October 2nd marked the first anniversary of the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Istanbul. To commemorate the loss the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), CodePink, Justice for Jamal (#JusticeForJamal), and Nonviolence International hosted a press conference in front of the U.S. Saudi Arabian Embassy.
Representatives of each organization took turns expressing their sympathies for Khashoggi as well as highlighting the key issues of their organization that Khashoggi championed. The general sentiment from the organizations was that the international community did not respond effectively enough to the murder and that those who perpetrated the killing should be held accountable.
Robert McCaw, Director of Government Affairs for CAIR, discussed the implications of the U.S. consciously choosing not to act on intelligence from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Turkey Intelligence. McCaw asserted that states always choose economic opportunity and benefits over withdrawing support based on a lack of human rights and freedoms in countries like Saudi Arabia. CAIR also set two goals for the next year in order to bring justice for Khashoggi: the first goal is the demand for accountability for the actions taken in Istanbul and the release of the report intelligence communities compiled as well as a second goal of renaming the street in front of the U.S. Saudi Arabian Embassy “Khashoggi Way.”
Medea Benjamin, Co-Founder of CodePink, centered her speech on the numerous human rights violations that have occurred since Khashoggi’s death. Benjamin’s impassioned call for Mohammed bin Salman to be brought to justice in the International Criminal Court for a blatant disregard for basic human rights, the killing of Khashoggi, and war crimes perpetrated in Yemen, seemed particularly poignant on the day of Khashoggi’s disappearance. CodePink vowed to increase their campaign efforts to boycott Saudi Arabia, making their next big push the boycott of the third annual investment conference, the Future Investment Initiative.
Osama Abuirshaid, National Policy Director of American Muslims for Palestine, made sharp remarks about Saudi Arabia and its government. Abuirshaid heavily criticized the country for not having prosecuted anyone involved in the killing yet as well as commenting that Mohammed bin Salman is a war criminal who should be prosecuted as such.
Jonathan Kuttab, Co-Founder of Nonviolence International, delivered remarks that Khashoggi did not die in vain because his death strengthened the international human rights field. Kuttab expressed that Khashoggi’s death forced the world, including Mohammed bin Salman, to reconsider the language, values, principles, and execution of human rights. Nonviolence International’s speech ending with a promise to redouble efforts of getting those currently wrongfully imprisoned released, having perpetrators brought to justice, and a call to action for the world to hold Saudi Arabia accountable.
The speeches finished out with Hassan El-Tayyab, a Middle East Legislative Representative from the Friend’s Committee on National Legislation, highlighting how Khashoggi’s death drew the attention of U.S. media and the world to the transgressions of Saudi Arabia. El-Tayyab discussed the war with Yemen that Saudi Arabia is currently involved in, the human rights violations they have in their county, and the fact that Mohammed bin Salman is not the reformer he claims to be.
The press conference neared its end with excerpts of Khashoggi’s articles from The Washington Post read aloud by demonstrators and ending with a chorus of protest chants: “Don’t be cowards, don’t be vague, send MBS to the Hague;” “No justice, no peace.”