It has been two years since Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the Consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul, Turkey. This horrific event will be marked once again on Oct. 2, with numerous activities and meetings organized around the world. For example, Academy Award winner American film director Bryan Fogel’s documentary film, “The Dissident,” which follows the assassination of Khashoggi, will be screened at the Zurich Film Festival. The film is set to be released in the U.S. in December and will premiere in Turkey around the same time. Khashoggi’s fiancé Hatice Cengiz and friends will also deliver speeches at the screening in Zurich.
The most meaningful event for Khashoggi, though, is the official launch on Oct. 2 of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), a rights group he founded in the U.S. before his assassination. DAWN was of great importance for Khashoggi, and he was determined to devote part of his life to activities for this group.
Despite maintaining good relations with the Saudi dynasty for many years, Khashoggi’s latest problems with the royal family were never personal. Even during the times when relations between them were good, Khashoggi was aware of the monarchic structure. Thus, he was never maximalist in the wishes and demands that concerned his country. He had later lost all hope in freedom of expression, and had even withdrawn to the point of requesting the right to remain silent. Yet, for the crown prince, who disregarded all the monarchic rules of his country, there was no freedom even to remain silent. Everybody would be obliged to praise all his actions.
Realizing that maximalist demands would no longer help, Khashoggi had now resolved that it was time for democracy, both in his own country and the entire Arab world.
He believed the process concerning this matter, and that particularly and primarily his country, was going through a transformation, because he realized that Saudi Arabia would be the strongest focal point of the resistance against democracy in the Arab world. Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia is not only the biggest reason why the Arab world could not democratize, it is also the reason for human right violations, coups, and dictatorships. It supported the coup that drove Egypt into the darkest, most unfathomable times in the country’s history, and then continued to back the coup regime that was formed. The coup it staged in Yemen against the atmosphere of dialogue that developed in the country and would revive it in the true sense if it had continued, dragged Yemen into chaos of which no return was possible. Add to these all the roles it played in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, and Libya.
Neither Saudi Arabia, nor the United Arab Emirates (UAE), its biggest ally today, has any constructive or rehabilitative pursuit or efforts in any country. This policy, which is striving to constantly form an order of destruction and chaos, is racing towards it comeuppance. One imminent consequence of this policy is that they have become a subject of complete hostility and antipathy in the eyes of the peoples of the Muslim world.
It is the result of these policies that the Arab world has become uninhabitable for its own people today. The most heavily armed countries in the world, the countries that provide the most resources to weapons are Arab countries, but they never use these weapons against non-Arab peoples. It is constantly Arabs that are dying because of these weapons, which they use against one another.
The Arab people have no involvement in this armament or in these wars. The decision is made solely by their administrations, which carry on the fight at the cost of their own people’s lives, honor, and peace. Hence, there is a constant influx of asylum seekers from the Arab countries, which have become unlivable for this very reason, towards non-Arab regions. Essentially, this alone should be a source of shame for the administrators of Arab countries and the Arab League. Every refugee taking shelter in Turkey or European countries bring along with them the legitimacy of the administrators of the country they flee.
Presently, tens of thousands of people rotting in the dungeons in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE for their opinions or political positions were arrested under the toughest conditions and subjected to uncontrolled maltreatment.
Khashoggi felt the pains of the Arab world to his core, and was thus seeking a remedy. He knew very well that the remedy was the liberalization of the people’s will, in other words, democracy. Hence, in the second year of his death, the launch of DAWN, which he founded with a group of friends shortly before he was killed, is extremely important and will attach greater meaning to his mission.
Thus, DAWN’s executive director Sarah Leah Whitson announced the launch of the group’s operations with a meeting attended by Abdullah al Awde, son of Salman al Awde, one of the scholars arrested in Saudi Arabia, and U.S. Foreign Affairs Senate Committee Senator Chris Coons.
DAWN will prepare comprehensive documents of the human rights violations in Arab countries, and serve as a resource for researchers, academics, activists, and politicians.
Moreover, it will name and shame the government officials – wardens, interrogators, torturers, prosecutors, judges – who enable the exploitations committed by their governments but escape the scrutiny of the international community.
Regardless of the reason behind Khashoggi’s assassination, his power over, impact on, and detriment to those who killed him multiplied with his death. We said it before and we will say it again: Khashoggi’s ghost does not and will not let his killers rest.