DC trolls the Saudi embassy by naming the street Jamal Khashoggi Way

WASHINGTON (AP) – A month before President Joe Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia, the District of Columbia renames the street in front of Saudi Embassy Jamal Khashoggi Way, enchanting Riyadh for his role in the 2018 assassination of dissident Saudi activist and journalist .

With members of the DC Council present, a Jamal Khashoggi Way sign was unveiled right in front of the embassy’s main entrance.

“We intend to remind the people hiding behind these doors … that we hold them accountable and we will hold them accountable for the murder of our friend,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, CEO of DAWN, the pro-Arab world democracy organization founded by Khashoggi before his death.

Whitson also criticized what she called the “shameless capitulation” of the Biden administration to seek improved relations with the Saudi government and plan an official presidential visit to the kingdom.

Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist, went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, and sought the necessary documentation for a planned marriage with her fiancé waiting outside for him. The 59-year-old never showed up.

The Saudi government initially denied any wrongdoing. But under increasing international pressure, Riyadh eventually admitted that Khashoggi had been killed inside the consulate in what the Saudis described as a repatriation attempt that went wrong. The CIA later released a report concluding that Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by order of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

The Saudi regime has consistently denied this connection. Several Saudi officials and lower-level agents were jailed for the killings.

The DC Council voted unanimously late last year to rename a one-block stretch for Khashoggi.

“I am very proud that we did this,” said DC Council President Phil Mendelson. “The Saudi government can not forget what happened, what it did. This is a constant reminder.”

The renaming is ceremonial, as marked with the brown street sign instead of the usual green, and it will not affect the embassy’s postal address. But the sign will remain indefinitely. An e-mail to the Saudi embassy seeking comment was not answered.

Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, could not attend the ceremony, but a statement from her was read out.

In it, she bitterly criticized the Biden administration for “putting oil above principles and expediency over principles.”

Cengiz also directly asked Biden, when he meets the Crown Prince, “Can you at least ask: ‘Where is Jamal’s body?’

Karine Jean Pierre, the White House press secretary, will not say whether Biden will raise the issue of Khashoggi’s assassination when he meets Bin Salman next month.

“The president is a fair shooter. This is not something he is afraid to talk about, she said. But she did not confirm whether the killing would be a topic of conversation.

The DC government has a history of such public intervention to troll or shame foreign governments. In February 2018, the street in front of the Russian embassy was named Boris Nemtsov Plaza, after a Russian activist was shot and killed while walking on a bridge near the Kremlin in 2015.

At the former site of the Russian embassy, ​​a street was renamed the longtime Russian dissident Andrei Sakharov.

Wednesday’s street name was mainly a formalization of an independent activist-run campaign that had been going on for years. Shortly after Khashoggi’s death, local activist Claude Taylor began placing realistic-looking Jamal Khashoggi street signs around the city, including outside the embassy. Taylor said he had as many as 10 signs in various locations at one time, including one near Dupont Circle that lasted two years before being vandalized.

“It’s just a form of public protest with a performance art aspect,” Taylor said.

Although he laughingly remarked that he was not invited to Wednesday’s ceremony, Taylor said, “I’m glad the city did the right thing, and I’m glad he’s being recognized this way.

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Associated Press writer Chris Megerian contributed to this report.