Arab diplomats are afraid of losing their jobs if they speak out about Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance, fearing repercussions from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Arab nations are staying silent on Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance out of fear of diplomatic consequences from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to sources in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League.
A powerful lobbying effort by the Saudis and Emiratis has bought this silence.
“The atmosphere is very tense, but regardless of what is revealed, we cannot say anything. The current leadership rotation is Saudi Arabian, our General Secretariat is in Saudi Arabia, and anyone who says anything will be fired immediately,” said another official from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), speaking to TRT World from Jeddah.
An anonymous Egyptian Arab league official corroborated these threats by telling TRT World that an extensive Saudi and Emirati lobbying effort was underway in the Arab collective of 22 nations, diplomatically warning nations that it would apply the full measure of its political authority to remove any official who made an anti-Saudi statement on the matter.
Jamal Khashoggi, the 59-year-old Saudi journalist who styled himself as a 'loyal' critic of the kingdom's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, has been missing since October 2. He hasn't been seen since he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul for paperwork required to marry his Turkish fiancee.
Arab nations have remained—officially—silent throughout the ensuing controversy as the world’s nations weigh in with calls for clarity and accountability.
International media is intensely reporting on the case where a 15-man hit squad is alleged to have flown in to aid in the presumed murder and the Washington Post has reported that Turkish officials have audio and video recordings of Khashoggi being interrogated, tortured and then murdered.
The Arab League source adds, “Even if we could say anything, there’s little to comment on. Besides, none of the diplomatic staff here want to create problems between their country and Saudi Arabia. It would cost too much.”
The former OIC Secretary General, Iyad Madani was forced to resign his position after making a joke in a press conference in 2016, saying that he was sure that Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, "had more than water in his refrigerator."
The gaffe came in attempted recovery after Madani confused Essebsi’s name with Sisi, the Egyptian President, who had previously recalled hardship in life, claiming that for 10 years he only had water in his refrigerator.
“The current OIC secretary general is highly conscious of this, and would probably err on the side of caution,” he concluded.
The absence of opinion or withheld opinion?
A source working for the Jordanian Royal family, who asked to remain anonymous, tells TRT World that the absence of an official response from Jordan is normal.
“Why does anyone expect otherwise? Saudi Arabia is one of our biggest allies,” he laughs.
“Besides, Khashoggi is their national. If they were involved, which is still speculation, they’re free to do with him as they wish. For us to say anything would be to interfere in their soverign domestic affairs,” he says.
When asked about the actual opinion of the Jordanian royal family, he says, “It doesn’t matter. Nothing will change. Even if they [Saudi Arabia] is responsible, no one’s opinion or ideas on the matter will make a difference.”
"This hasn't been the first or the last missing journalist in the Middle East," he said, before anxiously double-checking that his statements are off the record.
For Arab newspapers: It's business as usual
But the silence goes further than regional organisations and it has had a trickl-down effect on national media across the Middle East.
Egypt’s top paper, al-Ahram made no mention of Khashoggi's disappearance on its home page.
Instead, the lead story on the Gulf News at the time of this article is, “Turkey could release pastor Andrew Brunson on Friday."
Bahrain, Jordan and Oman have all remained largely silent on the issue.
Even Saudi Arabian newspapers have shied away from tackling the subject, with the Saudi Press Agency, the Saudi Gazetteand the Arab News all mum, reporting instead on domestic matters and every other international issue aside from the Saudi Arabian journalist’s mysterious disappearance.
Meanwhile, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini affirmed the EU supported the US call urging authorities to clear up the journalist’s disappearance in Turkey.
David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression called for an international, and independent, investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Meanwhile, the European Union supported international demands for official clarification regarding the Khashoggi case.