Jamal Khashoggi was a Saudi journalist.
He disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he feared returning to the kingdom.
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi never wanted to be referred to as an opponent of the Saudi government. He was a writer who wanted a space to express himself freely, a former Riyadh insider with a lot to say from his self-imposed exile, and a vocal critic of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The 59-year-old journalist disappeared last Tuesday in Istanbul, after he was last seen entering the Saudi Arabian consulate. Turkish authorities have leaked their assessment that Khashoggi was murdered on the premises. The Saudis have denied involvement in the disappearance and insisted Khashoggi left the consulate. A Turkish investigation is ongoing.
Jamal Khashoggi, 59, was born in the Saudi city of Medina, home to one of the holiest sites in Islam. Like many Saudis who went abroad for their higher education, Khashoggi chose the United States, earning his diploma from Indiana State University in 1983.
He then plunged into the world of journalism, covering the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the resistance of the mujahideen. He interviewed fellow Saudi Osama bin Laden multiple times, tracking his trajectory from Afghanistan to Sudan.
He was appointed editor of Saudi Arabia’s Al Watan newspaper in 2003 but was fired after just two months for publishing stories critical of the Saudi clerical establishment, according to a BBC profile.
In a 2011 interview with Der Spiegel during the heady days of the Arab uprisings, Khashoggi said he had long shared bin Laden’s view that there were “only two ways to liberate the Arab world of its corrupt regimes: by infiltrating the political system through its institutions, or by violently overthrowing the depraved ruling cliques.”
“Democracy ‘was not an option at the time,’” he told the German news weekly.
But his views evolved, and popular movements from Bahrain to Syria would cement his support for democracy.
“The absolute monarchy is obsolete,” Khashoggi told Der Spiegel in that interview. “Democracy is the only solution.” The interviewer noted in her article that “others in Saudi Arabia would be interrogated and locked up for such words.”
She was, of course, referring to Khashoggi’s stature as a palace insider and onetime advisor to the royals.
During that 2011 interview, he spoke from Kingdom Tower, where he was working with the Saudi maverick billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal to start a new Arab satellite station that would be modeled after the daring Al-Jazeera. After its 2015 launch, the station lasted less than 24 hours before being ordered off the air.