On October 2 of this year, a Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and never came out. His Turkish fiance who was waiting outside for him alerted authorities a little while later.
Almost immediately Saudi Arabia was the subject of fiery condemnation by pundits of the western press. They were immediately joined by political figures in the United States and Europe. Charges of assassination were flowing by the minute in the wee hours of the disappearance. These allegations were picked up by much of the world’s press who reported them in their local media.
Before any facts emerged, the frenzied media had already reported that the journalist was dismembered, his fingers cut off for the ‘poison pen’ articles he wrote against the kingdom, his body was chopped in parts and buried in and around Istanbul. Not content to report on this isolated case, reporters then started attacking Saudi Arabia by dredging up the country’s alleged role in the twin towers bombings of 2001. They also brought up a severe account of the war in Yemen and the rift with Qatar. Thrown in for added impact was the arrest of several females on charges of treason. It seemed that Saudi Arabia was indeed in the line of fire.
Very little was reported on the kingdom’s denial in any sinister act and King Salman’s call for an immediate investigation and the setting up of a joint task force to probe into the disappearance of the journalist. The kingdom opened its consulate doors for highly specialised Turkish teams of forensic experts and investigators to search for clues. The crown prince had stated on an interview that it was his belief that Khashoggi had left the consulate after finishing up his work, while the Saudi ambassador to the US asserted that “the reports that suggest that Jamal Khashoggi went missing in the Consulate in Istanbul or that the Kingdom’s authorities have detained him or killed him are absolutely false, and baseless”. He also added that the kingdom would “chase every lead to uncover the truth behind his disappearance” and not spare any efforts to locate him.
And yet the accusations and false “truths” continued to dominate the world’s press before any facts had yet to emerge. A major economic conference set to take place in Riyadh this week saw the cancellation of many high profile international political and business leaders who were invited to attend. Politicians in major western capitals are calling for a review of their government’s relations with Saudi Arabia.
Why indeed is Saudi Arabia under attack? The facts have yet to be announced and yet we have been deemed guilty until we prove our innocence. This statement was asserted by the US president Donald Trump who said, “I think we have to find out what happened first. Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that.”
So why indeed did world leaders and media pundits assume guilt before any facts had been released? Is it because many of the countries are dependent on oil and Saudi Arabia is a leading exporter? Do they hate us or fear us or simply not like us? The speed and intensity of the scathing attacks on the kingdom in this latest incident suggests a little bit of each.
Saudi Arabia has done much for the international community. It is one of the major contributors of humanitarian aid around the planet. It has assisted countless countries in their economic and social development. It has opened schools and hospitals in many regions around the world. It has brought in foreign patients and treated them at the state’s expense. It welcomes the Muslim world with open arms in the quest to facilitate the visitors’ pilgrimage to the holy sites. And yet we keep coming under attack, and a relentless one at that.
Saudis are beginning to wonder: Why do they hate us? We are not a country without faults, but then no country is. Like any nation, in the course of development, mistakes are made and mistakes are corrected. But in the case of the missing journalist, the attack has simply gone overboard!
This is indeed a case of the country being called guilty with the onus of proving our innocence on our backs. And the truth will be revealed soon. Perhaps then and only then will such media attacks diminish and wither away. In the meantime, please spare us the innuendos and assertions based on fake or unverified reports.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena.