On the sidelines of the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi.. This is how i got a passport for my wife who’s sentenced to death from the Egyptian Embassy in Istanbul
I am an Egyptian producer and journalist , I arrived in Istanbul in 2013, four months after the military coup in Egypt
I was a producer of political programs in a channel that supports this coup. There was no direct danger for me and I was in excellent position in Egypt. I was not a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood at the time of their rule, but I never wanted to be a media arm of a regime that came on the back of a tank.
In Istanbul, more Egyptians and Arab dissidents came and started to establish TV channels of opposition, exploiting of the “tolerance by the Turkish authorities” of what we do. but we knew for certain that we are working in these channels informally and without official protection, We broadcast through the Internet to outside of the borders of Turkey and then to satellites, , so it was OK
But the problems started quickly. After arriving in Turkey only one month, I lost my passport in the hustle of Istanbul!
An Egyptian opposition journalist working for an unlicensed opposition channel in Istanbul without a passport. so i was sentenced to life imprisonment in Istanbul, and the solution? You must go to the Egyptian Consulate in Istanbul to obtain a new passport
The first thing that will be told to you by the Arabs and the Egyptians living there is “It’s dangerous. Do not go.” This is obvious in Turkey
I was not sentenced to any political penalty by the Egyptian regime yet so I decided to go, to be honest the consular work was respectful and just the normal routine, fill out the form, write your data, and then wait, wait for what? The security clearance from Egypt to get your passport, well I will wait, i waited .. Two years and one month, during this period I met and got married to my wife Asmaa al-Khatib, the reporter of Rassd network, we made contraction of marriage at the Egyptian consulate in Istanbul by the consul himself. it was a few months after Asmaa was She was sentenced to death by hanging in absentia in case Al Sisi Leaks, it was a pure journalism work , but she Egyptian authorities considered it an Intelligence work with Qatar
On my wedding day , I was an announcer in the channel that I co-founded in Istanbul against al Sisi . My best men were: Osama Gaweesh, the announcer who also broadcast Al sisi’s office Leaks on a the same channel one week before my marriage. and Hossam El Shorbagy, the presenter of the Sinai program on the channel of also, who was attacked by the Egyptian regime’s Media because of the human rights violations news conveyed by Hossam from Sinai at the beginning of the war in 2014
So it was the four of us in the middle of the Egyptian consulate in Istanbul , I got married and we celebrated inside the consulate and we went out with absolutely no problems , it was February 14, 2015
3 years later , exactly , on February 14, 2018 , i was working as a program manager for El Sharq TV channel “Egyptian opposition also , liberal orientation” and sat in my office in the editorial hall to be surprised of Professor Gamal Khashoggi himself, accompanied by the Chairman of the Board Dr. Ayman Nour on a visit to us
his visit was a tour to the channel, Professor Jamal and Dr. Ayman Nour have an old friendship and a common ideological orientation. I was very enthusiastic about the visit and explained to Jamal the mechanism of work in the editors’ room. He was happy about it , so i joked with him saying, “so you think there’s any hope?”
He replied quietly and seriously but yet smiling:”there is always hope”
During these years, I developed a personal relations with a number of Egyptian consulate staff in Istanbul, which I knew for certain “and they were not hiding”that they were somehow affiliated with the Egyptian General Intelligence.
During this period, I was trying to find a solution for the issuance of the Asmaa passport after it expired , And also to issue passports for my two sons who were born in Istanbul. In this journey I met many of those whom passports had also expired. From the young guys who were refused by the consulate because they did not perform compulsory military service in Egypt, The famous opposition TV Hosts that are deeply hated by the Egyptian regime and those were too afraid to come a mile close to the consulate
The summary of this journey that I find today logically after the death of Professor Jamal Khashoggi are concluded in a number of tips given to me by a consular officer on the day I received my passport in 2015:
- Arab consulates and embassies in Turkey are not only run by diplomats who provide security reports to the intelligence services, but are managed within the same intelligence services that are directly subordinate to the head offices
- Bribery is a good way to extract some papers, but for the passport it is almost impossible, the only solution to get it is to manipulate the name of the passport holder “as we Arabs have long names”, which I did to get the passport of Asmaa and my children
- The Arab communities in Istanbul, especially Egyptians and Saudi Arabians are seriously infiltrated by the intelligence services, it is not a secret to tell now that the Turkish security found among the applicants for the humanitarian residence “a residence card similar to asylum for those who lost their passports” they found names of some people from the Egyptian Embassy itself that they recognize as inelegance members ,The same thing happened to a Saudi dissident living in Turkey, after his arrival there he was told by the Turks that number of Saudi men applied for asylum right after he did . and warned him that the Saudis were watching him closely through out these people
- There is an important development took place in the beginning of 2017 at the Egyptian, Saudi and Emirate consulates in Istanbul. all in almost the same time, the staff was completely changed. I knew directly from a former employee of the Egyptian consulate that the military intelligence received the embassy file from the General Intelligence , al Sisi was in a tense relationship with the General Intelligence as he was the director of the military intelligence once , The director of his office, Abbas Kamel, became the director of the General Intelligence later in January 2018, they changed the entire embassy staff that when I received my children’s passports in 2018, I did not find one person I knew among 5 years , even the gate keeper.
- The same note was told by my Saudi friend who works in tourism that he no longer know any of the new arrivals at the embassy. The same remark was told by the son of a UAE dissenting who also provides facilities for UAE expatriates. This change happened within just a few days in three embassies that i know ,it was exactly in Jan 2017 While the world was talking about the new US president Trump and I do not know if there were any relation
- The procedures for entering the embassies also changed almost exactly the same , according to my experience compared to what was told to me by a Saudi friend who works in tourism in Turkey.
- The embassy (Egyptian or Saudi) confiscates your passport upon entry, an employee in a side office takes passport data and searches it on a computer immediately , The normal papers that used to immediately extracted “such as the confirmation of marriage or divorce, which Jamal Khashoggi was trying to get” now tool a week for the security investigation, “security investigation is said without ambiguity”
- The embassies have become a major source of information for the collection of names that are later transferred to INTERPOL . as they had a problem before , it was that the names of the dissidents are not known in full because of our long Arabic names, and it takes no more than weeks for you to find your name in the Interpol. in Istanbul I tried to get a visa to France 3 times and was rejected even though the visa from Istanbul was easy, but when I left Istanbul last May and applied for protection and asylum in South Korea, I found out that me, my wife and my children even are listed on the INTERPOL lists
- This was followed by the arrest of Egyptian actor and journalist Hisham Abdullah, who was also wanted by INTERPOL. Hisham was almost the only announcer who had the guts to go to the the Egyptian consulate in Istanbul to renew his passport. and he made the mistake of giving up his full name in his old passport!
- A Turkish journalist close to the Turkish security services was the one who advised me to go away from Turkey. A few weeks before the re-election of Turkish President Erdogan, he said to me in his advice that this is for the sake of my family. “Istanbul is a playground for many intelligence services, they all hate you as much as they hate Erdogan.” I am happy now that I have done his advice now
- Finally, after the news of the assassination of professor Jamal Khashoggi, I find that this intelligence game, despite its naiveté, has begun to take a violent and public way . We are not talking about the assassination attempt on a military figure, as happened with Colonel Riad al-Assad, founder of the Free Syrian Army who’s living in Istanbul now , We are talking about a journalist and a media figure who was killed by a deliberate action that was planned for a whole week inside the embassy of his own country without any deterrent or the slightest kind of protection.
- The assassination of Khashoggi opens the door for new qualifiers that may take place in Istanbul for the Egyptian, Saudi and Emirati journalists living there, in complete absence of the Turkish security services, which i believe that they know every single thing that happens in turkey , let go Istanbul that’s what i learned from direct interaction with them for 5 years , i wonder what steps they would take to protect the tens of journalists and tv show hosts who are explicitly threatened of murder in Turkey, such as the threats received by Moataz Matar and Mohammed Nasser , the threats were aired in public TV of Egypt!
- I am not the one who would believe in conspiracy theories but there is a coincidence in the events that raises questions like : who actually killed Khashoggi inside the embassy? How did this person arrive inside the embassy during the week before the operation? we are talking about torture and cutting of the body of the victim Jamal, how the instruments of torture entered Turkey? who gave MBS and Saudi Arabia the green light such a crime , Saudis aren’t this brave on their on , who wants to seeTurkey in such trouble as well as demands the Saudi money?
Finally,this is a call for help rather than a question, Jamal Khashoggi, as much more threatened Arab journalists, who renounced violence and had nothing more but pen or microphone or camera, was treacherously murdered and the door is open now to tyrannical regimes to kill more journalists. Who in the world could protect journalists?