The street in front of Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Washington has been renamed for Jamal Khashoggi as activists vowed never to forget the slain journalist despite President Joe Biden’s planned visit to the kingdom.
The capital’s local government changed signs on one block in front of the imposing embassy on Wednesday to read “Jamal Khashoggi Way” in honour of the Saudi dissident who was strangled to death and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
The street will serve as “a constant reminder, a memorial to Jamal Khashoggi’s memory that cannot be covered up”, said Phil Mendelson, president of the District of Columbia Council that voted unanimously to rename the stretch of New Hampshire Avenue which also lies along the storied Watergate building.
The previously scheduled dedication came one day after the White House announced that Biden will travel next month to Saudi Arabia and meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who according to US intelligence authorized the killing.
Biden had previously pledged to give pariah status to Saudi Arabia over rights concerns including the murder of Khashoggi, who had written critically about the powerful prince in The Washington Post.
Tawakkol Karman, a Yemeni activist and writer who won the Nobel Peace Prize, said at the ceremony that the upcoming visit “means that Biden has abandoned his commitment to support human rights around the world”.
Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, a rights group founded by Khashoggi, denounced Biden’s “shameless capitulation”. Standing in front the embassy, she said, “We intend to remind the people who are hiding behind those doors, we intend to remind them every day, every hour, every minute, that this is Jamal Khashoggi Way.
“We will hold them accountable for the murder of our friend, of a brave Saudi man, Jamal Khashoggi, who dared to challenge the tyranny of Mohammed bin Salman.”
The Biden administration says it is taking a tougher approach than former president Donald Trump, who was chummy with the crown prince, but still sees vital interests with the Saudis — a major oil producer at a time of soaring energy prices.
Jamal Khashoggi Way is the latest street renamed in Washington as a signal.
Russia’s embassy lies on Boris Nemtsov Plaza, named for the reformist politician killed near the Kremlin in 2015.
An effort to name the plaza outside of China’s embassy for Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Prize-winning writer and democracy activist who died in prison, floundered after intense opposition from Beijing.
Other governments have sometimes acted similarly with the United States, whose consulate in Kolkata is on a street named for Vietnamese revolutionary Ho Chi Minh.