ISTANBUL - A somber commemoration marking the first anniversary of the slaying of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was held Wednesday in Istanbul just a few meters from the Saudi consulate where he was dismembered.
Khashoggi’s brutal killing sparked widespread international condemnation of Saudi Arabia, with calls for justice continuing.
A year ago, security camera images showed Khashoggi entering the consulate to collect documents for his forthcoming wedding. Inside, death awaited him at the hands of a Saudi hit squad suspected of acting on orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“Last year today, I was standing here. I was a girl in love, waiting for my man to come out of the consulate,” said Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, addressing attendees of the Istanbul ceremony.
“All these amazing and beautiful people knew Jamal as a journalist, as a writer, as an activist, as a friend, a great human being. He was my best friend. He was the love of my life. I still love him,” she said.
International human rights groups, friends and colleagues of Khashoggi were present. Among them was Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, whose newspaper published Khashoggi’s columns.
“Hatice, no one should ever have to endure what you did,” Bezos said in a short speech. “Right here, where you are, you paced that street for hours. Pacing and waiting, and he never came out. It is unimaginable. You need to know you are in our hearts, and you are not alone,” he said.
Khashoggi’s columns critical of the crown prince are believed to have made him a target.
Calls for justice
Eleven people have been charged in Saudi Arabia in Khashoggi’s death, some of whom were caught on Turkish security cameras arriving in Istanbul. Crown Prince Mohammed denies any involvement in the killing, but intelligence officials dispute his claim.
Many regional experts claim it is inconceivable for such a high-profile killing to take place in a Saudi diplomatic mission without the crown prince’s knowledge.
Attending Wednesday’s ceremony was United Nations Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, who led an international inquiry into Khashoggi’s killing. Addressing the ceremony, she called for justice.
“No one should get away with murder,” she said. “No matter who they are or how high their station in life, whether they raised the deadly fist or ordered the deadly blow.”
Callamard stressed that the battle for justice for Khashoggi has a much broader symbolic importance.
“We are also standing against any authority that seeks to do the same,” she added. “To kill with impunity journalists, human rights defenders, dissidents, and then audaciously rely upon the indifference of the world to provide them crude cover.”
Many of the attendees at Wednesday’s ceremony expressed fears that the international community had moved on from their initial outcry over Khashoggi’s savage death.
“The international community, with states like the United States, have prioritized diplomatic and trade relations with Saudi Arabia over justice,” Andrew Gardener, senior Turkey researcher at Amnesty International, said at the ceremony.
Gardener said Wednesday’s ceremony was essential in efforts to check world leaders’ eagerness to leave behind the Khashoggi killing.
“I think it is necessary to remind everyone what sorry state the international order has come to that allows a state like Saudi Arabia to be able to kill a critical journalist in their own consulate building,” he said. “To remind people how important it is to get justice for Jamal Khashoggi, and to make journalists all around the world safer as a result.”
At the end of the ceremony, Cengiz unveiled a marble plinth with Khashoggi’s name carved on it.
Attendees pledged to continue fighting to hold Khashoggi’s killers accountable, and to not let his death become a footnote in history.