Jamal Khashoggi: Rename streets outside Saudi embassies after murdered journalist, campaigners say

Originally published by The Independent.

Governments around the world are being urged to rename the roads where Saudi Arabian embassies are situated “Khashoggi Street” to honour the murdered journalist.

In London, activists from Amnesty International put up a mock “Khashoggi Street” sign outside the Saudi embassy at exactly 1.14pm, one month to the minute since Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The dissident journalist, who was a columnist for the Washington Post and a strident critic of the Saudi regime, has not been seen since and is presumed to have been murdered inside the building.

The movement began in America, where friends and admirers of Mr Khashoggi have started a petition calling on officials in Washington DC to rename the section of New Hampshire Avenue where the Saudi embassy sits as “Jamal Khashoggi Way”.

Now, the effort to shame the presumed murderers of the journalist has spread overseas. Amnesty International hopes its stunt outside the Saudi embassy in Mayfair will prompt governments across the globe to follow suit.

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s director, said: “The whole world has been shocked by this grotesque killing, and it’s vital that we don’t let the outrage fade away without justice being done.

“We need to see Jamal Khashoggi’s killers brought to justice – not only those who actually carried out the murder, but those who ordered it and knew it was about to happen.”

At a memorial service for the 60-year-old exile in London on Monday, the head of an influential US Islamic think tank and long-time friend of Mr Khashoggi, Nihad Awad, urged mourners to begin petitions in every city where Riyadh had a diplomatic mission.

“We are petitioning for the roundabout in front of the Saudi embassy in Washington to be named after Jamal Khashoggi,” Mr Awad is reported to have said.

“I want you to start a petition, that in every street and every city where there is a Saudi embassy or a Saudi mission, demand that it will be renamed after him.

“Imagine if their mail had to be addressed to Khashoggi Way? That their business cards included such an address?”

So far, more than 1,800 people have added their names to the Washington DC petition. The duo behind the petition’s hail from two Washington think tanks on opposite sides of the political spectrum but are united in their outrage over Mr Khashoggi’s killing.

When the petition hits 2,000 signatures the pair plan to approach the city’s council or mayor, Muriel Bowser, to ask for the name change.

The petition states the renaming would be a “daily reminder to Saudi officials that such behaviour is totally unacceptable and as an expression of Washington’s unstinting support for freedom of the press”.

Amnesty International said they were also demanding an independent UN investigation into Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance and warned the country’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was leading a crackdown on dissidents and activists in the repressive kingdom.

“Since September 2017, when the authorities launched a wave of arrests targeting activists, writers and religious clerics, Amnesty has been able to verify 20 arrests,” the charity said in a statement.

“Some of those detained are now facing trial before the country’s notorious counter-terrorism court.”

Prince Mohammed, who became crown prince in June last year, has led a series of social reforms – including finally permitting Saudi women to drive – but has also aggressively pursued opponents of Saudi Arabia’s authoritarian regime and internal enemies within the Saudi establishment.

He has also escalated Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the bloody war in Yemenagainst rebels allied to the kingdom’s greatest Middle Eastern rival, Iran.

But despite the country being a key ally of the West in the region, a growing number of voices are expressing discontent at his leadership.

Even Donald Trump, who has resisted calls for sanctions on Saudi Arabia following the slaying because the nation is a major customer of US arms companies, has said Prince Mohammed must have known about the plan to kill the journalist.

More than 100 fellow writers, journalists, artists and activists have echoed Amnesty International’s calls on the UN to lead an inquiry into Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance. Among those who have added their names to an open letter co-ordinated by PEN America are JK Rowling, Meryl Streep, Patrick Stewart, Watergate journalist Bob Woodward and novelist Margaret Atwood.

If the authorities in London or Washington agree to rename the Saudi embassies’s street addresses it would not be the first time such a stunt has been pulled.

Famously, Iran changed the name of the road outside the British embassy in Tehran to Bobby Sands Street, after the IRA leader died following a 66-day hunger strike in 1981.

More recently, Washington’s council added street signs outside the Russian embassy denoting that stretch of road as Boris Nemtsov Plaza, in honour of the dissident who was murdered in Moscow in 2015.