Disappearance of a dissident: Jamal Khashoggi becomes new point of contention for Middle East

On 17 April 1984, a shot was fired from the Libyan embassy in London aiming a young Metropolitan Police officer named Yvonne Fletcher. She was there to overlook protests against Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi. It was one of the first instances in the world, where a diplomatic channel’s office was used to curb dissent against leaders, and terrorise exiles in other countries for speaking against them.

Dictators like Saddam Hussein and many others have used foreign diplomatic channels to spy and regulate voices against them. They always invited the wrath of hosting countries and lead to escalation.

In a fresh and chilling development of similar nature, Turkish authorities have insinuated the Crown prince of Saudi Arabia of executing a premeditated homicide of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi inside Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

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Jamal Khashoggi has been living in self-imposed exile in the United States since 2017. He is a citizen of USA, with bonhomie with many Trump administration officials. He wrote frequently for Washington Post and was a marked critic of Salman of Saudi. He has a huge twitter following.

Khashoggi incriminated Saudi of being complicit in aggravating humanitarian crisis going in Yemen, he also spoke vocally about sanctions against Canada for speaking on behalf of jailed activist like Raif Badawi along with many scathing comments.

According to his fiancee, Khashoggi entered Saudi consulate for routine paperwork regarding divorce, so that he can marry again. His fiance told that he had cautioned her to stay outside and wait for him and instructed her to call higher officials, in case he does not return. Which makes it rather clear, that Khashoggi feared for his life.

She waited outside for several hours, before alerting the Turkish authorities. The Turkish authorities have said that initial investigations indicated he was murdered inside the consulate. They have checked the footage from security cameras and did not see Khashoggi leaving the consulate, but diplomatic cars were seen entering and after sometime exiting the compound. According to Turkish authorities, a 15 member team arrived from Riyadh and left on the same day. Turks suspect that this team had a role in the disappearance of Khashoggi. His body was removed, or at least he was abducted, by these diplomats, suspect Turkish authorities, who also talked to informants inside the consulate. The security footage shows men moving boxes from consulate and loading on a black car hours after Khashoggi vanished. Diplomats enjoy diplomatic immunity and their baggage is not checked at airports.

President Erdogan labelled the incident as ”saddening” and said that Khashoggi was his good friend, and authorities also warned Saudi of consequences if speculations come out to be true.

The relations between Saudi and Turkey are already hanging from a thin thread after Turkey supported Qatar against Saudi’s blockade. Turkey in past has also expressed a penchant for outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, much to Saudi’s dismal. Saudi has also criticised Turkey of standing with Iran, its arch-rival.

While the world is busy praising Saudi’s ”liberal” reforms, incidents of human right violations get little traction because of the high-paid PR firms doing overtime to maintain Saudi’s image.

The blind spot in USA’s vision towards Saudi Arabia stands in tandem with the geniality they share, to counter Iran in the Middle East. President Trump rightly criticizes Iran for obliterating the peace and disorder in the Middle East, and its pathological hatred for Israel, but he failed to direct world’s attention towards atrocities meted out to human rights activist in Saudi. The USA is equally responsible for Yemen’s civil war, as are Saudi and Iran. The game of proxies has always come with lethal consequences.

Such, ignorance committed by world leaders fuels the brazen acts of countries like Saudi.

Turkey crying foul in these incidents is by no means an angel or an apostle, it claims to be. It remains one of the worst places for journalists to work. Many commentators think that it has even surpassed China in terms of unlawful incarceration, after the failed coup of 2016.

Recently, Erdogan on a visit to Germany had requested extradition of followers of Fethullah Gülen. Gulen is also a dissident of President Erdogan, even though they previously were allies. He now lives in the USA, in an exile, and vocalizes about rights abuses in Turkey.

Be it for Yvonne Fletcher or Jamal Khashoggi, institutions like UN who are ready to give sermons to Israel and India, on the drop of a hat, have to come out and prove that for it human right and freedom of voice actually means something. It can not be allowed to be just another, a gimmick. They need to keep in check countries like Saudi and Iran, who openly threaten other countries like Israel of war.

In an already volatile Middle East, speculation regarding the disappearance of Khashoggi is bound to bring ramifications. The claims from Saudi upon speculations being unfounded holds little veracity. Turkey seems to be in no mood, for escalation amid unsubstantiated claims.

The murder of Yvonne Fletcher had led Thatcher government of Britain to seize Libyan embassy and bombard Libya, subsequently. By no means, it is to say that, repercussions will be similar here. But, gravity and the volatility, indeed point to something big that is going to happen between these two countries.


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