By Syed Zafar Mehdi

Person of the Year: Murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi

December 13, 2018

TEHRAN - As 2018 approaches its end, it is time to look back at the important events and happenings that shaped the year. The year would go down in history for many reasons – tragic incidents, hyperbolic remarks, political dramas, trade wars, downfall of dictators, rise of democrats.

Some of the important events that shaped the world and grabbed our attention this year include U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally and quite dramatically pulling out of an international nuclear deal with Iran, a massive earthquake jolting Indonesia’s Sulawesi island and killing thousands, Democrats regaining control of the U.S. house of representatives, cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s party sweeping Pakistan’s general elections, U.S. and China getting embroiled in a bitter trade war, and the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi ordered by the Saudi crown prince.

Khashoggi’s murder on October 02 grabbed headlines across the world and generated a wave of anger and outrage against the Saudi regime. The manner in which the diabolical crime was carried out and the secrecy surrounding it generated tremendous amount of interest among people around the world.

Of course, it was not an ordinary crime committed against a lesser-known person at an undisclosed location for a petty reason. It was a monstrous crime against a well-known journalist carried out on the orders of Saudi crown prince at the country’s consulate in Turkey.

Khashoggi’s murder is one event that defined this year. A tragic incident that unmasked despots and neo-imperialists. The year would also be remembered for the decline of Saudi empire and Mohammad Bin Salman’s fall from grace. What Khashoggi could not accomplish in his life, although he tried hard, he did that after his death. He can now rest in peace.
In a strong critique of the state of press freedom around the world, Time magazine has chosen ‘The Guardians’, a group of journalists targeted for their work, as ‘Person of the Year’. The group includes Khashoggi, Capital Gazette newsroom and three other journalists.

The cover story starts with Khashoggi, detailing the circumstances that led to his murder, the brutality with which the crime was carried out at Saudi’s Istanbul consulate, Saudi crown prince’s culpability and the absence of morality in the Saudi-U.S. alliance.

“Every detail of Jamal Khashoggi’s killing made it a sensation,” reads the report, describing the scenes including the time stamp on the surveillance video, the images of private jets carrying Saudi agents, the bone saw, and Khashoggi’s last words: “I can’t breathe”.

The report further says the crime would not have come to the world’s attention if Khashoggi himself had not written and spoken about such issues during his life. He was a strong critic of the ruling elites in Riyadh and had courageously and unequivocally exposed their horrendous crimes and attempts to suppress the voices of dissent.

“His death laid bare the true nature of a smiling prince, the utter absence of morality in the Saudi-U.S. alliance,” reads the Time report, referring to Saudi crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS).

Pertinently, the U.S. government officials, including President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, went out of their way to shield MBS and cover up the heinous crime. Jared Kushner reportedly advised Trump to "stand by" the Saudi crown prince, arguing the scandal would “eventually pass”.

The Time report says the Saudi kingdom was irked by Khashoggi’s style of independent journalism wherein he reported “troubling facts” and trusted the public “to think for itself”.

“Such independence is no small thing. It marks the distinction between tyranny and democracy. And in a world where budding authoritarians have advanced by blurring the difference, there was a clarity in the spectacle of a tyrant’s fury visited upon a man armed only with a pen,” the report notes.

All despots, it adds, live in fear of their people. “To see genuine strength, look to the spaces where individuals dare to describe what’s going on in front of them.”

The report also blasts Trump for ‘embracing despots’ and ‘attacking the press’, which it says has ‘set a troubling tone’. It quotes the editor of Rappler Maria Ressa saying that the U.S. was “very confused”. “What are the values of the United States,” asks Ressa.

Truly, when a heinous murder takes places in broad daylight and an independent investigation exposes the perpetrator of the crime and still there is no anger or outrage, not even a statement of condemnation from the White House, we ought to ask uncomfortable questions.

Jamal Khashoggi is no more but his legacy will always inspire truth-seekers and whistleblowers. His murder has not only exposed the Saudi regime but also the so-called ‘super-power of the world’.

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