A month before President Joe Biden’s visit 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 2018 murder of a disgruntled Saudi activist and journalist.
The Jamal Khashoggi Way sign was unveiled directly in front of the main entrance of the embassy, in the presence of members of the DC Council.
“We want to remind those who are hiding behind these doors … that we hold them responsible and we will hold them responsible for the murder of our friend,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of pro-Arab world Dawn. Told. Democracy organization founded by Khashoggi before his death.
Whitson also criticized the Biden administration’s “shameless dedication” to demanding better relations with the Saudi government and scheduling an official presidential visit to the kingdom.
Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist, enters the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 with his fiancée waiting outside for them to ask for documents needed for a planned wedding. The 59-year-old never emerged.
The Saudi government initially denied any wrongdoing. But under mounting international pressure, Riyadh eventually admitted that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, in what the Saudis described as a repatriation effort turned out to be wrong. The CIA later released a report which concluded that Khashoggi was killed and isolated on the orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The Saudi regime has consistently denied that connection. Several low-level Saudi officials and agents received prison sentences for murder.
The DC Council unanimously voted late last year to rename a block section for Khashoggi. The naming is formal, as indicated by a brown sign instead of the usual green, and will not affect the embassy’s postal address. But the sign will last indefinitely. An email to the Saudi Embassy seeking comment did not elicit a response.
Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, could not attend the ceremony, but a statement from her was read out aloud.
In it, he sharply criticized the Biden administration for “oiling on principles and expediency on principles”.
Cengiz also directly requested Biden when he meets with the Crown Prince, “Can you at least ask, ‘Where’s Jamal’s body?'”
The White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, 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. It’s not something she’s afraid to talk about,” she said. But she did not confirm whether the killing would be a matter of conversation.
The DC government has a history of such public moves to troll or embarrass foreign governments. In February 2018, the street in front of the Russian embassy was Boris Nemtsov Plaza, in 2015 a Russian activist was shot dead while walking on a bridge near the Kremlin.
At the previous site of the Russian embassy, a street was renamed for the longtime Russian dissident Andrei Sakharov.
The renaming of Wednesday’s street was essentially a formality of an independent activist-driven campaign that had been going on for years. Soon after Khashoggi’s death, local activist Claude Taylor began putting up realistic-looking Jamal Khashoggi road signs around the city, including outside the embassy. Taylor said he had more than 10 signs in different places at one point, including one near DuPont Circle, which lasted two years before the vandalism.
“It’s a form of public protest with a performing arts aspect,” Taylor said.
Although he laughed that he was not invited to Wednesday’s ceremony, Taylor said, “I’m glad the city did the right thing and I’m glad they’re being recognized as such.”