Saudi Journalist Disappears While Visiting Saudi Consulate In Turkey

Oct 8, 2018
Originally published on October 8, 2018 9:02 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

There are still no signs of a missing Saudi journalist. Last week, Jamal Khashoggi went into the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul. He was never seen coming out. Turkish investigators have now told several news organizations that Khashoggi is dead. They said that he was killed by a team of Saudi agents. Saudi Arabia denies this and says Khashoggi left the consulate not long after he arrived. Jamal Khashoggi is a contributor to The Washington Post. He's also been a guest on NPR. This is him speaking to All Things Considered back in May.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

JAMAL KHASHOGGI: Even when I speak to you, I feel somebody over my shoulder. I have family back in Saudi Arabia, I have friends. And the government is having a heavy hand on us.

GREENE: On the phone with us is Karen Attiah. She is the Global Opinions editor at The Washington Post, and she is Khashoggi's editor. Karen, thank you for taking the time, and we're certainly thinking about you and the newspaper as you deal with a difficult time, I'm sure.

KAREN ATTIAH: Thank you so much for having me.

GREENE: What do you know about Khashoggi's disappearance at this point, and are you accepting what Turkish officials are saying, that he was murdered?

ATTIAH: Sure. So what we know, again, as you said, he went to the consulate, the Saudi consulate in Turkey, ostensibly to file papers relating to a marriage. He wanted to get married to his Turkish fiancee. He told friends, apparently, that he felt that it was OK to go to the consulate even though he was warned about his safety. So basically, last Tuesday, he went in at about 1:00 p.m., 1:30 or so, and never came out. His fiancee waited for 12 hours, and never came out. So far what we know, again, is basically the conflicting accounts of the Turkish and Saudi officials. The Saudis are categorically denying that they had anything to do with any sort of kidnapping or killing and that he left the consulate on his own. Turkish officials are saying that they have evidence or that they believe that he was murdered, killed. So right now we don't have proof positive of either scenario, whether he is alive or conclusively dead, which makes it even more hard, actually.

GREENE: Yeah. I can imagine. You know, just listening to his voice in that tape I played when he was on air, he sounded so nervous and so - I don't know, cognizant of the risk. I mean, can you talk about his work and why he might be a target of the Saudi government?

ATTIAH: Yeah. So he's been Saudi Arabia's perhaps most prominent journalist. He's been known in the country for about 30 years and was very - actually very close to the Saudi royal family. He was an adviser for some time. He worked at the Al-Watan newspaper. But again, he was just very known for still pushing boundaries, still calling for reforms. And as far as how he came to us, you know, we were seeing the reports about the crackdowns last year on clerics, businessmen, social media stars, bloggers and that he frequently commented. And so we figured, well, why not just have him speak? And it turned out that that was his sort of first very public coming out, so to speak, about what he personally was facing and that he had fled to Washington out of fears for his own safety. As far as his work over the last year that, you know, he and I worked on together, I mean, yes, he was critical of Mohammed bin Salman, the young crown prince. He was very - he would often just say, you know, Saudi Arabia was never this repressive. It was tough, but it was bearable. And he would still often, still though, take almost an adviser role. He really wanted to guide this prince. He really loved Saudi Arabia, I think. And he just wanted to write. He didn't want to be a dissident. He didn't want to be an opposition figure. He just wanted to be free to express what he thought was his version of the truth about Saudi Arabia's past, present and future, and I think that's what just really makes it hard to deal with. Yeah.

GREENE: Karen, we'll hope for the best. Karen Attiah's the Global Opinions editor for The Washington Post and has been working with Khashoggi as his editor. Thank you so much for your time.

ATTIAH: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.