Jamal Khashoggi’s own words: what angers Saudi leaders

A woman holds a portrait of missing journalist and Riyadh critic Jamal Khashoggi during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate on October 9, 2018 in Istanbul. (AFP pic)

WASHINGTON: For years Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was a modest voice for progressive change in the tightly run, conservative Islamic kingdom. Even that got him in trouble.

But his disappearance last week in Istanbul, Turkey, amid accusations that he was kidnapped or murdered inside the Saudi consulate, has drawn attention to Khashoggi’s rising calls for democratic reforms over the past year, which put him at odds with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s most powerful figure.

Here are excerpts from Khashoggi’s recent interviews and writings.

– On Twitter, on November 29, 2017, after Prince Mohammed locked up dozens of businessmen and royals in a luxury hotel and demanded they hand over their fortunes:

“If a prince can pay US$1 billion (RM4.15 billion) in return for his freedom, how much will a prisoner of conscience have to pay? How much will we all pay to get our freedom?”

– On Prince Mohammed’s reform program, on Al Jazeera television, March 23, 2018:

“I still see him as a reformer, but he is gathering all power within his hand. And it would be much better for him to allow a breathing space for critics, for Saudi intellectuals, Saudi writers, Saudi media to debate…. As we speak today, there are Saudi intellectuals and journalists jailed. Now nobody will dare to speak and criticise…”

– On Prince Mohammed in The Guardian on March 6, 2018, writing with Robert Lacey:

“He appears to be moving the country from old-time religious extremism to his own ‘You-must-accept-my-reform’ extremism, without any consultation.”

– In The Washington Post, on May 21, 2018, after the Riyadh regime arrested activists and branded them traitors:

“We are being asked to abandon any hope of political freedom, and to keep quiet about arrests and travel bans that impact not only the critics but also their families. We are expected to vigorously applaud social reforms and heap praise on the crown prince.”

– Criticising the Saudi war in Yemen, which is closely identified with Prince Mohammed, in The Washington Post on September 11, 2018:

“Saudi Arabia must face the damage from the past three-plus years of war in Yemen. …. Further continuation of the war in Yemen will validate voices saying that Saudi Arabia is doing in Yemen what Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Russians and Iranians are doing in Syria.”

– In an analysis of the Trump administration’s plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, to the BBC on October 1, 2018:

“The Palestinian in Ramallah is much freer than me in Jeddah or Riyadh, he still can go on the street and demonstrate against the deal when I cannot do that.”