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Today, October 2, marks two years since the brutal murder of the Saudi Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. To honor his memory, the human rights organizations Freedom First and Amnesty International USA covertly projected large-scale portraits of Khashoggi and other Saudi freedom activists onto various buildings across Washington, DC, including the Embassy of Saudi Arabia.
The guerilla action, organized as part of the Freedom Initiative for political prisoners in the Middle East, started at dawn with the projection of a larger than life image of Khashoggi onto the facade of the Suadi Embassy in DC. It then traveled across the city with portraits of prominent prisoners of conscience including women’s rights activist Loujain Alhathloul and physician Dr. Walid Fitaihi. Other locations included the Trump International Hotel at 1100 Pennsylvania Ave; the National Gallery of Art; the Washington Post headquarters; and Squire Patton Boggs law firm, which provides lobbying services to the Saudi government.
The projections also included an image of President Donald Trump with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS), accompanied by the phrase “I saved his ass.” The quote comes from one of Trump’s interviews with journalist Bob Woodward in which he described how he protected the Saudi leader from facing consequences after the murder of Khashoggi.
Another projection urged people to take a Freedom Pledge, committing to spread awareness of universal human rights and to challenge authoritarian regimes that silence dissent.
News about Khashoggi’s murder shocked the world in 2018. According to reports, the journalist was gruesomely dismembered during a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October of that year. The Saudi government called the assassination a “rogue operation” after denying any involvement in the incident for weeks.
Two years after his murder, Khashoggi’s body still hasn’t been found.
“Saudi Arabia’s courts routinely deny defendants access to lawyers and sentence people to death following grossly unfair trials,” said Philippe Nassif of Amnesty International in a statement today. “On the anniversary of your assassination, we promise you, Jamal, to always tell your story and to fight tirelessly until justice and truth are served. Rest in peace.”
“Two years ago, Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered in the Saudi consulate,” said Lina Alhathloul, sister of imprisoned activist Loujain Alhathloul. “In the same year, my sister was kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured by the same men.”
“They are all still walking free and remain in power,” Alhathloul continued. “How many more lives will be lost before this impunity ends? I refuse to wait until I mourn my sister to demand justice for all.”
Ahmad Fitaihi, son of Dr. Walid Fitaihi, added: “My father is an American citizen, a Harvard-trained doctor and a critical health care leader of Saudi Arabia’s coronavirus response. He was arbitrarily detained and tortured without trial for over a year. If Jamal can be murdered in broad daylight and an American citizen can be treated this way in Saudi Arabia, who is safe?”