One month ahead of President Joe Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia, the District of Columbia is renaming the street in front of the Saudi embassy Jamal Khashoggi Way, trolling Riyadh for its role in the killing of the dissident Saudi activist and journalist in 2018.
With members of the D.C. Council in attendance, a Jamal Khashoggi Way sign was unveiled directly in front of the embassy’s main entrance.
“We intend to remind the people who are hiding behind these doors … that we hold them responsible and we will hold them accountable for the murder of our friend,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of DAWN, the pro-Arab world democracy organization founded by Khashoggi prior to his death.
Continue reading: Jamal Khashoggi’s Murder: A Year Later, What Have We Learned?
Whitson also criticized what she called the “shameless capitulation” of the Biden administration for seeking improved relations with the Saudi government and scheduling an official presidential visit to the kingdom.
Khashoggi was a respected Saudi journalist. Washington PostThe columnist went to the Saudi consulate Istanbul in October 2018 for the required documentation. He was accompanied by his fiancee, who was outside waiting for him. He never returned to the consulate in Istanbul, at the age of 59.
Initially, the Saudi government denied that any wrongdoing had occurred. Riyadh admitted Khashoggi’s death inside consulate after international pressure. This was a repatriation plan that went wrong, which the Saudis described as an attempt to compensate for the loss of Khashoggi. The CIA released a later report concluding Khashoggi had been killed and dismembered at the order of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
That connection was consistently refuted by the Saudi government. A number of lower-ranking Saudi officers and agents were sentenced for the murder.
In late 2013, the D.C. Council unanimously decided to name a 1-block block in Khashoggi’s honor.
“I’m very proud that we did this, said ”D.C. Phil Mendelson is the Council Chair. “The Saudi government cannot forget what happened, what it did. This is a constant reminder.”
The renaming is ceremonial, as signified by the brown street sign instead of the usual green, and it won’t impact the embassy’s mailing address. However, the sign will continue to be displayed indefinitely. A request for comment was sent to the Saudi Embassy but did not get a reply.
Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, could not attend the ceremony, but a statement from her was read aloud.
In it, she bitterly criticized the Biden administration for “putting oil over principles and expediency over principles.”
Continue reading: Hatice Cengiz: The Fight for Justice for Jamal Khashoggi
Cengiz also directly requested of Biden, when he meets with the crown prince, “Can you at least ask, ‘Where is Jamal’s body?’”
Karine Jean Pierre, the White House press secretary, would not say whether Biden would raise the issue of Khashoggi’s murder when he meets with Bin Salman next month.
“The president is a straight shooter. This is not something that he’s afraid to talk about,” she said. But she didn’t confirm if the killing would be a topic of conversation.
There are many examples of D.C. governments making public attempts to humiliate or troll foreign governments in the past. Boris Nemtsov Plaza was dedicated to a Russian activist killed in 2015 while crossing the bridge that connects the Kremlin and Boris Nemtsov Plaza.
A street named for Andrei Sakharov, long-time Russian dissident, was built at the former site of Russia’s embassy.
Wednesday’s street renaming was essentially a formalization of an independent activist-driven campaign that had been going on for years. Shortly after Khashoggi’s death, local activist Claude Taylor started placing realistic-looking Jamal Khashoggi street signs around the city, including outside the embassy. Taylor stated that Taylor maintained as many as 10 different signs, some of them near Dupont Circle. This sign lasted about two years until it was destroyed.
“It’s just a form of public protest with a performance art aspect to it,” Taylor said.
Although he noted with a laugh that he wasn’t invited to Wednesday’s ceremony, Taylor said, “I’m glad the city did the right thing and I’m glad he’s being recognized this way.”
Chris Megerian (Associated Press) contributed to the report.
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