On October 19 Saudi government officials finally confirmed that Jamal Khashoggi is dead. Saudi officials claimed that the 59 year old Khashoggi had been killed in a fist fight with officials when he visited the Saudi embassy in Istanbul earlier this month. Turkish officials, on the other hand, say that Khashoggi, an outspoken opponent of the Saudi regime, was murdered and then dismembered by a group of Saudi nationals who flew to Istanbul for the sole purpose of killing him.
President Trump told reporters on October 18 that “it certainly looks like” Khashoggi has been killed; the president called the news “very sad.” Trump said it was still too early to decide what action the US would take.
Khashoggi, a Saudi national who wrote for the Washington Post, went to the Saudi consulate on October 2 to get paperwork that would allow him to marry Hatice Cengiz, his Turkish fiancee. He has not been seen since. Turkish authorities say they have audio recordings to prove that the journalist was assaulted and killed in the embassy. Khashoggi often wrote critically about the Saudi regime and about Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Here’s what you need to know about Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancee:
1. She Says That Khashoggi’s ‘Beautiful Laugh’ Will Remain With Her Forever
On Saturday, Cengiz posted a video of Khashoggi. He’s in a suit, looking serious and speaking earnestly in Arabic. Then a cat jumps onto his lap and he smiles warmly. Cengiz wrote, “They took your bodily presence from my world. But your beautiful laugh will remain in my soul forever. My darling #jkhashoggi.”
Cengiz held out hope for a long time that Khashoggi was still alive. But shehas been posting verses from the Koran on Twitter, including this one:
“The Almighty said: And who kills a believer intentionally, his punishment is Hell Immortal in it and God’s wrath on him and a curse and promise him great torment.” Surat Al-Nisa/39 The Great truth of God
Cengiz also wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times on October 13, in which she said that Khashoggi may already be a martyr. She wrote,
“The speculations about his fate have not been confirmed by the authorities, but the silence of Saudi Arabia fills me with dread. That haunting question doesn’t leave me for a single moment: Is it true? Have they assassinated Jamal? If the allegations are true, and Jamal has been murdered by the errand boys of Mohammed bin Salman, he is already a martyr. His loss is not just mine but that of every person with a conscience and moral compass.”
On October 2, Khashoggi went to the Saudi embassy in Istanbul so that he could get paperwork which would allow him to marry Cengiz. Cengiz accompanied him to the embassy and waited inside for him. But Khashoggi never came back out. Cengiz has written on social media about her suffering as she waits for news of her fiance; she describes feeling torn between hope and despair, writing, “As I live between life and death, between heaven and earth between heaven and Hell… Wake up from my sleep with hope and lose all my hopes after sunset… I die every day a thousand times..!”
Turkish authorities say they have audio recordings proving that a team of 15 Saudi men killed Khashoggi in a gruesome encounter inside the embassy. Turkish authorities say the men, who arrived in Istanbul on October 2, came to Turkey for the sole purpose of killing Khashoggi. Many of the men have close ties to the Saudi government. Khashoggi was a critic of the Saudi government and especially of the Crown Prince.
2. Hatice and Jamal Were on the Verge of Starting a New Life Together
In an essay for the Washington Post, Hatice Cengiz describes the new life that she and Jamal were planning on. Like any other couple about to get married, she and Jamal were thinking about both the big picture and the small details. On the day that Jamal disappeared, the couple had been planning to run errands in the afternoon — they were going to shop for new appliances for their home. Then they had planned on having dinner with Cengiz’s family.
But in the big picture, Cengiz says, she and Jamal were excited about the new life they were embarking on together. They were planning to divide their time between Istanbul, where Cengiz’s family lives, and Washington DC. Cengiz says that Jamal, a columnist for the Washington Post, was feeling energized. She writes that “the clouds were clearing” for Jamal, who had been depressed for many years since leaving Saudi Arabia.
3. Cengiz and Khashoggi First Met at a Conference in May
Cengiz, 36, is a PhD candidate at a university in Istanbul. She first met Khashoggi back in May, during a conference in Istanbul. The two fell in love and became engaged to get married. Cengiz told the Washington Post that even before meeting Khashoggi, she knew who he was and was familiar with his work. She said that she attended his speech at the conference and afterward she asked him a question. The two started talking and quickly developed a relationship. Their relationship developed quickly and it wasn’t long before they became engaged. A friend of Khashoggi’s said that Cengiz’s father was initially skeptical about their relationship because of their large age gap; Khashoggi is 59 years old. But Cengiz’s father eventually consented.
In order to get married, Khashoggi needed to prove that he had already legally divorced his first wife. That’s why he went to the Saudi embassy on October 2; he needed a copy of his divorce papers.
4. Saudi Media Claims Cengiz Has Close Ties to Qatar & Says Khashoggi’s Family Doesn’t Even Know Her
Al-Arabiya, a Saudi news outlet with close ties to the government, has questioned whether Cengiz really was engaged to Khashoggi. The broadcaster ran a piece on its website claiming that Cengiz is one of the “three figures behind the Khashoggi mystery.” The other two “figures” named in the story are Turan Kışlakçı, a Turkish journalist, and Jamal Elshayyal, a journalist with the Qatari-funded Al Jazeera. Al-Arabiya claims that these three figures have been spreading lies and “fake news” about what happened to Khashoggi, as part of a larger plot to “spark panic and place blame on Saudi authorities.”
Al-Arabiya says that Cengiz is a critic of Saudi Arabia who supports Saudi Arabia’s nemesis, Qatar. The article says, “Cengiz’s Twitter feed reveals that she follows and endorses people who are critics of Saudi Arabia, organizations known to enjoy Qatari funding, Muslim Brotherhood members and Turkey’s ruling party. She has even openly tweeted that she opposes Saudi policies.”
Al-Arabiya also charges that — although Cengiz “claimed” to be engaged to Khashoggi — Khashoggi’s family did not know her.
5. Cengiz Begged Donald and Melania Trump to Help Find Her Fiance
Cengiz begged the US government to take action in helping to find her fiance. In her Washington Post op-ed, Cengiz wrote, “At this time, I implore President Trump and first lady Melania Trump to help shed light on Jamal’s disappearance. I also urge Saudi Arabia, especially King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to show the same level of sensitivity and release CCTV footage from the consulate.”
On October 18, Trump told reporters that it seemed that Khashoggi was dead; the president called the case “very sad.” It was not clear what action the US government might take in the case. Khashoggi, a Saudi national, worked for the Washington Post and had applied for US citizenship. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had called for a thorough investigation of his disappearance.