Violence against journalists is not uncommon, particularly in the Middle East. The fate of Jamal Khashoggi, however, is fueling unique levels of outrage from Western groups, and substantial levels of intrigue because of the circumstances in which he was disappeared.
Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist and has written for the Washington Post, which makes him unusually familiar for Western media outlets. He entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2 to get a document he needed to get married, but was never seen again.
Khashoggi had been a critic of Saudi policy in recent years, which forced him to flee the nation in 2017. Turkish officials say they believe he was murdered inside the Saudi consulate, and are pushing Saudi Arabia on his fate.
Saudi officials deny he was killed in the consulate, but the fact that he apparently never left is raising a lot of questions. There is no body, though Turkish police suggested he was chopped up after the killing and removed in pieces.
Yet one of the most curious aspects of his has to be Western interest in the incident, and anger at the Saudis for Khashoggi’s apparent killing. After all, it is not unusual for Saudi journalists, particularly those seen as critical of the crown prince, to meet a bad end. Dozens of reporters are killed in Yemen, in which pro-Saudi forces are responsible for many of the disappearances, without any semblance of international outrage.
The answer almost certainly lies in his connection to the Washington Post, which makes him no longer merely a Middle Eastern journalist disappeared off the streets of Istanbul, but an acquaintance to many US reporters, which makes this hit a little more close to home.
Where this all ends is anyone’s guess, but if his death is ultimately confirmed, as seems likely, Saudi Arabia seems sure to take a hit in the court of public opinion. Whether that impacts any Saudi operations, however, is unclear, as they’ve historically shown an ability to do far worse with virtual impunity.