Turkey has claimed that Jamal Khashoggi, a well-known journalist from Saudi Arabia, died at the hands of Saudi Arabia. Khashoggi was believed to have been killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last week. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, investigators believe the killing was done by a Saudi team sent ‘specifically for murder.’ Turkey’s Anadolu news agency has reported that the Istanbul public prosecutor’s office has opened an inquiry into the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi. This event continues the scrutiny Saudi Arabia has experienced in recent years regarding human rights, free speech, and diplomacy.
Saudi Arabia has denied detaining Khashoggi. The Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman asserts that the journalist left the consulate after his arrival. However, the claims made by the Crown Prince lack any concrete evidence. In response to these allegations, the Saudi consul-general in Istanbul gave permission for reporters to tour the consulate, in an attempt to prove that Khashoggi was not present. The consul-general, Mohammed al-Otaibi, was quoted as saying that the consulate and embassy are working to find Khashoggi. However, relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia remain stale. Both are seen by the international community as wanting to increase their influence in the Middle-East area.
These reports not only demonstrate existing competitiveness between states but highlight Saudi Arabia’s wish to silence dissent. Under the banner of ‘national security,’ hundreds of arrests have been carried out. The individuals arrested include clerics, women’s rights activists, journalists, and business professionals. Khashoggi, in particular, was critical of the Saudi royal family and the powers they wield. This has led to many in the international community to believe that Khashoggi was seen as a threat by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.
In recent years, scrutiny towards Saudi Arabia has increased. Smart Traveller, a website engineered by Australia’s Department Foreign Affairs and Trade, has urged Australians to ‘reconsider their need to travel’ citing terrorism and strict laws. This is a country where homosexuality is illegal, as is blasphemy, practicing a non-Islamic religion, pre-marital sexual relations as well as sympathies towards Qatar. People who break these laws are subject to lengthy and harsh sentences. The human rights situation in Saudi Arabia leaves the international community with no reason to believe Saudi officials about Khashoggi’s disappearance.
The international community must press harder in their pursuit of peace and justice. Journalists such as Khashoggi must be able to practice freedom of speech. This is fundamental for a peaceful society. Neighbouring countries, as well as superpowers, should question Saudi Arabia’s actions. Saudi Arabia has a responsibility to be truthful about Khashoggi’s disappearance.
However, Saudi Arabia’s interests differ to those in the international community.