The killers of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi may have hoped that his 2018 assassination would quickly fade from memory, but they did not. In fact, his journalistic legacy is re-recognized in the Showtime documentary Kingdom of Silence.
“The size of his life was just epic,” says director Rick Rowley during the film panel at the resourcingstrategies Contenders Documentary Awards season. “He was more than just a journalistic witness. He lived his life at the center of a cyclone and took part in events that made history. “
Khashoggi cut his teeth and reported on Osama bin Laden. He later became a pro-government spokesman and defended Saudi Arabia abroad. But the role of the kingdom in crushing the Arab Spring and the efforts of the ruler Mohammed bin Salman to quell dissent disappointed him.
“He let those moments hurt him,” says Rowley, “and he was changed by them.”
He changed so much that he went into exile in the United States and wrote pieces for the Washington Post that criticized the Saudi leadership and urged freedom of expression. Bin Salman allegedly ordered Khashoggi’s murder, but the exact motives for the killing continue to be the subject of speculation.
“The potential for [Jamal] The Arab diaspora, the people in exile to unite the cause of freedom, was, in my opinion, the greatest threat to the Gulf monarchies and authoritarian regimes in the region, ”says his friend, human rights activist Mohamed Soltan, who appears in the film. “I think that’s one of the main reasons he was killed.”
Both Soltan and Rowley insist that the US, as “Saudi Arabia’s security guarantor”, has some responsibility for Khashoggi’s death.
“There is no Saudi government that can thrive or survive without incredible US support,” noted Soltan. “We created this monster.”