10/04/2018, 10.00
SAUDI ARABIA - TURKEY
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Istanbul: Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, critic of Riyadh, disappears

The man had gone to the consulate general of the Turkish city to obtain marriage documents. According to the Saudi authorities he disappeared after leaving the building. Turkish government sources state that he is still within the structure. In the past he had criticized the war in Yemen and internal repression.

Istanbul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The fate of the Saudi intellectual Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist of the Washington Post and among the most critical voices of the Riyadh leadership, is shrouded in mystery.

The Turkish-Arab Media Association sounded the alarm over his disappearance after the 59-year-old journalist entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul around noon on 2 October; from that moment on they have lost all trace of him.

An official of Riyadh's diplomatic representation states that Khashoggi disappeared after leaving the building. He got "some documents" and then "went away" explains the man, speaking anonymously. A note released by the official Saudi agency Spa states that the consulate general "is following events to find out the circumstances that led to the disappearance".

The version provided by the Turkish government is different.  The presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin has said Ankara believes that the journalist is still  "inside the building". The Turkish police have opened a file on the matter and the Turkish Foreign Ministry is in touch with the Saudi authorities to shed light on his fate.

Khashoggi had turned to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain the necessary documents to marry his partner, a woman of Turkish nationality who first reported the disappearance. In the meantime, colleagues and friends have launched the #JamalKhashoggiDisappeared campaign, in Arabic and English, which has collected thousands of subscriptions in a few hours.

The Saudi intellectual and journalist had gone into exile last year in the United States, fearing a possible arrest by the authorities for criticizing some decisions of the crown prince and strongman of the country, Mohammad bin Salman (Mbs). These include Riyadh's military intervention in Yemen and the campaign of internal repression, which targeted economist Essam Al-Zamel among others.

he ultraconservative Saudi kingdom, an absolute monarchy ruled by a fundamentalist view of Sunni Islam, has introduced a series of reforms in recent months, in the context of the "Vision 2030" program desired by the 32-year-old MBS. One of the central objectives is to promote female employment, taking it from the current 22% to more than 30% by 2030. 

The reforms are not just about the employment sector: last September the abolition of the driving ban (in force since June) was announced for women and the stadium of the capital was opened to the representatives of the fair sex, who could attend national day celebrations and football matches.

However, severe limitations still remain and the practice of silencing the voices of those demanding greater rights and freedoms within society continues. In particular, in the last period there have been dozens of arrests and trials against people - even women - suspected of having "ties" with "foreign realities" or of providing financial support to "foreign enemies".

According to the annual ranking of Reporters Without Borders, Saudi Arabia is ranked 169 out of 180 countries in the world for freedom of the press.

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