The assassins of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi may have hoped that his 2018 assassination would quickly fade from memory, but that was not the case. In fact, his journalistic legacy receives renewed attention in the Showtime documentary. Kingdom of silence.
“The span of his life was just epic,” director Rick Rowley said during the film’s panel at the Deadline Contenders documentary award season event. “He was more than just a journalistic witness. He lived his life in the center of a whirlwind and participated in events that shaped history.
Khashoggi cut his teeth while reporting on Osama Bin Laden. He later became a quasi-government spokesperson, defending Saudi Arabia abroad. But the role of the kingdom that crushed the Arab Spring and the efforts of de facto leader Mohammed bin Salman to crush dissent have disillusioned him.
“He let those moments hurt him,” Rowley says, “and he was changed by them.
He changed so much that he went into exile in the United States, writing plays for the Washington post who criticized Saudi Arabia’s leadership and pushed for free speech. Bin Salman allegedly ordered Khashoggi’s murder, but the precise motives for the murder remain a matter of speculation.
“The potential for [Jamal] uniting the Arab diaspora, the exiles, around the cause of freedom, I think, represented the greatest threat to the Gulf monarchies and the authoritarian regimes in the region, ”says his friend, human rights activist Mohamed Soltan, that appears in the movie. “I think that’s one of the main reasons he was killed.
Soltan and Rowley both insist that the United States bears some responsibility for Khashoggi’s death, as “the guarantor of Saudi Arabia’s security”.
“There is no successful or surviving Saudi government without incredible American support,” Soltan noted. “We created this monster.”