Human Rights, International, Political, Religious

Erdogan’s noose round Saudi neck

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.

Saudi duplicity

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
Human Rights, International, Political, Religious

Jamal Khashoggi: murder in the Saudi consulate

After days of denial, Saudi Arabia has now said that the writer Jamal Khashoggi died in a ‘fist fight’ at its Istanbul consulate. Martin Chulov pieces together events surrounding this death and the investigation, and links to Riyadh’s controversial crown prince.

The Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul is a homely looking place, much smaller than it seems, nestled into a quiet suburban street, and painted pastel yellow. Were it not for a giant steel door and a green flag flying on the roof – both sporting two large swords – it could easily be an Ottoman-era cottage like many nearby.

Police barriers to the left of the building mark a point where visitors gather before being allowed through to apply for visas or tend to official business. On 2 October one Saudi citizen, Jamal Khashoggi, stood at the fence line, pondering his next move. Khashoggi needed to deal with paperwork that proved he had the legal right to marry the woman nervously standing with him that day, his new Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz. He paced the barricade for around 20 minutes, removed his two phones from his blazer and gave them to Cengiz. “Wish me luck,” Khashoggi said. “This will be a birthday present,” she replied.

With those last fateful words, the Saudi dissident stepped past a barrier and walked towards the consulate. A camera on the roof of a nearby guard’s hut captured him purposefully approaching the steel gate. A waiting guard stepped aside and let him pass. It was 1:14pm; the last time Khashoggi was seen alive.

In the extraordinary 19 days since his disappearance and death, the fate of the 59-year old columnist and critic has steadily been pieced together. What happened inside the consulate walls has been traced to the doors of the Saudi royal court, sparked revulsion around the world, exposed the kingdom like no other event since the twin terror attacks of 9/11, and seen Washington and Riyadh shamelessly concoct a cover-up to protect their mutual interests and attempt to shield the powerful heir to the throne, Mohammed bin Salman.

In the early hours of Saturday, after unrelenting global scrutiny, Saudi Arabia finally offered its explanation of what happened to Khashoggi, abandoning two weeks of denials that it had played any role. Its version – that he was killed accidentally during a fist fight – came as Turkish investigators and global intelligence agencies prepared to table an entirely different account of a premeditated state-sanctioned hit; its conclusions drawn, not from a political fudge, but old-fashioned police work and cutting-edge spy tradecraft.

Turkey has also been busy cultivating the court of public opinion. Much of its case against Saudi Arabia has been laid bare through piecemeal leaks by authorities, which have described a conspiracy to assassinate one of Prince Mohammed’s most potent critics, in a building regarded by convention to be Saudi sovereign territory. The plot, the Turks allege, was put into motion within hours of Khashoggi attending the consulate four days earlier when he was turned away and asked to return the following Tuesday.

This is the story of the last few days of Khashoggi’s life; of the investigation that pieced together his fate, and of his legacy – much of it yet to be written – as the region, and beyond, grapple with the aftermath of a crude political hit gone spectacularly wrong.
When the door was closed behind him, Khashoggi was ushered to the second floor of the building, to the office of the consul general. Such a gesture would have befitted someone of his status in Saudi society – a man who had advised senior royals, including the former ambassador to London and Washington, and the intelligence chief, Turki al-Faisal.

Khashoggi would have had little reason to fear as he sat down in a guest chair opposite the desk of Mohammed al-Otaibi, the consul general who had personally called him and invited him back to finalise his papers, after the failed attempt the previous Friday.
Khashoggi, however, was not the only stranger in the building. Waiting in nearby rooms were 15 other men, all members of the state’s security apparatus. They had arrived in Istanbul earlier that day on two private jets, both of which were routinely leased by the Saudi government from a jet base at Riyadh airport. The jets’ tail markings were HZ-SK1 and HZ-SK2. Flight tracking software showed one of the planes landing in Istanbul just after 3am on 2 October. The second landed at Ataturk airport just after noon.

Nine men on the first flight checked into the Mövenpick hotel in the city’s Levent district, where they were caught on in-house cameras passing through security and checking in. From the top-floor windows, the men could almost see the nearby consulate.

Among the guests were Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a colonel who is attached to the crown prince’s security detail, and Salah Muhammed al-Tubaigy, the head of forensics in the kingdom’s General Intelligence Directorate. Later that morning, and before Khashoggi’s visit, Mutreb was filmed by the consulate’s security camera walking towards the door. Also believed to be with him are three other members of the crown prince’s personal detail, including Nayif Hassan al-Arifi, Mansour Othman Abahussein and Walid Abdullah al-Shihri.

By the time the arrivals had settled in, Turkish employees of the consulate were taking advantage of a surprise afternoon off. They had been sent home before noon after being told by Saudi bosses that an important diplomatic delegation was arriving for a meeting. The loyalties of those remaining in the building could not be questioned. The assembled hit squad was drawn from the most elite units of the Saudi security forces, whose fidelity had been repeatedly tested.

By the time the second planeload of passengers arrived at the consulate – not long before Khashoggi entered – what was about to take place was never going to be known beyond the building’s walls. Or so the assassins thought.
But in Turkey, and elsewhere, diplomatic missions can have ears.
Not long after Khashoggi entered the consul’s office, two men came into the room and dragged him away. Unbeknown to the Saudis, Turkish intelligence officials from the national spy agency, MIT, were listening in. Just how that happened has been the subject of much intrigue throughout the past fortnight, and has been central to the case against Riyadh.

Scenarios range from a bug placed in the consulate itself to a directional microphone focused on the building from outside – both technically within the realms of Turkey’s capabilities. Another possibility, being discussed in Turkey and elsewhere, is that some members of the hit squad recorded the abduction on their phones for trophy purposes, or to reveal back home. And that those recordings were either intercepted in real time or retrieved from at least one of the killers’ phones.

Whichever the case, Turkish officials soon had an audio soundtrack to a blatant and brutal murder inside the walls of the Saudi consulate, which has since become the bedrock of the case against Saudi Arabia.

Officials say the recording proves that Khashoggi was killed during seven horrific minutes in which he was first tortured, then mutilated, injected with a sedative, and finally dismembered.

According to the audio, a partial transcript of which was leaked last week to Yeni Safak, a pro-government newspaper, one of his killers is heard warning: “Shut up if you want to return to Saudi Arabia”.

As the mutilation starts, Tubaigy – the forensic scientist, who specialises in conducting autopsies – puts on headphones and is heard to say to his colleagues: “When I do this job, I listen to music. You should do that too.”

Khashoggi’s fingers were cut off while he was held down, the recording suggests. He was injected with a substance, which silenced him, then carried into another room – the third to be used in the gruesome killing – where he was lifted on to a meeting table then cut to pieces.

A Turkish official later said the Saudis had brought a bone saw to the consulate. “It is like Pulp Fiction,” the official told the New York Times.

On 5 October, three days after Khashoggi vanished, Turkey’s leadership, including Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, sat down in Ankara for a briefing from MIT’s chief Hakan Fidan and senior officers. Khashoggi had been butchered, they told the Turkish president, and they had incontrovertible proof.

Erdoğan had been friendly with the columnist. They shared a similar worldview, particularly of a role for political Islam in society, and he was aware of Khashoggi’s plans to set up a TV station in Istanbul, where he intended to relocate. After a year spent in Washington, where he had become a pointed critic of some aspects of Prince Mohammed’s reform programmes, Khashoggi wanted to start again, closer to home, his children, and a new wife. He was still planning to write columns for the Washington Post – maintaining the very platform and presence that had irritated the crown prince, but from a more familiar vantage point.

Senior Turkish officials say Erdoğan’s shock soon turned to anger. He told Fidan and others in the meeting to summon the Saudis, and share some of what they knew.

On Saturday 6 October the first meeting between Saudi and Turkish authorities took place. It did not go well. One official familiar with the meeting said the Saudis disavowed any knowledge of what had taken place. “They may have been truthful,” the official said. “This seemed to have been very tightly held and the people we spoke to might not have known.”

At midnight that day, with no response from Riyadh, Turkey played its first card, announcing to the Reuters news agency that it believed Khashoggi had been killed inside the Saudi consulate. Privately, officials began briefing that not only was he dead but his body had been cut up and carried away in bags.

The revelation set in motion a remarkable reaction. Wariness about Turkey’s scarcely believable claims soon gave way to a numbing realisation that Ankara had evidence and was prepared to use it. Names of the 15 Saudis who had travelled on passports using their real names were soon revealed. Selectively leaked images showed a black van parked outside the consulate entrance – of the type that investigators had said was used to carry Khashoggi’s remains to the nearby consul’s residence.

A still-frame of an apparent dummy run showing the van attempting to back into the consul’s underground garage the day before the hit was also made public – as was the fact that the consulate had since been repainted.
Ten days into the furore, Saudi’s monarch, King Salman, who has been largely disengaged since anointing his son as his successor 16 months ago, dispatched one of his most trusted envoys, Khaled al-Faisal, the governor of Mecca, to Ankara to meet with Erdoğan, a move widely viewed as the sidelined old guard being recommissioned to clean up the impetuous crown prince’s mess. “This is the way they used to do business,” a Turkish official said. “Send in a wise hand.”

Riyadh quickly released statements touting brotherly fraternity between two regional allies. But behind the scenes, things were not going well – at least not for the kingdom. “He was literally begging us for help,” the Turkish source said of Faisal. “They were really desperate.”

As the Turkish drip-feed continued, an element of revenge appeared to be driving it. This was the House of Saud’s death by a thousand cuts. Beyond a primal response though, has been a strategic objective. Erdoğan was not going to fold easily. Saudi Arabia’s belief that a cash strapped Turkish economy may drive Ankara’s calculations has proven ill-considered. A bounty to make the crisis go away is something that Riyadh could easily deal with, but Erdoğan has sought something far bigger – a chance to diminish a rival with a claim to speak for Sunni Islam and relaunch Turkey as an Islamic power base.
How to handle things has also been preoccupying Washington, increasingly desperate in its efforts to make the crisis disappear. Donald Trump has hitched many of his foreign policy ambitions to Prince Mohammed, whom he sees as a bulwark against Iran, a regional lifeline to Israel and an enthusiastic financier of the US economy.

Much of the US business elite has been enamoured by the crown prince and his social and economic reform programmes – and equally horrified by the revelations of the past week that end directly at his door. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been a regular in Prince Mohammed’s Diwan or court, as has Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, whose two-day trip to Riyadh and Ankara last week heralded the Saudi concession in the early hours of Saturday.

A US official in the region said Pompeo was met with a blanket denial in the Saudi capital and cold realpolitik in Ankara. Both he and the CIA, which he led until recently, have reportedly been played a tape of Khashoggi’s final moments, a recording so visceral and vivid that even Trump could no longer offer the crown prince cover.
The compromise, in which five Saudi officials have been blamed and two sacked – Prince Mohammed’s domestic enforcer, Saud al-Qahtani, and deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed al-Assiri – is being hailed in Washington as credible, but derided elsewhere as a face-saving scam.

“There is simply no way that MBS [Prince Mohammed] was oblivious to this, either before the fact, or after it,” said a former Saudi official now living in exile. “Not even in my day could this happen. To suggest that a control freak and tyrant like this was blindsided by well-meaning aides is beyond laughable.”

The first test of the compromise, which was imposed on a reluctant Riyadh by Washington, is how to account for the fact that not only was Khashoggi killed but his body mutilated and disposed of in pieces somewhere in Istanbul.

Other questions stand out: if the intention was to abduct or interrogate Khashoggi, why was a forensic expert, who specialises in dismembering bodies, sent to do the job? How do Turkish accounts of Khashoggi being overpowered and killed within minutes of entering the consulate square with claims that he died fighting his assailants off?
Perhaps overriding them all though are themes set to haunt the international community’s relationship with Mohammed bin Salman from this point on; does he have the temperament, credibility or awareness to start to recover from such an atrocity? And can he ever be a plausible partner again?

Turkish investigators are now searching forests in Istanbul for what remains of Khashoggi and expect to soon close their case. The country’s leaders, meanwhile, continue to weigh their options. They are yet to release the most incriminating aspects of the case against Saudi Arabia – particularly the recordings.

To do so could have devastating consequences that might affect regional security. In Washington, Trump appears to sense that his interests and those of his patron may yet be safeguarded if events are pulled back from the brink.

“We’ll see about that,” said a senior regional diplomat. “It’s fair to say that the world order died here along with Khashoggi. I’m dreading what comes next.”
Timeline
2 October
Jamal Khashoggi is recorded on CCTV entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul at 1.14pm.

3 October
Saudi authorities confirm Khashoggi’s disappearance but insist he had left consulate. Turkish officials say he did not leave.

5 October
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, reiterates that Khashoggi is not inside the consulate.

6 October
Turkish police say Khashoggi was murdered inside consulate.

7 October
Senior Turkish officials say that a 15-man Saudi hit squad was “most certainly involved”.

8 October
Donald Trump declares that he is concerned about Khashoggi’s disappearance.

9 October
US intelligence reported to have intercepted communications by Saudi officials planning to abduct Khashoggi.

10 October
Trump reveals he has spoken to the Saudis about what he calls a “bad situation”.
14 October
US president says there will be “severe” consequences if Saudi Arabia is found to be involved.

16 October
Trump changes view and criticises the widespread outrage directed at Saudi Arabia.

17 October
Reports claim that Khashoggi’s killers severed his fingers and later beheaded and dismembered his body.

18 October
White House shifts position again. Trump threatens “very severe” consequences if Saudis responsible.

(This article has been reproduced from the Guardian newspaper dated 21 October 2016)

Cultural, Human Rights, International, Life as it is

An education in sexism

The culture of casual sexism in schools has long-term detrimental effects on girls.
Growing up, it was not uncommon to find teachers calling on female students because the length of their skirt was “inappropriate” and could “distract” or “excite” their male peers, while boys wearing shorts which were the exact same length walked by without a second glance.

It took me years to realize that comments like these are not only unfair, but are also perpetuating rape culture through the sexualization and objectification of young girls — who, from as young as five or six, are being taught that if they show even a glimpse of their knees or shoulders, they are “asking” for male objectification and harassment.
Unfair dress-coding is only one example of the many acts of casual sexism that female students experience at school on an everyday basis.

For instance, female students are often told to ignore derogatory comments from their male peers by on-looking teachers, who wave off their complaints with a laugh, before telling them that “boys will be boys” or that “he’s only doing it because he likes you.”
There have been countless times when PE teachers have called on a “strong boy” to demonstrate to the class, or when a math teacher asked if a “smart young man” would be able to help solve the problem — discounting the dozens of girls in the class who were just as, if not more, capable.

While boys are praised for taking on leadership roles, winning awards, and receiving excellent grades, girls who are ambitious and hard-working are often told to stop “showing off” and to shy away from compliments, rather than accept due credit for their achievements.

Even in relatively progressive schools, this contradiction exists, and the reality is that in most schools, girls don’t automatically receive the credit they deserve from teachers and other students — but instead, have to work twice as hard as their male counterparts in order to prove that they deserve recognition for their accomplishments.

It is crucial for schools to recognize that teaching young girls their achievements aren’t as valued as the male peers’ when they are younger not only limits them academically, but also has detrimental long-term effects, impacting their drive, ambition, and perception of themselves in the future. This culture of sexism that exists within our schools is perpetuated when students begin to internalize the comments made by their superiors and, whether consciously or subconsciously, begin to perpetuate this cycle of sexism themselves.

By high school, a large number of my female classmates were too afraid to challenge a classmate’s opinion, take on leadership roles, or even participate in class, out of fear that they would be labelled as “bossy” or a “know-it-all” by their peers. Furthermore, many female students who had participated in STEM activities in middle school drop out of these activities by high school, because they’ve been taught that there’s no point in participating in something that boys are just naturally “better” at.

It is the responsibility of schools to acknowledge that these latent prejudices exist, and that they are — whether consciously or not — being perpetuated by their students and faculty on an everyday basis.

Sexism and discrimination within schools has been an issue for decades, and is one that is not disappearing any time soon, and one that needs to be brought to light in order to end the cycle of systemic gender bias and discrimination that exists today.

 

Diya Kraybill is a freelance contributor from Singapore.