The Saudi consulate in Istanbul is the new little Mecca of Istanbul’s economy.
Bosphorus: The Strait of Istanbul is on fire, literally. Perhaps there has not been a single day when journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal killing inside the Saudi consulate has not made headlines worldwide in the last three weeks. The slow trickle of evidence through anonymous sources must be working like Chinese torture to crown prince Mohd bin Salman who till recently was enthusiastically courted by the western media as a reformer who wanted to change the very DNA of his country.
But what he is left with today is a badly tarnished record which would be very difficult to whitewash. From the abduction of the Lebanese Prime Minister to a disastrous and inhumane war in Yemen to arm-twisting of the Qataris government, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia stands exposed today. A monarch who was masquerading as a modernist and a reformer.
The intelligence agencies and leaders of the free world knew it but today even average joe is well aware of his motto. Even the taxi driver in Istanbul does. One of them told me,” I think the crown prince is in big trouble.” I said,” Why.” He said,” Everyone knows.” I do not know what he knew but all taxi drivers in Istanbul, I’m sure, today know the address of the Saudi Consulate and shortest way to it.
The Saudi consulate in Istanbul is the new little Mecca of Istanbul’s economy. Maybe the Saudis will vacate it one day because as it has the potential to become a site of conservation and showcase the barbaric act lest people forget. A small building closed from both sides protected by the police is what it stands for today. You see the gate and try guessing what his fiancée might have felt 4 hours waiting there for him to turn up. Right now, it looks more like a campsite where international and national media works in a cramped space.
The news does not come from the consulate. It is the backdrop for the TV coverage. A camp where West Asia is the topic of discussion and MBS is the Lord Voldemort. The excitement also depends on the weather. Winter months are kissing Istanbul. Even a light shower and hide and seek by the sun can send shivers down your spine. For once I wished that sun was more uncivilized but that was not to be.
This is not my first visit to Istanbul. I visited this beautiful city with my wife a few months back. Today, I’m here to cover the biggest global story. It is Khashoggi’s murder. You would have guessed it by now. But I feel guilty. The hotel is the same because of its location and centrality. The reason for guilt is that I got a bigger room to stay put with my cameraman than the one I had with my wife. That was the first thing I told her. But, boy, the room has a view of the beautiful Bosphorus. A water lane which connects the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea. It divides and connects Asia and Europe at the same time. I’m staying put on the European side and without bias. But what I have been doing for the past 24 hours is to discuss West Asian politics. This is Istanbul.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)