Death in Istanbul

    CONTROL: In October 2018, Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and never came out, leaving his fiancée and an international community of dissidents to piece together clues to his murder.

    Jamal Khashoggi had reason to fear and loathe the Saudi Arabian authorities. The Washington Post journalist and dissident had once been close to the Middle Eastern Kingdom’s ruling family but had since turned fierce critic of his native country.

    But love is a very powerful force, and when he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 to obtain a divorce certificate that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz, he could have expected little more than a bureaucratic procedure, having already been to sign the required documents a few days prior.

    What happened shortly after he bid farewell to his anxious fiancée was medieval in its brutality: seized by members of a Saudi security force deliberately flown in to murder Khashoggi, Khashoggi was swiftly killed, his body butchered using a surgical bone saw brought in especially for the operation. It would be weeks before his putrefying remains, and decapitated head, would be found hidden in the garden of the Saudi consul’s residence, a few minutes’ walk from the consulate.

    Gaining trust

    Bryan Fogel’s forensic documentary, The Dissident, features never-before-seen surveillance footage, and what the producers say is «unprecedented access to other damning information previously unavailable to the public.»

    Fogel gained the trust of several figures in the investigation, including the fiancée, Cengiz, Agnès Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur who lead the enquiry into the assassination, and Omar Abdulaziz, a young Saudi activist with whom Khashoggi was secretly collaborating.

    There are also interviews with top Turkish and US government officials, as well as appearances by US House of Representatives Speaker, Nancy Pelosi and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos⁠—someone else who has fallen out with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

    The result is a chillingly accomplished telling of a story that negotiates a web of «money, power, tyranny, love, and technology run amok.»

    The Dissident-documentary-MTR1
    The Dissident, a film by Bryan Fogel

    International headlines

    The Dissident plays like a fast-paced thriller, opening with CCTV footage of Khashoggi entering the embassy before seamlessly shifting to an interview with Turkey’s lead prosecutor and extracts from transcripts of the chilling audio recordings obtained by the Turkish authorities within days.

    «Has the sacrificial victim arrived?» one man asks.


    «Thank God»

    Khashoggi is heard pleading for the men to stop: «You’re strangling me, I am going to die here. I have asthma…» before only wheezing and grunting is heard.

    In a story where we know what happened – the murder made headlines around the world, seriously threatening diplomatic relations not only between Turkey and Saudi Arabia but between the US and the Kingdom as well – everything plays on what we don’t know about Khashoggi and his relationship with the Saudi monarchy.

    a chillingly accomplished telling of a story that negotiates a web of «money, power, tyranny, love and technology run amok.»

    Once an insider

    Once an insider, close to the crown princes, Khashoggi was educated at an American university and spoke . . .

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    Nick Holdsworth
    Our regular critic. Journalist, writer, author. Works mostly from Central and Eastern Europe and Russia.
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