An effort underway in Washington, D.C., would create an in-your-face way to remind Saudi Arabia of the killing of Jamal Khashoggi: Rename the street in front of the Saudi embassy in honor of the slain journalist.
The first hurdle for this proposed honor was cleared Wednesday when a neighborhood group approved a resolution that would symbolically designate part of the street that runs in front of the Embassy of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as “Jamal Khashoggi Way.” The embassy’s address is 601 New Hampshire Avenue NW.
The resolution from the seven-member Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A passed unanimously, commissioner James Harnett told CNN. The commission, which is part of the government in the District of Columbia, normally handles local issues like zoning, parking and trash collection in the West End and Foggy Bottom neighborhoods. But Harnett said commissioners were outraged by Khashoggi’s killing, as well as President Trump’s reaction to it, and felt the need to take action on an international issue.
“I think our concern … and the need to say we want to weigh in on this issue, which has international implications, is that we are extremely disappointed over the lack of concern” in the White House’s response to the incident, Harnett said. “It’s our belief … that when there’s a vacuum of leadership that someone steps up and makes sure that the community knows that this is something that we take seriously.”
Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor and critic of the kingdom, was killed on October 2 after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, to obtain paperwork for his upcoming marriage. The CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered the killing of the journalist. Turkish officials maintain that Khashoggi was strangled to death shortly after he entered the consulate by a 15-member “kill team” sent from Riyadh and that his body was dismembered.
Street name could serve as reminder
Trump indicated last week he will not take strong action against Saudi Arabia or bin Salman for the slaying.
Harnett hopes naming the street in Khashoggi’s honor might be a constant reminder to the Saudis that the US won’t forget what happened to him while also reaffirming America’s commitment to freedom of the press.
“This action will force the Saudis to remember, every day. This assault on the press is unforgivable and is deeply harmful to fabric of the truth,” he said. “Leaders at all levels of government need to stand up in whatever ways they can to support people, make their lives better, and push for what’s right. Up against the leaders who have abandoned their duty, this proposal is our way of pushing back.”
The idea started last month
The effort to change the street’s name dates back to last month, when an online petition was started to rename the street for Khashoggi.
The petition, which has more than 8,000 signatures, is signed by Michael Werz, a senior national security fellow at the Center for American Progress, and Gary Schmitt, a resident scholar in strategic studies at the American Enterprise Institute. The petition advocates renaming the street as a way “to be a daily reminder to Saudi officials that such behavior is totally unacceptable and as an expression of Washington’s unstinting support for freedom of the press.”
The approved resolution now goes to the DC city council. Harnett estimated it could take six to nine months for the council to vote on the resolution and for the mayor to sign it into law.
As with all laws in the District of Columbia, it also will be subject to approval by Congress, Harnett said.
CNN has reached out to the Saudi embassy for reaction and is waiting to hear back.
The same action was taken at the Russian embassy
This isn’t the first time that part of a DC street has been renamed in front of an embassy to honor a dissident. In January of this year, Washington’s city council passed a measure renaming the street in front of the Russian Embassy after Boris Nemtsov, a pro-democracy activist and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The bill symbolically renamed the stretch of Wisconsin Avenue in front of the embassy to 1 Boris Nemtsov Plaza, adding that name to the street sign.
Nemtsov was shot and killed on a bridge near the Kremlin in February 2015 while walking home with his girlfriend.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said Werz and Schmitt knew Khashoggi personally. The two did not know him personally. The story has been updated to remove that reference.
CNN’s Maegan Vazquez contributed to this report.