Yesterday, August 31, on the 36th birthday of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), a pop-up installation in Washington, DC, called attention to the monarch’s human rights abuses, including the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi was brutally murdered and dismembered during an appointment at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in October of 2018. A recent report by American intelligence agencies concluded that the assassination was personally authorized by the Saudi Crown Prince, but MBS continues to deny the allegations.
The installation was on display from 12pm to 6pm yesterday at the National Mall. It featured a large-scale sculpture of a fountain pen bleeding red paint over a sheet of paper inscribed with the names of over 140 prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia, among them human rights activists Loujain al-Hathloul and Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan. A fictional message signed by Khashoggi, scrawled in black over the list of prisoners, reads: “Dear Clown Prince, thousands of your victims wish you a damned birthday.”
The installation included a sign highlighting a quote by President Joe Biden, saying: “Jamal’s death will not be in vain and we owe it to his memory to fight for a more just and free world.”
Biden’s affirmation stands at odds with his decision to refrain from holding MBS accountable for Khashoggi’s murder despite the damning intelligence report commissioned by his administration. According to the New York Times, White House officials said they decided that the cost of penalizing Saudi Arabia with sanctions would be “too high.”
The temporary installation was part of the Freedom First campaign, a project by human rights organizations the Freedom Initiative and Amnesty International focusing on Saudi human rights abuses.
“The birthday of Mohammed bin Salman marks a critical occasion to remember that while the Crown Prince celebrates, so many of his victims still suffer,” said Allison McManus, the Freedom Initiative’s research director. “The fact that MBS has never been held accountable for any of his crimes is a travesty of justice and a dark stain on the international community’s commitment to human rights. We take this day as a day to honor the many victims of MBS’ crimes, and we look forward to the day when they may celebrate truth and justice.”
Last October, the Freedom Initiative and Amnesty International organized a guerrilla projection of portraits of Khashoggi and other persecuted Saudi journalists and activists over various buildings in Washington, DC. The action marked two years since Khashoggi’s murder. The images were projected onto buildings including the Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Trump International Hotel, the National Gallery of Art, and the Washington Post headquarters.
“While MBS celebrates his 36th birthday, thousands of prisoners of conscience remain behind bars, banned from travel, and silenced,” said Lina al-Hathloul, sister of Loujain al-Hathloul. “This installation serves as a reminder to the world that MBS is a criminal and should be held accountable for his gruesome crimes.”
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