On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde postponed her trip to the Middle East, including her participation in the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Saudi Arabia. By postponing her trip, the IMF chief joined a long list of countries, corporations and media outlets which boycotted the FII over Jamal Khashoggi’s death.
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, who went into self-imposed exile after the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s crackdown on dissent and critical voices since taking up the role in 2017.
He went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to collect papers for his marriage and has not been seen since. Turkey insists that Saudi authorities killed him. A tape recording of his interrogation was released by Turkish media Yeni Safak Wednesday, Saudi officials still deny any involvement in his disappearance.
The president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, chose to cancel the trip before his colleague at the IMF, following in the footsteps of prominent figures of the technological world and of finance; as chief executives of Uber, JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock, Blackstone, and Mastercard. On Tuesday, the HSBC and Credit Suisse joined in. Google also announced Monday it was boycotting the conference.
Diplomatic sources told BBC Sunday that both the United States Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and the United Kingdom International Trade Secretary Liam Fox may decline invitations to attend the Future Investment Initiative (FII).
Virgin head Richard Branson has also joined the list of those suspending future investment in Saudi projects. The Brookings Institution and the lobbying firm Harbour Group have ended their relationship with the country.
Various media organizations like the New York Times, Financial Times, CNN, Bloomberg, and CNBC withdrew from the FII conference.
The FII conference is scheduled to begin on Oct. 23 in Riyadh, through which the kingdom wants to show the world that it is an investment pole that is both modernizing and looking beyond oil.
Khashoggi's case isn't extraordinary based on the kingdom and the royal family's long list of human rights abuses. Scores of human rights activists, prominent scholars, dissident voices have been imprisoned or sentenced to capital punishment in the Gulf country. Its atrocities in Yemen are also well documented, however, several countries still sell military equipment to Saudi Arabia.
Khashoggi’s death, however, has been a pressure point on Saudi Arabia but scores of others met the same fate at the hands of the kingdom and it’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, yet there was no international outrage in those scenarios.
The situation in Saudi Arabia and it’s crackdown on dissent is perfectly summed up by the murdered journalist whose last article has been published by The Washington Post posthumously Thursday. In it, he calls for press freedom in the kingdom.
“The Arab world was ripe with hope during the spring of 2011. Journalists, academics and the general population were brimming with expectations of a bright and free Arab society within their respective countries. They expected to be emancipated from the hegemony of their governments and the consistent interventions and censorship of information,” his last words read.
“These expectations were quickly shattered; these societies either fell back to the old status quo or faced even harsher conditions than before. ...The Arab world is facing its own version of an Iron Curtain, imposed not by external actors but through domestic forces vying for power.”