A year later, justice for Jamal Khashoggi is yet to be served but politicization is at its peak

Jamal Khashoggi. (File photo)
Updated 03 October 2019

A year later, justice for Jamal Khashoggi is yet to be served but politicization is at its peak

  • As the facts of the murder emerged, political games were played, particularly in the US and in Turkey
  • What was in essence a crime and a tragedy quickly became a political witchhunt, with Saudi Arabia the prey

JEDDAH: A “heinous crime” is how Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman this week described the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi a year ago at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. 

Many questions have been asked of what happened that day, and most went unanswered until a TV interview on Sunday, when the crown prince took it upon himself to address as many of them as possible. 

He chose to be interviewed by one of the most prominent US journalists, Norah O’Donnell, on one of the most respected network news shows, CBS “60 Minutes.” 

O’Donnell asked the toughest question first: Did the crown prince order the killing? He categorically denied having done so, but nevertheless accepted responsibility: “When a crime is committed against a Saudi citizen by officials working for the Saudi government, as a leader I must take responsibility.”

When O’Donnell pressed the crown prince on how he could not have known of the operation, he replied: “Some think that I should know what three million people working for the Saudi government do daily. It’s impossible that the three million would send their daily reports to the leader, or the second-highest person in the Saudi government.”

So what happened on that fateful day? Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, and never left alive. Saudi Arabia’s deputy public prosecutor, Shalaan Al-Shalaan, told a press conference in Riyadh on Nov. 15 that Khashoggi had been killed inside the consulate by a lethal injection after a struggle, and that his body was dismembered and handed over to a local Turkish agent outside the consulate grounds. The leader of Khashoggi’s negotiation team had ordered the killing, he said.

 

 

In January this year, 11 people went on trial in connection with Khashoggi’s death, and prosecutors sought the death penalty for five of them accused of his murder.

As Saudi investigators revealed the often gory and gruesome details of the case, there was shock and horror in the Kingdom. The Saudi businesswoman Lubna Olayan said Khashoggi’s death was a “terrible act, alien to the Saudi culture and DNA,” a sentiment that resonated with almost everybody — Saudi and non-Saudi — in the country.

As the facts emerged, however, so did fictionalized and distorted accounts from parties hostile to the interests of Saudi Arabia. Political games were being played, particularly in the US and in Turkey.

In Washington, those with an ax to grind against Donald Trump used the tragedy to take potshots at the US president. They saw Khashoggi’s murder as a tool to undermine the president because of his close relationship with the Saudi leadership. Trump saw through that gameplan, and stood steady as a rock in defending Saudi Arabia and its leadership as a key American ally in the region.

“It’s an honor to be with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, a friend of mine, a man who has really done things in the last five years in terms of opening up Saudi Arabia,” Trump said in Japan in June. “And I think especially what you’ve done for women. I’m seeing what’s happening; it’s like a revolution in a very positive way.”

Those words were a bolt from the blue for the critics of Saudi Arabia, but no surprise to perceptive analysts. Michael Doran, a Middle East expert at the Hudson Institute in Washington, told a conference: “Since the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, everybody in America knows his name. We have got in China a million people in concentration camps. There hasn’t been as much attention on that as on Jamal Khashoggi. Why? Why? Why?”

Having asked the question, he supplied the answer: “It is not because of Saudi Arabia, it is not because of MBS, it is because of the relationship between Jared Kushner and MBS. It is an indirect way of going after Trump. The Iranians and Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies have uprooted 10 million people in Syria. They have killed 500,000 people in Syria. Everyone of them has a name.”

Meanwhile Turkey played a different game, but with a similar goal; to tarnish the image of Saudi Arabia in the Muslim world and beyond. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan aligned himself with Qatar, and both played roles in muddying the water.

Thus, what was in essence a crime and a tragedy quickly became a political witchhunt, with Saudi Arabia the prey.  Khashoggi’s murder has become a political tool in the hands of the Kingdom’s detractors in the West and in the region, said Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar. “This episode should have been closed after all Saudi Arabia’s actions,” he said. “The trial is on, the suspects are in custody, the prosecutors have sought the highest penalty. To continue harping on about Khashoggi’s murder is a clear case of political vendetta.”

He drew attention to a statement on Monday by Khashoggi’s son Salah, expressing faith in the Saudi judicial system and denouncing those who politicize his father’s case.

“My father never tolerated any abuse or attempt to harm (the Kingdom), and I will not accept his memory or his cause being taken advantage of to achieve that,” Salah said.

Despite his plea, political opportunists continue to exploit the Khashoggi case, while justice waits to be served.


Global stars shine at Saudi leisure forum

Updated 14 October 2019

Global stars shine at Saudi leisure forum

  • “It (Saudi Movies) will bring Saudis closer to the world and the world closer to Saudi,” Shahrukh Khan 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia took another step toward establishing its place on the global entertainment map with a major industry event in Riyadh on Sunday.

The Joy Forum19 brought together entertainment promoters and pioneers from around the world, along with global stars such as Indian actor and film producer Shah Rukh Khan; Hong Kong martial artist, actor, film director Jackie Chan and Belgian actor and martial artist Jean-Claude Van Damme.

The event was organized by the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), which signed several important agreements on the day, including a financing guarantee program for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Participants are ushered in on the first day of the Joy Forum19 event in Riyadh. (Social media photo)

“Our message is for both, locally and internationally. Me and my generation suffered a lot, we had lots of time on our hands,” GEA chairman Turki Al-Sheikh said at the event.

“Today you are witnessing things we have never had in Saudi Arabia. We have 300,000 visitors to our events, and our sales have hit 80 percent.

“Saudi Arabia has never seen anything like Riyadh Season, we have over 400 sponsors, which is unprecedented.”

Al-Sheikh announced that the authority had named a stadium after singer Mohammed Abdo, the “Artist of Arabs,” and another after Abu Baker Salim, the father of Khaleeji music. 


READ MORE: Three MoUs signed at opening day of Joy Forum19 in Riyadh



Drunken master

The actors expressed what it meant to be movie stars and how wide-reaching their influence could be.

Jackie Chan recalled that when he was a new actor, he often acted like a drunken fighter until he realized that he has a responsibility towards younger fans. 

Jackie Chan: no longer a "drunken master". (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

“All over the world I keep drinking and fighting (in films).  I realized that I made drunken master cool — so I stopped,” he said. One of Chan's most popular movies was the 1978 action comedy martial arts film "Drunken Master".

“When you’re 20 you don’t have this inner thought — anything that makes the audience laugh you do, but later on especially (when I went) to Africa so many years ago — they started doing the drunken style — the children look up to me. So, I realized we have a responsibility to the children so all those years I corrected those actions: no dirty comedy words or action,” he said.

He attributed his awareness in being responsible for the content he produces to the fans. “I’m really thankful to the fans in making me a good actor.”

Chan spoke about his experience in acting martial arts in both the United States and Asia. “I realized we have two different markets one for America another for Asia. They are totally two different things.”

The safety measures the US takes for stunts is very impeccable making sure of the wellbeing of the actor comes first. However, in Asia it’s a different story, “In Asia when I want to do a stunt, I roll, jump (and then go to the) hospital, he said laughingly.

“It’s so difficult sometimes in the USA so many rules- Jackie Chan movies: NO RULES!” he said and received applause from the audience.

 

Good start

Jean Claude Van Damme gave a shout out and a big thank you to all his “brother and sisters from Saudi Arabia,” He said he got a royal treatment fit for “Kings and Queens”. He went on to reveal that his hotel room at the Ritz Carlton Riyadh was so big he could easily “roller-skate” in it.

Jean Claude Van Damme: "Let's do a movie together". (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

“I’m honored to be invited here. I know it’s your first time to do this event, but I know it will have a very bright future and I hope next year you will invite more people,” he said.

He said he may not be a “good talker” but expressed his joy at being in Saudi Arabia saying. “I’m happy to be here and I hope to have more connection later with the audience.”

Van Damme remarked how that in every country in the world you have treasure actors and movies with different cultures, “In the Middle East I don’t know what the taste will be, but I know they love American, Asian and Indian movies. They have a broad taste. (Saudi Arabia) should do a movie with all of us together!”

 

Crossing barriers

Sharukh Khan emphasized the importance of every country telling their story through movies; “As long as we are telling the story in whatever language it doesn’t matter. Cinema crosses all barriers.”
 

Shahrukh Khan: "I'd audition for a Saudi movie". (Social media photo)

With the opening of Saudi Arabia to the world and Cinemas, he said, “I can’t wait to talk about the Saudi films...It will bring Saudis closer to the world and the world closer to Saudi.”

“The stories that you tell should talk about goodness and people should be engaged with the content and it should bring them together. People want to laugh and sadly have to cry, to be entertained and to feel.”

Sharukh noted that Saudi Arabia has started to make movies and he’s watched the King Faisal movie, "Born a King". 

“You’ll always find gems in all movie industries and I think there’s are gems in Saudi and as a matter of fact one of the things I’d like to do is audition for a Saudi movie … Please give me an opportunity!” he said, eliciting a thunderous applause from the audience.


Red carpet

Abdulaziz AlMuzaini, co-founder and CEO of the Saudi Arabian Myrkott Animation Studio; gave a heartfelt thanks full of gratitude to King Salman and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, saying: “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have dreamed of this moment or this panel.”

Some of the celebrities invited to the event walk the red carpet. (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

Lebanese actor Wahid Jalal, who was the voice of Long John Silver in Treasure Island, came onstage for the opening of the event. “Children love heroes and they try to imitate them,” he said. 

He also delighted the crowd by performing Silver’s famous laugh.

Some of the celebrities who walked down the red carpet were American actor Jason Momoa, star of Aquaman; Amr Adeeb, Balqis Fathi, Yusra, Boosy Shalabi, Lojien and Aseel Omran, Mohammed Hamaki, Nawal AlZoghbi, Talal Salama, Ahlam Al-Shamsi, Hussain AlJismi, Suad Abdulla, Ibrahem Alharbi, Tariq Alali and Abdulnaser Darweesh.

The gala dinner hosted 500 guests and was a private event, but the red carpet captured the essence of where Saudi is moving to culturally.