Mystery lingered yesterday over the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a renowned writer and journalist known for his critical views of the Saudi administration, after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul for routine paperwork Tuesday.
Saudi officials insist that he exited the consulate, but Khashoggi's Turkish fiancee and his friends claim he never did and that he cannot be reached. The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Wednesday summoned Saudi Ambassador in Ankara Waleed al-Khereiji over the incident. Anadolu Agency (AA) reported that Deputy Foreign Minister Yavuz Selim Kıran discussed the issue with the Saudi envoy. The consulate, meanwhile, issued a statement and said that they were coordinating with Turkish authorities about the circumstances around Khashoggi's disappearance "after he left the consulate building." Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın stated at a press conference on Wednesday evening that Khashoggi was "still in the consulate."
Jamal Khashoggi is believed to still be inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
The 59-year-old Khashoggi is a well-known critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (also widely known as MBS) and his reform program, as well as the kingdom's policies toward Qatar and the war in Yemen. Considered a Saudi nationalist, Khashoggi previously served as editor-in-chief at Saudi newspapers al-Arab and Watan, and as media adviser to Prince Turki al-Faisal during his terms as ambassador in Washington and London. He fled Saudi Arabia in 2017 and has been living in Washington over concerns about the Saudi government's crackdown on dissenting voices, particularly intellectuals and journalists.
MBS headed a purge against fellow royals and prominent business figures last year, detaining dozens of tycoons on charges of corruption and demanded financial settlements. While MBS has attracted attention with his modernization campaign to roll back some of the kingdom's ultraconservative societal regulations, rights groups say the government has ramped up its crackdown on activists and dissenters.
He entered the consulate for paperwork related to his divorce from his Saudi ex-wife required by Turkish authorities in order to marry his Turkish fiancee. His last words to his fiance were to call his Turkish friends, including Turan Kışlakçı, a journalist and member of the Turkish Arabic Media Association based in Istanbul. Speaking to Demirören News Agency, Kışlakçı said the situation was "worrying." "It is known that Saudi Arabia kidnaps dissidents in other countries. They kidnapped some [dissidents] in Switzerland a few months ago and some of the people kidnapped were later found dead. We hope this is not the case here and expect Saudi authorities to release him as soon as possible," he said. Kışlakçı is among a large group of Turkish and foreign journalists waiting outside the tightly guarded consulate for Khashoggi. He said they would stage a protest outside the consulate today for Khashoggi and similar rallies would be held for his release in the United Kingdom, France and the United States.
Khashoggi has maintained his ties with Saudi elites and launched a satellite news channel, Al-Arab, from Bahrain in 2015 with the backing of Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. The channel was on air for less than 11 hours before it was shut down. Its billionaire backer was detained in the Ritz Carlton roundup overseen by Prince Mohammed in 2017. As a contributor to the Washington Post, Khashoggi has written extensively about Saudi Arabia, including criticizing its war in Yemen, its recent diplomatic spat with Canada and its arrest of women's rights activists after the lifting of a ban on women driving.