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Slaughterhouses as Hajj visa providers: every anti-Saudi Muslim has officially become a potential victim

The Saudi Embassy entrance (photo: Daily Star)

The vicious murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is the main news all over the world. Apart from the fact that one journalist was brutally murdered, this case raises a number of questions that could greatly change international relations: Where is the Khashoggi body? Why would anyone believe the official Saudi story? Is there a connection with the ruling Saudi prince? How will the United States react? Will the international community punish Saudi Arabia? Will there be any change in international relations? Most of the murder details still remain a secret and questions unanswered. However, some even more important questions have not been publicly asked yet.

Khashoggi, a prominent dissident and permanent US resident, entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and never left. At first, Saudi leaders, including Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, denied any foul play. But they later floated a story about how journalist may have been killed in an interrogation gone terribly awry, and US President Donald Trump offered up unsubstantiated speculation that Khashoggi was killed by a "rogue agent." That version doesn't hold up either because before the murder, Saudi leaders sent a fifteen-man hit squad to Istanbul that included several of the crown prince's top security officers and an autopsy expert carrying a bone saw.

According to the Turkish police sources, audio recordings show Khashoggi was horribly tortured and murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, then dismembered and quietly moved out of the building. Turkish police have expanded the search, as Khashoggi's body may have been disposed of in nearby Belgrade Forest or on farmland in Yalova Province, as indicated by the movement of the Saudi vehicles and DNA tests of samples from the Saudi Arabian consulate. On 2 October 2018 he entered the building in order to obtain documents related to his planned marriage, and today the location of his body remains is still unknown.

It is highly likely the assassination was ordered by the highest level Saudi leaders, including Mohammad bin Salman. Saudi royals have regularly used terror to intimidate enemies both inside and outside the country. There is only one mitigating circumstance in favor of the Saudis, i.e. they use less of such activities comparing to the unmatched champions – the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel. Neither Saudi cinematography romanticizes the political assassinations as these three countries do (James Bond, Spielberg's Munich, and so on).

Still, after the murder all eyes were on the United States, as if they are some sort of the ethical role model or expecting a change in foreign policy towards the Saudi regime. This did not happen because of the Saudi massacre in Yemen, and it won't happen because of a single journalist. They always find justifications and excuses, as they did in the 1980s for genocidal crimes of the Saddam Hussein regime. Thus, the questions above are completely irrelevant because everyone already knows the answers. The US foreign policy will undoubtedly remain the same, but what must be changed is the Muslim countries' policy towards Saudi Arabia.

The real problem lies in the Saudi political monopoly of Hajj. There are one billion and a half Muslims all over the globe and their mandatory religious duty once in their lifetime is to perform the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, the holy city located in Saudi Arabia. The World Muslim population is generally young, open-minded and critical toward the Saudi regime and their interpretation of Islam, as well as very active on widely used online social networks. The Khashoggi case has proven that they are in danger not only for traveling to the Saudi state, but also even for entering the Saudi embassy, which is part of the inevitable process of obtaining a travel visa.

For many years the Hajj pilgrims are facing organizational defects and deadly stampedes, commercialization of the Hajj and transformation of Mecca into something like Disneyland or Las Vegas, Salafist agitation and mistreatment by Saudi government thugs, and now they have become potential targets even in their own countries if they decide to apply for a visa to fulfill the sacred obligation. The Saudis know well that they can do whatever they want, without an international outcry and any serious consequences. Their regime is brutally playing with human rights, diplomatic laws, but also with the sacred duties of every Muslim individually.

A number of Muslim countries have already demanded establishing an international administration to manage the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage, an idea Saudi Arabia vociferously rejects.

Marko Knežević

Marko Knežević is a historian and freelance journalist from Bar, Montenegro. He is a frequent traveller to the Middle East and East Asia.