Can Saudi’s image, which was destroyed by Khashoggi’s murder, be improved through soccer? - YASIN AKTAY

Can Saudi’s image, which was destroyed by Khashoggi’s murder, be improved through soccer?

It has been four-and-a-half months since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Despite the positive and sincere efforts of Turkey to solve it, Saudi Arabia did not make any contributions to this end. They are so reluctant and passive in solving the murder that it is as if they are accepting all the accusations that are circulating.

Normally, Saudi Arabia is a country known for its outspokenness regarding any accusation made against it and immediately makes counter arguments or imposes heavy sanctions against its accusers.

Let’s remember Canadian Prime Minister’s relatively soft tweet, which was posted before the Khashoggi murder, concerning the human rights violations in Saudi Arabia that caused a huge outrage. Riyadh had suspended all its diplomatic ties with Canada. However, during the entire investigation process of the Khashoggi murder, S. Arabia has been subjected to the heaviest of criticisms, accusations, and claims which have never been made against any other country before, and they have been in a deep silence about this. If this isn’t acceptance then what it?

The claim that Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) was the instigator of the murder is inferred as a natural and a necessary outcome of this entire process, and it is being stated by many. MBS, of course, hasn’t said anything to confirm this; on the contrary he denies it, but he has all the sources of information, possible instigators of the murder, and the actions and relations of these instigators which could prove him right.

If there is a small chance that MBS wasn’t the instigator of this murder, meaning that someone else is, whoever they may be, they have all the information to prove it. They can explain where Khashoggi’s body went. There was a local co-conspirator they were talking about; who is this person, where is he, on what level did the murderers cooperated with him; they have the means to find out all the details.

The fact that they don’t try to answer all these questions that the public opinion poses means that they are protecting the instigator, and therefore they are partially accepting all the accusations that have been made about this murder. This case has been unanimously settled in the eyes of the entire world public opinion and conscious without any doubt. The rest is the courts’ job.

MBS, on the other hand, doesn’t try to improve his image, which has been destroyed by the accusations as the instigator of the most vicious murder by absolving himself; he is trying to improve his image by trying to win in other ways and recouping his losses.

He signs extensive business deals in his recent visits to Pakistan and India, but wherever he goes he is facing protests. The crowd gathered in India protested against MBS because of the Khashoggi murder but also because of the human rights violations in Yemen, the scholars he has detained by violating all their rights as human beings. S. Arabia’s image has never been this bad. S. Arabia has never been subjected to criticisms and protests this openly before.

Despite all this, MBS is trying to improve his image desperately through different means. One of these means is football. The claims that he offered 4,9 billion dollars to purchase the English football club Manchester United was published in The Sun newspaper. Even though Riyadh denied this, The Sun insisted on its claim that he offered 4,9 billion dollars to the American Glazer family, the owners of the club.

The most important ally of the crown prince, UAE leader Mohammed bin Zayed’s family has already purchased another Premier League team, Manchester City.

Let me ask this question: Will these shiny and fancy efforts to improve their images be enough to cover the human rights violations committed by these two countries?

In fact, the addressee here is the world public opinion, who approves these countries’ efforts, which committed human rights violations, to absolve themselves through this image they were able to buy with their money. How does this mechanism even work? It is a known fact that football is used as a means of laundering money. Here, we are talking about dark records, murders, massacres and all the crimes committed against democracy, humanity and human rights.

Although soccer has such a role, it also has a role of being the only means for some people to express their criticisms, emotions, and thoughts. Because soccer is never just soccer. What happened during the Asian Cup in the UAE was exemplary in this sense.

From the beginning, the UAE tried to make everything difficult for Qatar, the country they have been nurturing enmity towards, and they even tried to prevent their participation; but when they couldn’t succeed they tried to make them feel the intense atmosphere through their barbarity and flag games. For instance, they encouraged their own fans to support Japan, which was playing against Qatar in the final. They also did not allow Qatar’s fans to carry their own flags etc.

Despite all this, these provocations did not work with the fans of Kuwait and Oman, and even the Emirati people. By articulating the feelings of the people of the Gulf about the crisis that has been going on between them, Qatar played very well in the tournament and was crowned as champion.

The championship Qatar achieved by also defeating the UAE 4-0, put President of the UAE Football Federation Marwan bin Ghulaita on the target board for criticism. The answer he gave to the criticisms that the national team was defeated by the enemies with four goals was very meaningful: “I don’t accept failure in my life, but I accept that sometimes Allah doesn’t grant success.”

Of course, soccer is never just soccer. Moreover, it is never a place where you can improve your image you lost in the field of humanity.

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