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“Sorrow and Hope: Widowed by Tragedy, Khashoggi’s Widow Granted Refugee Status in the U.S.

On June 6th, the widow of Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist killed by Saudi officials, has been granted political asylum in the United States. She is the first family member of a journalist to receive such status. Mostafa al-Jassem, her lawyer, announced on June 6th that her asylum application was successful. He stated that his client will make a public statement regarding her asylum the following day. For many, this is a significant moment for the human rights of those living in oppressive regimes. But it also raises many questions about the future for those seeking shelter and protection for political reasons. Jamal Khashoggi was a Saudi journalist and editor-in-chief of Alwasat, a Riyadh-based daily newspaper. He was killed by Saudi officials in October 2018 in Istanbul, where he had gone to obtain paperwork needed to marry his Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz. The United Nations concluded that Saudi sanctioned Khashoggi’s killing, citing “credible evidence” linking the act to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Still, Saudi officials denied all allegations, claiming the killing was a botched rendition attempt gone wrong. Khashoggi’s killing is not the only instance of a journalist being targeted in the region. Earlier in 2021, Ahmet Sokurov of Turkey was found dead after being abducted. Moreover, in Iran, journalist and Human Rights Watch Shahriar Bahrami was arrested and is currently in high-security prison. The grant of asylum to Khashoggi’s widow is a departure from U.S. policy in the region. It may act as a symbol of courage to those seeking political refuge. Yet, those seeking safer terrain due to oppressive regimes still face many challenges in finding a safe harbor. For her part, Cengiz expressed her gratitude to the U.S. for honoring her asylum request. She added that “I am one of the lucky ones,” thanking the state for its decision. Khashoggi’s widow win of asylum in the United States signals the growing importance and vulnerability of journalists worldwide. It also brings attention to the troubling lack of legal protection for those living in countries with an oppressive regime. In this sense, the widow’s case is an example of the United States’ commitment to protect those seeking shelter for political reasons. Hopefully, it will continue to support and defend those in vulnerable positions, providing them with a safe haven in times of need.