Khashoggi: A message to our Community and the West
The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is not the first of its kind committed by an Arab country. The prisons of Bahrain, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Tunisia and elsewhere are full with dissidents. Sometimes such states punish even those that innocently advise it, like in the high profile case of Khashoggi.
Looking back at Khashoggi’s life, he was not only a person close to the Saudi ruling circle, rather a vocal and passionate supporter of swathes of its political agenda, including the war on Yemen. However, this was not enough to spare his life, especially not from the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, following unfavourable comments on reform, improvements to civil and human rights, and expansion of freedom of expression in the Kingdom.
It is unfortunate that some have attempted to stay silent on the issue or downplay the extent of the heinous killing of Khashoggi, and refuse to sympathise with this crime because of some rudimentary reasons. Some have stood up and flagged his opinion on Arab Spring, others have pointed at his acquiescence to the war on Yemen, and so on and so forth. However, as human rights defenders we must stand up for all who peacefully express their opinions, whose rights are not to be taken away from them on the basis of specific views or disagreements.
There are many lessons that we can take from the Khashoggi case. The first is apparent: human life is more precious and valuable than any point of view. We must never accept the killing of an individual, let alone in this brutal way.
Secondly, we must look to the human rights situation in the Gulf States in particular and the Arab world in general, and examine how tragic the landscape has truly become. Hundreds of political prisoners, human rights activists and advocates of reform are in prison in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere. It has become common for people to be persecuted, tortured and killed as soon as they express their views.
We must not forget to point to the ugly role played by defenders of these regimes, their “allies” and what can be described as “friendly” organizations and we must not downplay the regimes extent of punishment to any dissidents.
Extrajudicial killings, executions, systematic torture, arbitrary dispossession, deportation and targeting of activists are a daily occurrence in the Arab region and are documented and denounced by international human rights organizations, UN agencies and some Western countries.
The killing of Khashoggi has also placed countries that are allies of Saudi Arabia in a moral dilemma. There are numerous personalities including intellectuals, media characters and politicians as well as entire countries regularly working with and offering deals and business to the detriment of individual human rights. In turn, they publically or inadvertently condone all these heinous crimes for commercial or economic benefit, as US President Donald Trump acknowledged in his recent press statements about Khashoggi's death, where he clearly stated that his administration does not want to lose the $110 billion worth of arms deals due to Khashoggi's killing.
The blood of Khashoggi, the blood of Karim Fakhrawi in Bahrain, the blood of the children of Yemen, the martyrs of the Fourth Massacre in Egypt and the victims of the repressive regime in Syria, are innocently spilled. It is time for us all to stand as activists, intellectuals, writers, journalists and citizens in the face of those who wish to make a commodity or reduce the value of human life.
It is also high time for the West to learn from the mistakes of the past and to open a new page with the people of the Arab world, where the freedom and dignity of the Arab citizen is the goal - not the sales of arms and oil. We are people who yearn for freedom, democracy and partnership in national decision-making - rights that many countries in the world.
Today I live far from my homeland as a political refugee in Germany. I was forced to flee and become a refugee because of my human rights activities, including what I post on Twitter and social media. My colleague and prominent Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab languishes behind bars because of his opinions and human rights activities. Individuals like Ahmad Mansour in the UAE and lawyer Walid Abu Al-Khair in Saudi Arabia are imprisoned for the same reasons. The list is lengthy with the names of activists who paid for freedom and free speech with their lives and liberty.
I conclude by stating that in his last article, Jamal Khashoggi summarized the reality of what we are suffering from and what hundreds of activists in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, the UAE, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Tunisia and the entire Arab world have called for:
"What we need in the Arab world is freedom of expression and freedom of the press.”
Without such freedoms, there will be more Khashoggis killed in public because of their views!