Dubai: A complex man of contradictions, journalist Jamal Khashoggi went from being a Saudi royal family insider to an outspoken critic of the ultra-conservative kingdom’s government, and was ultimately killed inside its consulate in Istanbul. In his final column for The Washington Post, Khashoggi perhaps presciently pleaded for greater freedom of expression in the Middle East.
“The Arab world is facing its own version of an Iron Curtain, imposed not by external actors but through domestic forces vying for power,” he wrote. “The Arab world needs a modern version of the old transnational media so citizens can be informed about global events. More important, we need to provide a platform for Arab voices,” Khashoggi wrote.
Now his voice has been permanently silenced. The Saudi journalist — who disappeared after entering his country’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain marriage papers — went into self-imposed exile in the United States in 2017 after falling out with Saudi’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
His disappearance has been shrouded in mystery, and triggered an international crisis for both Riyadh and Washington as Turkish officials accused Saudi Arabia of a state-sponsored killing. Riyadh, after insisting that Khashoggi left its consulate alive, finally said over two weeks after his disappearance that he died in a fight that arose from a dispute with people he met there.
Khashoggi came from a prominent Saudi family with Turkish origins. His grandfather, Mohammed Khashoggi, was the personal doctor of Saudi Arabia’s founder, King Abdul Aziz al-Saud. His uncle was the notorious arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi.
A friend of a young Osama bin Laden, a Muslim Brotherhood sympathiser, an aide to the Saudi royal family, a critic of the kingdom’s regime and a liberal — such conflicting descriptions were all ascribed to Khashoggi. After graduating from Indiana State University in 1982, he began working for Saudi dailies, including the Saudi Gazette and Al-Sharq al-Awsat.
When he was sent to cover the conflict in Afghanistan, a picture of a young Khashoggi holding an assault rifle and dressed in Afghan clothing was widely disseminated. Khashoggi did not fight in the country, but sympathised with the mujahideen in the 1980s war against the Soviet occupation, which was funded by the Saudis and the CIA.