Hatice Cengiz was Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancee.
When Jamal asked me to marry him, I knew that I would be not just his wife once we were wed. I would also be his life’s companion, his partner in good times and his supporter when things got tough. What I did not know is that he would be brutally murdered at a consulate of his home country — a consulate he visited to procure the documents that would allow us to marry. Nor did I ever imagine I would be left fighting alone in my quest for justice.
It has been a year since Jamal’s murder. And, in that time, as I traveled the world seeking the truth and calling for justice, not a single material step has been taken toward punishing the real perpetrators. This is despite the fact that the international media has continued to call attention to the atrocity.
Though Saudi Arabia likes to tout its trial of the men accused of killing Jamal, in reality, its government is making everyone wait with bated breath for the outcome of a process that has been engineered to distract attention from those who gave the orders. It is clear that the suspects who have been thrown in jail could not have carried out this awful murder on their own. This ridiculous charade overlooks the fact that the true perpetrators are known the world over — and extend to the highest levels of the Saudi government.
While this took place at a Saudi government facility, it also impinges on the whole world — particularly the United States and Europe. Jamal’s violent death is something that goes beyond religion, language or geography. It is a matter of humanity and should concern many countries, especially those that claim to speak for human rights. Yet, despite a U.N. report that makes clear who bears the responsibility for Jamal’s murder, no European Union country has imposed measures that would force the Saudi government to listen.
The response from President Trump has been even more disappointing. Rather than call for justice for a U.S. resident lured into danger and assassinated by a foreign power, the president has indicated from the start that he would prioritize his own national objectives above human rights. He and his administration have lent support to Saudi Arabia’s coverup by referring to the kingdom as an ally, continuing to support Saudi leaders and vetoing congressional attempts to hold the Saudi government accountable for its other abuses.
With his response, Trump is effectively abandoning those fighting for democracy and freedom within the Middle East. He is belittling concepts such as human rights and freedom of expression — core tenets of the U.S. Constitution — and downplaying American values.
Earlier this year, I visited Washington at the invitation of Congress. During my visit, I hoped to meet with the president himself to bring attention to this case. I conveyed to White House officials my hopes that my long-standing request for a meeting would come to fruition — but received no reply from the president. This showed me how little he cares about this issue and about the broader values the United States has supported for decades.
During the same trip, I witnessed the power of those representing the interests of arms, energy and oil — lobbies that approached this murder by prioritizing their own interests. But I also saw how much the U.S. response had embarrassed certain members of Congress. The United States is a country of institutions, they told me, and a president isn’t the be-all and end-all. There is a serious faction of lawmakers who represent the country’s conscience. They want the truth about the murder to be brought to light, and they would like to see sanctions imposed on Saudi Arabia. After witnessing this tableau, all I can hope is that the country’s collective conscience and values prevail over these interests and the status quo.
Despite the continued lack of action, I take heart in something I heard often during my visit: Though little progress has been made until now, it does not have to remain this way. The fact that there are high-ranking individuals who wish to see some justice achieved in the future could alter the trajectory of this case. And there is still much that the president could do if he decides to stand up for our shared values. By pulling back the curtain on Jamal’s murder, he could reaffirm to the world — and particularly to the Middle East — that the United States still believes that human rights and ethical values come first.
It’s not too late. I continue to hope the United States decides to stand for what is right. In the meantime, I will continue seeking justice for Jamal — and hope that people and governments the world over will join me in my quest.
Read more about Jamal Khashoggi:
A missing voice, a growing chorus
Fred Ryan: Why the world will not forget the horror of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder
Ezzedine Fishere: Jamal Khashoggi symbolized the promise of reconciling political Islam and democracy
Robert Menendez: Trump betrayed U.S. moral leadership with Saudi Arabia. So Congress had to act.
Karen Attiah: Let the world hear Jamal Khashoggi’s last words in Arabic
Mohamed Soltan: How Jamal Khashoggi gave Arab dissidents mentorship — and a community