One month ahead of President Joe Biden's trip to Saudi Arabia, the District of Columbia is renaming the street in front of the Saudi embassy Jamal Khashoggi Way, trolling Riyadh for its role in the killing of the dissident Saudi activist and journalist in 2018.
With members of the D.C. Council in attendance, a Jamal Khashoggi Way sign was unveiled directly in front of the embassy's main entrance.
"Whenever you have to give directions for people to come to your embassy, you have to honor his name," says Nihad Awad, Executive Director of the Council on American–Islamic Relations. "His name will continue to haunt you."
Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist, entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, seeking the necessary documentation for a planned marriage with his fiancee waiting outside for him. The 59-year old never emerged.
The Saudi government initially denied any wrongdoing. But under mounting international pressure, Riyadh eventually admitted that Khashoggi had been killed inside the consulate in what the Saudis characterized as a repatriation effort gone wrong. The CIA later released a report concluding that Khashoggi was killed and dismembered on the orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
The Saudi regime has consistently denied that connection. Several lower-level Saudi officials and agents received jail sentences over the killing.
The D.C. Council unanimously voted late last year to rename a one-block stretch for Khashoggi. The renaming is ceremonial, as signified by the brown street sign instead of the usual green, and it won't impact the embassy's mailing address. But the sign will remain indefinitely. An email to the Saudi Embassy seeking comment did not receive a response.
Karine Jean Pierre, the White House press secretary, would not say whether Biden would raise the issue of Khashoggi's murder when he meets with Bin Salman next month.
The D.C. government has a history of such public moves to troll or shame foreign governments. In February 2018, the street in front of the Russian embassy was Boris Nemtsov Plaza, after a Russian activist shot dead while walking on a bridge near the Kremlin in 2015.