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    Saudi dissident disappears following visit to Saudi consulate in Turkey

    Middle East: Saudi Arabia
    Asia / Europe:  Turkey

    Saudi dissident disappears following visit to Saudi consulate in Turkey

    A notable Saudi dissident, Jamal Khashoggi, had not been seen since entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2nd, 2018. Turkish investigators alleged that a 15-man Saudi team had him killed in the consulate and that Khashoggi was dismembered. Turkish officials had not publicly commented on the allegation as they were waiting for an investigation into the matter to complete. Nevertheless, the issue constituted a significant threat to Saudi-Turkey relations as well as the public image of Saudi Arabian crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who has cast himself as a reformer. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave a brief answer when questioned about it at a news conference on October 7th, 2018, but stated the government “will inform the world about it.” The Saudi consulate forcefully denied the allegations and “expressed doubt that they came from Turkish officials that are informed of the investigation.”

    US-Saudi relations were also tested as President Donald Trump considered the Saudi crown prince a reliable ally. State Department officials indicated they were following developments on the matter. Khashoggi is a resident of the United States and had recently joined the Washington Post as a columnist where he would have continued being critical of Saudi Arabia. Before becoming a dissident, Khashoggi had long been a prominent Saudi insider as he used to be a trusted advisor to Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former director of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence apparatus as well as a former ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi used to be a popular contact for US reporters who wanted to know about the inner workings of the Saudi rulership. But when Prince Mohammed consolidated power and began to crackdown on dissent (all the while trying to portray himself as a reformer based on decisions like allowing women to drive), Khashoggi fled to the US where he criticized things such as Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

    The reason Khashoggi went to the Saudi consulate in Instanbul was because he wanted to marry a graduate student living in Instanbul, but when he fled Saudi Arabia, it led to divorce from his previous wife. Turkish law required certification of that divorce before Khashoggi could marry his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. She thought Khashoggi going to consulate was a mistake, but Khashoggi was skeptical that Saudi Arabia would take any action in Turkey. She waited hours for him to emerge from the consulate, but he never did.

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