The Current

Saudi Arabia's 'new face' of reform has been destroyed, says friend of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi

A Saudi activist who was friends with Jamal Khashoggi says that the journalist's disappearance has dealt a blow to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's efforts to brand himself a reformer.

Omar Abdulaziz was in contact with Jamal Khashoggi before his disappearance

Omar Abdulaziz, a Saudi student and activist living in Canada, said his family have been threatened and imprisoned because of his criticism of the kingdom. (Submitted by Omar Abdulaziz)

A Saudi activist living in Quebec says the disappearance of his friend, journalist Jamal Khashoggi, has dealt a blow to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's efforts to brand himself as a reformist.

"It's been destroyed; it's been damaged," said Omar Abdulaziz, a dissident who claimed asylum in Canada in 2014.

"They were trying to promote their vision. They were trying to promote their new face," he told The Current's guest host Connie Walker. "But you know, makeup will not last for more than 24 hours."

Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, and has not been seen in public since. (Mohammed Al-Shaikh/AFP/Getty Images)

The Current requested a comment from the Saudi Embassy in Canada, but did not receive a reply.

With 291,000 followers on Twitter, Abdulaziz has been an outspoken critic of the Saudi government. He has previously spoken to The Current about alleged threats made against his family, who live in Saudi Arabia, where his two brothers and several friends have been arrested.

He had been working with Khashoggi on several projects aimed at promoting democracy in Saudi Arabia. The two last spoke on Sept. 28, just a few days before he disappeared.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and frequent critic of the royal family, had been living in exile as a U.S. permanent resident when he walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, to get paperwork for his upcoming marriage. He has not been seen in public since.

A demonstration in front of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 9. (Erdem Sahin/EPA-EFE)

Turkish investigators entered the residence of the Saudi consul general Wednesday, amid reports that Khashoggi had been tortured and murdered. The Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak cited what it described as an audio recording of Khashoggi's slaying.

Abdulaziz spoke with Walker about the case, and his own experience as a Saudi activist. Listen to their full conversation above.

This segment was produced by The Current's Willow Smith.


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