The fiancee of Jamal Khashoggi called Thursday for members of Congress to put greater pressure on Saudi Arabia to answer questions related to the Saudi journalist’s slaying, telling lawmakers, “I am asking for justice.”
“This act — this murder — was a great brutality, and the last seven, eight months, nothing was done,” Hatice Cengiz said at a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on the dangers of reporting on human rights. “We still do not know why he was killed. We don’t know where his corpse is.”
She urged lawmakers to press Saudi Arabia’s leaders and sanction the kingdom in response to the killing of Khashoggi, a contributing columnist for The Washington Post.
“In the early days, President Trump said that this would be solved,” Cengiz said. “And Ms. Pelosi talked about how unacceptable this was. But seven, eight months later, we see that nothing has been done, and that is why I’m here today.”
The House and Senate voted earlier this year to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen, in a rebuke of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. But Trump vetoed the resolution, and the Senate failed to override it.
Cengiz’s testimony before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations comes one day after she criticized Trump’s response in a meeting with Washington Post journalists.
Also speaking at Thursday’s hearing was Gulchehra Hoja, an ethnic Uighur journalist with Radio Free Asia in Washington. Hoja has said that more than 20 of her relatives — including her brother and her elderly parents — have been detained in China because of her reporting on human rights abuses in the Muslim-majority Xinjiang region.
Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Sarah Repucci, senior director for research and analysis at Freedom House, also testified.
In her interview with The Washington Post, Cengiz said the Saudi government has not contacted her to offer compensation or even condolences since Khashoggi was killed in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October. By contrast, the kingdom has given millions of dollars in cash and property to Khashoggi’s four adult children.
Cengiz and Khashoggi met at a conference last year and made plans to marry soon after. At Thursday’s hearing, she said that when they were making their wedding preparations, “I was happier to be alive than I had ever been in my life.”
All of that came crashing down seven months ago when, according to U.S. and Turkish authorities, Khashoggi was killed by a team of Saudi assassins after he entered the consulate to obtain papers for their planned marriage.
“It wasn’t just Jamal that was killed” in the consulate that day, Cengiz said. “It was also what we’re talking about here — the values that the United States represents. Didn’t they get murdered as well?”
She told lawmakers that she “still cannot make human sense of it.”
“I still feel that I’ll wake up and it will get back to that,” she said. “And I cannot understand that the world still has not done anything about this.”
At one point in the hearing, freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, thanked Cengiz for her courage and told her that Khashoggi had once encouraged her to run for Congress when they were attending an Iftar dinner together.
“I remember he had said to me, he took a famous picture of Keith Ellison and I, and he said, ‘Ilhan, you need to run for Congress,’ ” Omar said, referring to the Democrat who previously held her seat. “And I said, ‘I can’t run for Congress, because the only seat I can run for is occupied by Keith Ellison.’ And we laughed about that, and I didn’t really know that that would be the last time that I would see him.”
Lawmakers of both parties said that they shared Cengiz’s sentiment that more needs to be done to hold Saudi Arabia to account for the killing.
“I think the world was horrified at the open, blatant murder of your fiancee, and the fact that that has gone unanswered in the world is a source of shame,” said Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), the subcommittee’s chair. “We will do what we can. There needs to be justice for what was done.”
Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.) accused Saudi Arabia’s leaders of being “very, very unforthcoming” with information, not just on Khashoggi’s killing but also in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“I find it appalling; I think we all must find it appalling,” he said, criticizing the “incredible arrogance” of the Saudi government.
Greg Miller contributed to this report.