A ceremony to unveil the “Jamal Khashoggi Way” was held at 1:14 p.m. ET Wednesday, symbolizing the time the journalist was last seen before his death on Oct. 2, 2018. Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), an organization founded by Khashoggi, and other human rights groups pulled a cover off the sign and revealed it to a gathered crowd. The DC Council voted to rename the street in December 2021.
Abdullah Alaoudh, Gulf Director at DAWN, told the crowd that the street sign’s location is to “remind passers-by, Saudi royalty, Americans and all people of conscience that Jamal’s legacy will live on.”
“Our message today is that we will not continue,” Alaoudh said. “Jamal’s legacy will live on regardless of normalization efforts.”
The Biden administration released an intelligence report in 2021 directly accusing the crown prince of authorizing the operation to capture or kill the Saudi journalist. CNN reported last week that senior US officials had told Saudi Arabia that the US was ready to proceed with a “reset” of ties and effectively walk away from Khashoggi’s assassination to repair ties, according to senior US officials. Officials said Biden, who is under pressure to crack down on Russia and slash gas prices amid rising inflation, has put aside his moral outrage to seek warmer ties with the kingdom. They also said Biden plans to raise Khashoggi’s murder directly with the crown prince when they meet as soon as next month
Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancee, previously accused the president of losing his moral compass in a statement to CNN. She was absent from Wednesday’s ceremony but reiterated her criticism of Biden in a statement read on her behalf. She said the president would “dishonor” himself and Khashoggi by meeting the crown prince and urged Biden to “uphold your vow to bring all perpetrators of this brutal crime to justice.”
“But as disappointing as that is, when you have to prioritize oil over principles and expediency over values, at least you can ask, ‘Where’s Jamal’s body?’ Doesn’t he deserve a decent burial? And what happened to his killers?” she said in the statement.
DAWN Executive Director Sarah Leah Whitson criticized the Biden administration for “its shameless capitulation, for its cowardly concessions”.
“We will hold the Biden administration accountable for its treacherous betrayal of the promises it made to the American people, the promises the American people wanted to hear, to end support for the brutal dictatorship of Saudi Arabia.” said Whitson.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and a non-voting member of the US House of Representatives from the District of Columbia, welcomed the DC Council’s decision to rename the street on Wednesday. She made no mention of Biden’s anticipated journey, instead praising Khashoggi’s “brave and groundbreaking” work.
National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby on Wednesday told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins after the revelation that Biden’s trip to the Middle East in July was about a number of issues with a “big agenda,” and defended the President who saw the Crown Prince.
“It’s counter-terrorism, it’s climate change, certainly it’s oil production, it’s obviously going to be on the agenda. And a big item on the agenda is the war in Yemen,” Kirby said during a White House news briefing.
Pressured by Collins as to why the president would meet the crown prince when he wouldn’t even call him about his role in approving Khashoggi’s assassination, Kirby noted that as Defense Secretary of Saudi Arabia, the prince is part of the king’s larger leadership team.
“So in addition to the GCC meeting, there will be a series of bilateral talks, like those that happen on the fringes of all cooperation councils and summits. He will have a bilateral meeting with King Salman and King Salman’s leadership team and the Crown Prince is on that leadership team. So you can expect him to see the crown prince while he’s there,” Kirby said.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Kevin Liptak, Natasha Bertrand, and Alex Marquardt contributed to this report.