Jamal Khashoggi — a journalist who has written regular columns criticizing his home nation of Saudi Arabia — has been missing since Tuesday evening. He was last seen at that nation’s consulate building in Istanbul, Turkey.
The Washington Post, the paper for which Khashoggi has primarily written his columns for, reacted to his disappearance on Friday by producing a column in place of where his would typically appear, according to reporting from the BBC. The title of the column, “A Missing Voice,” included Khashoggi’s byline, but the remainder of the piece was intentionally left blank to signify his disappearance.
Saudi officials have claimed that Khashoggi left the consulate building on Tuesday evening and that his whereabouts are unknown to them. But the staff of the Washington Post and other journalists have their doubts — and it’s quite possible that Khashoggi is still inside the consulate, being held there against his expressed will to leave.
Khashoggi had appeared at the consulate office in order to obtain divorce papers. He had planned on marrying his Turkish fiancee, and couldn’t do so until his divorce proceedings were officially finalized.
Khashoggi has been a vocal dissident of his home nation, voicing opposition to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over his recent attempts to suppress opposing viewpoints within Saudi Arabia. After writing an unflattering piece — in which Khashoggi characterized the Saudi royals as concerned about what a Donald Trump presidency could mean for them — Saudi officials demanded that Khashoggi stop writing and that he close his Twitter account.
Powerful: @washingtonpost have printed a blank space where Jamal Khashoggi’s column should be, after his disappearance. We need answers now. #JamalKhashoggiDisappeared @UNESCO @pressfreedom pic.twitter.com/S5M86uzTDx
— Christiane Amanpour (@camanpour) October 5, 2018
Sensing that others like him were being pressured to quiet their voices, and noticing the punishment of others who didn’t, Khashoggi left his nation.
In a Washington Post editorial, published on Thursday days after his disappearance, the editorial board quoted Khashoggi’s reasoning for leaving. “I have left my home, my family and my job, and I am raising my voice,” he said. “To do otherwise would betray those who languish in prison. I can speak when so many cannot.”
The Post, within that same editorial, demanded that bin Salman and other Saudi officials do whatever they could in their power to find Khashoggi. They also expressed their concern for others in Saudi Arabia, voicing their dissatisfaction with the nation’s choice to crack down on those with opposing viewpoints.
The Washington Post editorial board directed their ire specifically at bin Salman, who has primarily led the calls for modernization at the expense of political freedoms.
“If [bin Salman] is truly committed to this, he will welcome constructive criticism from patriots such as Mr. Khashoggi,” the editorial board wrote. “And he will do everything in his power to ensure that Mr. Khashoggi is free and able to continue his work.”