Two months before he went missing in Turkey, suspected killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi took to his Washington Post column to slam his country’s rulers over their diplomatic spat with Canada.
“Instead of lashing out at Canada, shouldn’t we ask why peace-loving Canada has turned against us?” Khashoggi wrote in an article titled, “Saudi Arabia cannot afford to pick with fights with Canada.”
“We, Saudi citizens, need to see the bigger picture. Canada raised the flag against human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. Surely, we cannot arbitrarily arrest female activists and expect the world to turn a blind eye.”
WATCH: Saudi TV falsely accuses Canada of ‘freedom of opinion’ arrests
The Aug. 7 column was the penultimate in a series of columns for the Washington Post’s Global Opinions section in which Khashoggi criticized his native country.
His latest column was scheduled to be go up on Thursday, but it was never published after he went missing.
On Sunday, a Turkish official told Reuters that Khashoggi was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and that a group of some 15 Saudi nationals were believed to be responsible. Saudi Arabia dismissed what it called “baseless allegations,” and said it was aiding the investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance.
As a journalist, Khashoggi famously interviewed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden numerous times.
Well-known in the Arab world thanks to his appearances on television networks in the region, Khashoggi began to gain a following in the West thanks to his Washington Post columns and popular Twitter account.
His first column for the Post, published in September 2017, began with a lamentation of the repression of dissident voices in the conservative kingdom.
“When I speak of the fear, intimidation, arrests and public shaming of intellectuals and religious leaders who dare to speak their minds, and then I tell you that I’m from Saudi Arabia, are you surprised?”
In the columns to follow, Khashoggi railed against Saudi Arabia on a range of issues.
In late October, he wrote that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was targeting journalists, social media personalities and intellectuals when he would be better advised to worry about the espousal of extremist ideas by some religious clerics.
“How can we become more moderate when such extremist views are tolerated? How can we progress as a nation when those offering constructive feedback and (often humorous) dissent are banished?”
Khashoggi then drew comparisons between Prince Mohammed and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“He is imposing very selective justice. The crackdown on even the most constructive criticism — the demand for complete loyalty with a significant “or else” — remains a serious challenge to the crown prince’s desire to be seen as a modern, enlightened leader.”
He then turned his gaze from domestic matters to regional conflicts, lambasting Saudi Arabia for “creating a total mess in Lebanon” and fostering a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where it has been waging a war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
“The longer this cruel war lasts in Yemen, the more permanent the damage will be. The people of Yemen will be busy fighting poverty, cholera and water scarcity and rebuilding their country. The crown prince must bring an end to the violence and restore the dignity of the birthplace of Islam.”
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In between, he also wrote that Prince Mohammed should consider taking lessons in humility from Queen Elizabeth II, whom he described as “proud to preside over a society where thought and speech are free.”
Even monarchs of a fictional making have lessons to offer the Saudi crown prince, Khashoggi wrote in an April column titled, “What Saudi Arabia can learn from ‘Black Panther’.”
“At the end of the film, the young king of Wakanda chooses to use his country’s power to engage with the world for the greater good. Will Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who likely will soon become king of his country, use his power to bring peace to the world around him?”
Khashoggi’s disappearance and possible death was lamented by the Washington Post’s editorial page editor Fred Hiatt on Saturday.
“If the reports of Jamal’s murder are true, it is a monstrous and unfathomable act,” Hiatt said in a statement.
“Jamal was — or, as we hope, is — a committed, courageous journalist. He writes out of a sense of love for his country and deep faith in human dignity and freedom.”
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