11 October 2018 – Today, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) wrote to the Natural History Museum in London urging them to cancel today’s reception for the Saudi Arabian embassy, in light of the recent allegations that Saudi Arabia murdered prominent dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its Istanbul consulate.
Commenting, the Director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, said: “Hosting the Embassy of Saudi Arabia soon after they allegedly murdered a dissident journalist will taint the museum’s reputation. Conducting business as per usual with Saudi Arabia, in light of these shocking revelations, normalises their crimes and emboldens the Kingdom to continue its policy of repression and abuse. It is time to take a stand.”
Read our letter
We are writing to urge you to cancel the reception you are hosting for the Saudi Arabian embassy on Thursday 11 October in light of the recent allegations that Saudi Arabia murdered prominent dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its Istanbul consulate.
Mr Jamal Khashoggi criticised Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s policies, in particular the waves of arrests of critics of the government. He wrote critically of the Kingdom’s policies in the Washington Post and to speak on various television shows. On 2 October 2018, he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey to obtain documents he needed to marry his Turkish fiancé. Although Saudi officials have claimed that he obtained the necessary paperwork and left soon afterwards, Mr Khashoggi has not been seen since. His disappearance has raised serious concerns that he may have been abducted and forcibly returned to Saudi Arabia, or even assassinated by the Saudi officials. Turkish officials allege that Saudi intelligence officers arrived at the consulate later that day, after Mr Khashoggi was murdered, and proceeded to dismember his body and smuggle it out in a caravan of vehicles carrying diplomatic license plates. Turkish officials were given permission to search the Saudi Arabian consulate, but they provided no evidence that would incriminate the Kingdom.
While Saudi Arabia has previously targeted critics living abroad, by installing spyware on phones and arresting family members of dissidents still living in the kingdom, the allegations of Mr Khashoggi’s murder represent a dramatic and concerning escalation. On 9 October, several United Nations Special Rapporteurs demanded an independent and impartial investigation into his disappearance. Their call follows expressions of concern by United States President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Since then, President Trump has demanded answers from Saudi Arabia over Mr Khashoggi’s forced disappearance. This is all the more significant considering the US and UK’s traditional, unwavering support for Saudi Arabia by way of their long-standing arms deals despite a history of human rights violations.
In requesting you to cancel the event, we ask you to follow the lead of the New York Times, which has pulled its sponsorship of the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh. The event was to be hosted by the Saudi Crown Prince. Furthermore, 22 US Senators have expressed their serious concern by forcing a US investigation to assess whether human rights sanctions should be imposed following the disappearance of Mr Khashoggi. Given the continued gravity of the situation and the still unknown location and status of Mr Khashoggi, the Museum risks its reputation by proceeding with its original decision to host the embassy of Saudi Arabia.
We implore you to show that the Museum cares about the disappearance and possible murder of a prominent journalist. To do so, we strongly urge you to cancel the event and withdraw your support until Mr Khashoggi’s fate is solved and the perpetrators of his forced disappearance and arbitrary detention are brought to justice.
The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)