On the third anniversary of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, his fiancee urged US President Joe Biden to keep his promise not to let the Saudi journalist’s death be in vain, in a moving speech in the US capital on Friday evening .
Hatice Cengiz spoke at an event organized by the Freedom First campaign on the National Mall to mark the third anniversary of the journalist’s murder.
“Jamal was not just a journalist. He was not only a prominent defender of the rights of the Saudi people and the Arab world at large. He was my Jamal and he was taken from me,” Cengiz said.
Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist, was brutally murdered and likely dismembered after being lured by Saudi officials into their consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. While Riyadh initially denied any role in his death, he then sought to blame what he said was a botched rendition operation. This explanation has been widely rejected.
According to US and Turkish officials, a standby Saudi squad strangled him and dismembered his body, which was never found.
A report released in February by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) under the Biden administration said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) approved the murder.
The report adds that the crown prince, de facto ruler of the kingdom, “approved an operation (…) to capture or kill” Khashoggi.
Cengiz recalled that Donald Trump was the President of the United States when the Saudi journalist was assassinated, saying the former leader of the free world continued to support the Saudi government and refused to hold MBS responsible for the gruesome murder.
She then quoted Biden’s words when he was a presidential candidate: “Khashoggi and his relatives deserve to be held accountable. Jamal’s death will not be in vain.”
“President Biden and Vice President (Kamala) Harris! When are you going to step in and keep your promises? When are you going to turn your words into action?” Cengiz asked.
The event hosted several speakers, including Philippe Nassif, director of advocacy for the MENA region at Amnesty International USA, Eason Jordan, senior advisor to the Freedom Initiative and veteran of CNN, NowThis and the Malala Fund, as well as Nadine Farid Johnson, Washington director at PEN. America.
Jordan called Khashoggi’s death “sickening” and “disgusting”.
“Hate that we are with you. We must and will fight the good fight for Jamal and all Saudi champions of human rights until justice and freedom prevail,” Jordan said.
Earlier, a group of representatives from advocacy organizations, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Dawn MENA and Code Pink, met outside the Saudi embassy in Washington, demanding justice for Khashoggi.
“Jamal’s legacy lives on and we will never forget the horrific crime of the Saudi government,” CAIR National said on Twitter.
Separately, the Washington Post Editorial Board published an article on Friday saying that despite a CIA finding that MBS approved the murder, Biden has decided not to hold him accountable and the United States continues to do business with him. the kingdom, including a recent national security visit. Councilor Jake Sullivan will meet the Saudi Crown Prince in Riyadh.
“There has been no justice for Khashoggi, and there are darkening clouds on the horizon for others to speak out,” the board said.
Stating that Khashoggi was “acutely aware of the difficulty” when writing, the newspaper said it was a good time to reflect on the duty to speak out against the authoritarian regime.
“The best way to honor his memory is to relentlessly pursue the freedom he sought for Saudi Arabia – and build it everywhere,” the board said.
Then-US President Trump played down the episode, saying it was more important for Saudi Arabia to buy US weapons and share hostility towards Iran. Biden has promised a tougher approach, declassifying intelligence and imposing sanctions on the Saudis, but not on the crown prince himself.
Sullivan traveled to Saudi Arabia, where MBS is also defense minister, primarily to discuss the crisis in Yemen, where the kingdom has waged a devastating air campaign aimed at defeating Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
The International Press Institute (IPI) also said on Friday that there was still no justice for Khashoggi’s murder.
“Three years ago tomorrow, Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Still no justice for this heinous act. Saudi Arabia and MBS suffered no significant consequences. But we haven’t forgotten. IPI said on Twitter.
“The IPI Global Network strongly condemns the continued impunity in this matter and we continue to demand full responsibility for this atrocious act,” said IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen. He said the Saudi regime, “a longtime ally of Western countries, has suffered no significant consequences for the brazen elimination of a critical journalist.”