foul of the royal family. He was viewed egregiously by the royal family as the existential threat to Saudi Arabia.
However, Jamal Khashoggi and his family had close connection with the Saudi royal family. His grandfather was the personal physician to King Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He was the nephew of the billionaire Saudi arms dealer, Adnan Khashoggi. It may also be mentioned that he was the first cousin of Dodi Fayed, who was dating Diana, Princess of Wales, when the two had died in a car crash in Paris.
In some quarters it had been proclaimed that Khashoggi was an ‘enlightened’ journalist from Saudi Arabia who embraced western liberalism at heart. Nothing can be furthest from the truth. He was an ardent ‘Muslim Brotherhood (MB)’ supporter and preached political Islam and tried to garner support for the Muslims to unite to dominate the world.
The Saudi royal family upholding Wahhabi ideology opposed ideologically MB version of Islam, which does not follow the raw fundamental tenets of Quran and Hadith. The king of Saudi Arabia is the custodian of two holy mosques in Saudi Arabia and hence he was the de-facto keeper of Islam and Islamic ideology in all its purity and pugnaciousness as enunciated in Quran and Hadith. To maintain King’s political power through the religious platform, he had to uphold Wahhabism/Salafism. (Abd-al Wahhab’s preaching was full of vindictiveness and hatred towards other religions or even towards other denominations of Islam itself, all in the name of purity of Islam. For his inhumanity, he was kicked out of his community and his father, who was an educated and devout Muslim, disowned him.)
The Saudi royal family does not tolerate any dissent – gruesome torture, whipping, lashing, stoning to death, beheading etc are common practices in Saudi Arabia as well as in other middle eastern countries. Brutality, inhuman torture, murder etc in the name of God are peddled in Islam as virtuous things and promised to be rewarded in paradise.
When the dissident Jamal Khashoggi left Saudi Arabia to live in London and then in America, he was effectively outside the reach of the Saudi royal family. But a God gifted opportunity arose when a few days before 2nd October, Jamal Khashoggi went to Saudi consulate to get his divorce papers. He was told to come back a few days later, on 2nd October, to collect them. Then Saudi consulate officials went on overdrive. Saudi royal family including of course the crown prince, MbS, had been informed and a plot had been hatched to get rid of him.
When Khashoggi reported at the Saudi consulate just after 1 pm on 2nd October, he was invited to go the consul general’s office upstairs. Unsuspectingly he went to the upstairs office and sat in a chair. The murder squad were waiting in the next room and soon two of them came, grabbed him and took him to the next room. They made him lie down on a long table and started chopping off his fingers! A fully conscious man having his fingers chopped off would have been most excruciating and painful experience. The leader of the murderous team put on a head phone, as he quipped that he enjoys listening to music when he is doing such things. Hardly did they know that all those screams, all those flippant conversations even in the closed room in the consulate are being recorded. Probably even the video images may be in existence!
But that is not all. After killing him, his body was dismembered, cut out into smaller pieces to be disposed off in small bags. A black van had pulled in to carry the bags and disappeared innocuously into the main street. In the meantime, a man wearing Khashoggi’s clothes (but not his shoes) and false Khashoggi beard had walked merrily out of the consulate pretending to be Khashoggi. That was recorded in the CCTV as evidence that Khashoggi had left the building!
Saudi Arabia under the helm of MbS thought that they have pulled off a major coup – finished off the thorny man once and for all. But Erdogan, the Turkish president, who had long been at loggerheads with Saudi Arabia for a long time, had other ideas.
The chronology of Saudi government’s lies and damn lies are as follows:
1. Saudi government to quell press speculation issued a statement just a day after JK’s arrival at the consulate that he had left the consulate and might have disappeared after that. But Turkish officials disputed that.
2. MbS said categorically on 5 October that JK is not in the consulate.
3. When on 6 Oct Turkish government said that JK was murdered inside the consulate, alarm bell was ringing for the Saudi government. The following day the Turkish government released a statement that 15-man Saudi hit squad had actually arrived in Istanbul in private planes at the early hours of 2nd Oct and left the country for Riyadh late in the same evening after completing the job. Two days later, Saudi Arabia admitted that JK died accidentally in the consulate after a ‘fist fight’ with officials. But Saudi government did not give details of who were involved in the fight or what had happened to JK’s dead body.
4. Turkish government was drip-feeding genuine information about how he died and released the names of those 15-man hit squad. Saudi Arabia was stunned at these revelations. How could Turkey know all these things when it was carried out in secrecy under closed doors in the consulate? Saudi Arabia then admitted that JK was actually killed by rogue operatives. Saudi Arabia claimed to have arrested 18 men suspected of murdering JK, after denying any knowledge of his death for over a week.
5. It is obvious that crown prince, MbS, had his finger prints all over this episode, but Saudi Arabia would not admit it. They are trying desperately to protect him and defuse the situation.
6. King Salman sent his trusted envoy, Khaled al Faisal, governor of Mecca, to Ankara on 10 Oct to placate Erdogan and carry out mega-dollar diplomacy with Turkey. But Erdogan would have none of it, as he was after even bigger bounty.
7. Turkey released details of how JK had been brutally tortured – cutting off his fingers while he was conscious, heading him and then dismembering his body. Saudi Arabia today (25 Oct) released a statement that the Turkish investigation had shown that the “suspects had committed their act with a premeditated intention”. Surely the suspects did not carry out this gruesome premeditated murder in the embassy on their own!
All along this episode, Donald Trump had been trying to rescue Saudi Arabia by asserting that there should be an investigation and before that nothing can be said. When Saudi Arabia was giving all sorts totally bonkers stories like “fist fight with officials”, “rogue operatives” killing JK etc, Donald Trump said that this is the worst cover-up story in the world. Of course, Donald Trump is fully qualified to say so. When he covered up his presidential election tempering and colluding with America’s worst enemy, Russia, all the American intelligence (and foreign as well) operatives could not exactly put their fingers on it, he definitely is very well qualified to judge cover-up stories.
Donald Trump is now eyeing mega bucks from Saudi Arabia. Previously America had to compete with other exporters (arms, military equipment etc) to Saudi Arabia to get contracts. Now many genuine exporters are moving away from Saudi Arabia, America will have a field day.
Recep Erdogan is playing even more a sinister game – he can have the cake and eat it. Saudi King was literally begging to Erdogan to show mercy suppressing the murder investigation and mega deal was for him for the asking. Erdogan may enjoy the fruits now and keep the audio tape of the last moments of JK’s heart-rending scream, chattering of the murderers in this gruesome incident etc on hold until the time when he feels that Saudi Arabia is trying to wriggle out. Erdogan may even have the video shots of JK’s murder. How incredibly explosive that video would be and that could spell the end of Saud dynasty.
Erdogan’s action is like a cat and mouse game – a cat does not kill a mouse outright, it plays vicious killing game and watches with relish the utter helplessness and image of death on mouse’s face. Turkish cat and Saudi mouse will usher in a new era in the Muslim world.
- A Rahman is an author and a columnist