The vote came on the heels of a landmark court decision in the United Kingdom resulting in an immediate suspension of new licenses for arms sales to Saudi Arabia and of the release of a damning UN report, earlier in the week, from the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Agnes Callamard, detailing the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi was a US resident and Washington Post journalist who was killed in October 2018 inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Callamard said that Saudi Arabia was responsible for Khashoggi’s murder and that there was sufficient evidence to warrant a criminal investigation of senior Saudi officials, including the Saudi Crown Prince himself. It’s been a cascade of bad news for Muhammed bin Salman this week and a positive step forward for human rights and accountability.
Human Rights Watch has documented scores of abuses, including apparent war crimes, by the Saudi-led coalition in the war in Yemen, and has repeatedly demanded justice for Khashoggi’s murder. Despite targeted US sanctions on 17 individuals, the Saudis have proceeded with almost total impunity – on both Khashoggi’s death and on the abuses in Yemen. And despite these apparent crimes, the Trump administration has continued to sell the Saudis billions of dollars in weapons.
But the tide is starting to turn in Congress now. In recent months, Congress has introduced a flurry of resolutions and bills in response to both Khashoggi’s murder and Saudi’s destructive campaign in Yemen, as well as to broader human rights concerns domestically – including the detention and torture of women’s rights activists, detained merely for their rights advocacy.
The White House has made clear that if the Senate resolution reaches the president’s desk, as it likely will, Trump will veto it. Congress should keep up the pressure to ensure a more principled approach towards Saudi Arabia.
Everything changed in early October last year when Khashoggi went to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul for documents that would allow him to marry Cengiz.
Once he entered the consulate, he was subsequently killed. After offering a series of changing narratives to explain what happened, the Saudi government eventually admitted he had died there but blamed the operation on a botched rendition attempt.
In the aftermath, Cengiz met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, spoke with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, gave interviews and even helped with a book about Khashoggi’s life.
After some time, Cengiz became overwhelmed with grief and withdrew from view, according to The Times.
She even rejected an invitation to visit the White House.
Now she is reversing course and is determined to obtain justice for Khashoggi.
“One must take action to conclude this case legally and humanely,” Cengiz told The Times in an interview. “It is a moral duty.”
Cengiz said she is planning to visit the U.S. later this month where she hopes to speak with members of Congress and U.S. President Donald Trump, according to the newspaper.
“I am not a politician, but I can talk about what is moral,” she said. “I don’t know if I can change the mind of a president.”
The official Saudi narrative has been met with international skepticism as well as stern criticism from U.S. lawmakers over the possibility that Khashoggi’s murder could have been carried out without the explicit consent of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
But Trump and his top officials have rejected any role bin Salman played in Khashoggi’s grisly murder.
Trump’s own intelligence community determined with high confidence, however, bin Salman ordered his killing.
“Trump and John Bolton not only refuse to even listen to the Turkish tape about Khashoggi’s murder, but they are also keeping CIA Director Gina Haspel away from Senate briefing because the CIA points the finger at the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.” —Medea Benjamin, CodePinkThe briefing to the entire Senate will be led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis and focus on the U.S.-Saudi relationship ahead of an expected vote in the afternoon that seeks to end the U.S. involvement in the Kingdom’s brutal war on neighboring Yemen.
But as the Guardianreports, adminstrations officials “made it clear that the decision for Haspel not to appear in front of the committee came from the White House.”
“On a national security issue of such importance, it would be customary for a senior intelligence official to take part,” the Guardian ‘s Julian Borger noted. “On this occasion, the absence of the intelligence community is all the more glaring, as Haspel travelled to Istanbul to hear audio tapes of Khashoggi’s murder provided by Turkish intelligence, and then briefed Donald Trump.”
It was a detail that others noted as well:
An unnamed Senate staffer who spoke to Borger said, “There is always an intel person there for a briefing like this. It is totally unprecedented and should be interpreted as nothing less than the Trump administration trying to silence the intelligence community.”
Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the anti-war group CodePink, said the Trump administration’s position is deeply troubling.
“Trump and John Bolton not only refuse to even listen to the Turkish tape about Khashoggi’s murder, but they are also keeping Haspel away from the Senate briefing because the CIA points the finger at the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS),” Benjamin told Common Dreams via email.
“It’s mind-boggling what lengths the administration is going through to shield MBS, but there’s no way to put lipstick on this pig,” she added. “The world now sees MBS for the evil dictator he is, and the Senate must now do the right thing by supporting SJR54—the resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.”
With CodePink, Win Without War, Peace Action, and other groups urging constituents to call their Senators and demand they support the resolution, the vote could come as early as Wednesday afternoon.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
Mugabe may have gone, but the young Itai Dzamara, journalist cum human rights activist’s family is still picking up the pieces after his disappearance and are still demanding answers.
|CRIMSON TAZVINZWA, AIWA! NO!|You see! Sometimes you begin by reminiscing those pleasant moments and occasions visiting friends and relatives in the villages. Often around Christmas festive season – when families and extended families gather for annual reunions. They would travel all the way from across Zimbabwe boundaries.
Myself. Not even a journalist then; barely through high school. Things were dandy. Happy days.
Itai Dzamara, 35, is Sheffra’s husband and Nokutenda and Nenyasha’s father. He was abducted three years ago today. He was getting a haircut on a Monday morning when four men bundled him into an unmarked vehicle and sped off. Itai’s whereabouts and the identities of those behind his kidnapping have remained unknown ever since. “Every day I think that I’ll hear him coming through the gate,” continues Sheffra. “I think maybe I’ll see him on the news, or someone will send me a WhatsApp. These days my phone is always on, ready to receive news that Itai has been found. Maybe someone will phone, and he’ll be on the other end, or someone will give us information about where he is or tell us he’s on his way back. It’s hard to live like this, every day waiting to hear good news.”
The season. Culminating into Christmas festivities; people celebrate and reflect the successes and failures of the year gone or going by, by way of feasts and prayers.
Bulls, goats, chickens, pigs and sheep or all of them and sometimes at once are slaughtered. This is ‘MEAT-CURE‘ Season at its best and for a REASON. People joke about this and say you can only come across vegetables at your next door neighbor’s – around this time.
People eat; drink, talk, sing and dance.
Little harmless verbal fights. Little harmless white lies here and there. Catching up and harmless gossip are in order. There are also sideline activities; plots: engagements or and birthdays.
People constantly talk and hardly sleep; sometimes music blurring uncontrollably and catatonic-ally on ‘fading and dying batteries’ throughout the night – and to be honest; this exhausts me a lot though.
There are no open quarrels except if they are, they are communicated via hidden messages in songs and folktale, proverbs and metaphors. Communication is delicate, deliberate as it is loose due to alcohol consumed and weed smoked – necessary tasks given the circumstances. This is one of the things so dear to me that I have missed for over – 20 -odd- years and counting. The thought of it alone sends my head into a spindle.
And often wonder allowed as to when I would one day visit the motherland Zimbabwe. I scratch my head often – only for my bare fingers to scratch over a bump, ‘dent on the middle of my head’ – a stuck reminder of how close I came close quarters with death. This dent on my head: left by a cocoa-cola bottle struck from one of Mr. Mugabe CIO agents. Challenging my lectures and my views on a current affairs programme I used to co-present on ZTV; Sundays.
On the Zimbabwe Television program. It was a Sunday evening current affairs program. I just happened to have been co opted onto presenting the program by the Head of Radio 4; Sam Munyavi. The editorial content comprised of simple question and answer sessions and general dialogue.
One fateful day though I drew the ire of the then minister of Environment and Tourism Francis Nhema. I queried the minister on the inflated fees for foreign tourists; that included ‘tourist price’ for things like transport, shopping and meals. I pointed out:
I had lived in Kenya in the previous years; had seen how Kenya promoted tourism, including nominal fees and such
Foreign tourists are arriving in droves simply because of President Chiluba’s land and business policy: “I don’t care whether a cat is black or white for as long as it catches the rats”
And that South Africa had embarked on amicable and equitable redistribution of the land
And that Nigeria had just offered Zimbabwean white commercial farmers land leases that span 90 – years if they chose to settle in Nigeria.
That query alone landed me the nickname: Mr. ‘Been-to’ although I would have rather Mr. Bantu.
It has taken me this long to face and accept the reality of my British-ness; and for Zimbabwe to remain a pipe- dream destination; probably as it should be.
In the beginning it used to get to my head and my dreams too.
I reminisce weekends of barbecues/braai KWA MEREKI – HARARE. Fake birthday parties from and among friends to attend to – excuses for PARTIES and having fun. That was grand.
But when mum went to be with the Lord on July, and realised still I couldn’t travel to Zimbabwe for the funeral – for the danger is still as real now as it was under Dictator Robert Mugabe. Imagine!
My beloved aunt remarked recently: “By the time you visit Zimbabwe all the people would be gone. Dead!. That scared me. For it is the stuck reality.
It doesn’t get any better. Thinking of my former graduate journalism student cum human rights activist Itai Dzamara who disappeared into ‘thin air’ from some hair salon downtown Harare; and in broad daylight.
He was abducted three years ago. He was getting a haircut one Monday morning in March 2016 when four men bundled him into an unmarked vehicle and sped off. Itai’s whereabouts and the identities of those behind his kidnapping have remained unknown ever since.
Rumors has it that he was ‘murdered’, his body soaked in sulfuric acid and dumped in Lake Chivero/McIlwaine – 5 miles west of capital Harare.
“Every day I think that I’ll hear him coming through the gate,” says Sheffra, his wife.
“I think maybe I’ll see him on the news, or someone will send me a WhatsApp. These days my phone is always on, ready to receive news that Itai has been found. Maybe someone will phone, and he’ll be on the other end, or someone will give us information about where he is or tell us he’s on his way back.
It’s hard to live like this, every day waiting to hear good news.”
And then there is the fateful Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi
A Saudi Arabian journalist, dissident, author, and a former general manager and editor-in-chief of Al-Arab News Channel and Columnist for Washington Post who was assassinated at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018 by agents of the Saudi.
The CIA has a recording of a phonecall in which Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave instructions to “silence Jamal Khashoggi as soon as possible”, a Turkish news website has reported. Gina Haspel, CIA director, is said to have revealed the existence of a wiretapped call between Prince Mohammed and his brother Khaled bin Salman, who is Saudi’s ambassador to the US, to Turkish officials during a visit to Ankara last month, according to Hurriyet. “It is said that the crown prince gave an instruction to silence JamalKhashoggi as soon as possible and this instruction was captured during the CIA wiretapping,” Hurriyet columnist Abdulkadir Selvi wrote on Thursday. “The subsequent murder is the ultimate confirmation of this instruction.”
It sends shivers through my spine. My head goes into an ‘intoxicated’ like dangerous spin. Imagine a journalist; one so prominent at that; can be murdered in a Turkish consulate and nobody knows how it happened; and no knowledge of the whereabouts of his body so family can lay him to rest with respect.
And for President Trump to say ;
“Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said. “In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region. It is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!”
And for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to say:
“It’s a mean, nasty world out there — the Middle East in particular,” Pompeo told reporters at the State Department. “There are important American interests to keep the American people safe, to protect Americans — not only Americans who are here, but Americans who are traveling and working, doing business in the Middle East. It is the president’s obligation, indeed the State Department’s duty as well, to ensure that we adopt policies that further America’s national security.”
All in front of a ‘dead body.’
Shame! It is a shame.
Shall we ever live in fear for as long as we remain trained and practising journalists?
From: The U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia (if we had one.)
Subject: Saudi crown prince visit
Mr. President, in advance of the visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a.k.a. M.B.S., I want to share some thoughts:
It’s only a matter of time before King Salman turns over the reins of power to M.B.S., who’s already the effective ruler. M.B.S. is not a democrat, nor is he interested in promoting democracy. He’s a modernizing autocrat. The most we can expect from him is the modernization of Saudi Arabia’s economy and religious/social structure, but given how badly the country has stagnated from years of tentative reforms, this is deeply significant.
M.B.S. is definitely bold. I can think of no one else in the ruling family who would have put in place the profound social, religious and economic reforms that he’s dared to do — and all at once. But I can also think of no one in that family who’d have undertaken the bullying foreign policy initiatives, domestic power plays and excessive personal buying sprees he’s dared to do, all at once. They are two halves of the same M.B.S. package. Our job: help curb his bad impulses and nurture his good ones.
His potential is vast. M.B.S. is trying to forge a societal transformation in Saudi Arabia. Call it “one country, two systems.” For those who want piety, the mosque, Mecca and Islamic education, they’ll all be available and respected. But for those who want modern education and a more normal social life between men and women — and access to Western film, music and the arts — those too will be available and respected. No more religious domination. That is huge.
Thomas L. Friedman became the paper’s foreign affairs Op-Ed columnist in 1995. He joined the paper in 1981, after which he served as the Beirut bureau chief in 1982, Jerusalem bureau chief in 1984, and then in Washington as the diplomatic correspondent in 1989, and later the White House correspondent and economic correspondent.