In homage to the adage that real life is stranger than fiction, after the Russians insisted that they were cruising Salisbury not to eliminate dissidents via nerve agents but to see its famous cathedral spire, now we have the Kashoggi Affair in Turkey. With no other motive in mind but obtaining marriage documents, entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul turned out to be more dangerous than a war zone for renowned Saudi journalist in exile, Jamal Kashoggi, who had been urging Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) to embrace reform.

In a manoeuvre befitting Israel’s spy agency Mossad, Turkey’s perfectly timed drip drip of potent leaks finally led the Saudi Foreign Minister to admit to the murder and cover up, but he added sagely that “these things unfortunately happen.” And he really had no idea about Kashoggi’s body because it had been allegedly handed over to a co-collaborator employed for such purposes.

On Twitter, journalist Robbie Gramer aptly summed up the Saudi convoluted explanations about Kashoggi’s disappearance after being put on the mat by the Turks.

Real life can be stranger and more macabre than fiction

“He’s not dead, he left the Consulate we have evidence.

Ok, he has disappeared.

Ok, he may be dead.

Ok he’s dead but we didn’t do it.

Ok, he’s dead, but it was a rogue group who worked for us.

Ok he’s dead and we did it, but it was only because a one vs 15 fight broke out.”

Since gallows humour helps in retaining your sanity in a dystopian world, other twitter users added:

“Ok he’s dead and it was an accident, he fell on the bone saw.”


“And let’s be honest, who amongst us hasn’t entered a foreign embassy wielding a bone saw?”

“It’s just another case of a middle-aged journalist taking on a kill squad of 15 in a fist fight.”

“I’m waiting for them to say he committed suicide.”

“Well, technically he did. After all, he walked into the embassy.”

In a story which could best John le Carre’s books, Kashoggi’s fiancée paced outside the Saudi Consulate as a 15-member hit squad got down to work at a punishing speed. A body double with fake glasses and a beard wandered around Istanbul in Kashoggi’s clothes pretending to be him, a forensic doctor allegedly gave the useful suggestion that everyone follow his example of listening to music on headphones as it aided in concentrating while chopping up humans with a bone saw (he did not, however, provide his playlist), super secret audio and video tapes, the hard disk of consulate cameras ripped out, a nervous wide-eyed consul general whose desk was utilised for Kashoggi’s final seven minutes, getaway planes waiting on tarmacs searched by Turkish police who were unable to find any evidence supposedly intercepted phone calls from hit quad to Saudi headquarters and reports claiming that the journalist’s fingers were cut off and sent back to Saudi Arabia as proof of mission accomplished.

The icing on the cake was alleged Skype instructions by a Saudi royal political adviser Saoud al Qahtani to the hit squad during the murder and express instructions to “bring me the head of the dog.” In one of his final interviews, Kashoggi had said he counted on Qahtani as a friend. With friends like these…

The icing on the cake was Skype instructions by a Saudi royal political advisor Saoud al Qahtani  to the hit squad during the murder and express instructions to “bring me the head of the dog.” ln interviews, Kashoggi had said he counted on Qahtani as a friend. With friends like these…  

While condemnations poured in from around the world and leading companies announced a boycott of the much vaunted Saudi investors’ conference, MBS was said to be bewildered by all the fuss. After placing his mother under house arrest, imprisoning Saudi royals at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh and kidnapping Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri on an official trip to Saudi Arabia, and then embracing him in a restaurant in Paris three months later, this was just a blip on the radar. Why all the fuss? All MBS wants to do is hang out with Mark Zuckerberg, open cinemas, allow women to drive and attend football games, but how can he not rule the kingdom like his ancestors?

The Saudi royals finally got into action by summoning Kashoggi’s son Saleh to the palace so they could express their condolences to the family. In pictures circulated by official photographers, Saleh can be seen giving MBS the death stare while grimly shaking hands with him.

Some think Kashoggi’s body is still stashed away at the home of the Saudi consul general, who incidentally has been recalled to the kingdom. As MBS mingles with investors at an investors’ meet and receives a standing ovation from the dignitaries assembled, CNN’s Nicholas Kristoff claims that the genial MBS’s initials are now said to stand for “Mr Bone Saw.”

The columnist is a freelance writer.
She tweets  @MaheenUsmani

Published in Dawn, EOS, October 28th, 2018

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