US Exclusive: Alleged wife of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks out


(NewsNation Now) — In separate court filings, two women both claim to be the wives of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

One is Hatice Cengiz, who is widely known as his fiancée. She was waiting for Khashoggi outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul as he was being murdered by a team of assassins tied to crown prince Mohamad bin Salman in 2018.

Cengiz alleges that she is his widow, that they were married in a religious ceremony in September of that year and that he was lured to the embassy in order to obtain documents to civilly confirm their marriage.

She is now suing Mohamad bin Salman personally, along with a number of other Saudi nationals.

Hanan El-Atr also said she married Khashoggi in a religious ceremony in June 2018. She’s now suing the imam who performed that ceremony, calling for him to sign papers to certify their marriage.

It should be noted that although bigamy is not legal under state law in the United States, it is permitted within the Muslim faith, and therefore consdiered legitimate to Atr.

Atr said she didn’t come forward earlier because she feared for her own safety and that of her family. She said she has already been arrested twice in Dubai because of her relationship with Khashoggi.

But now she is seeking asylum in the U.S., saying she is speaking out because she wants to deliver his message and have a right to give him a proper burial.

In an American exclusive, NewsNation anchor Rudabeh Shahbazi sat down for a wide-ranging interview with Atr. Their conversation is below.

Can you tell me your response to the recently declassified report saying that the crown prince signed off on the assassination of Mr. Khashoggi?

I’m very devastated and I have very mixed feelings because I’m a wife of Jamal and I can confirm with everybody Jamal was more close with the kingdom, more than anyone else could imagine.  

He was in America by his body, but his soul was in Saudi Arabia, which makes me think: how come they take this horrible decision to just make a trap for him and assassinate him?

What do you make of the fact that he was not personally sanctioned by the Biden administration? When he was campaigning, the president promised to sanction Mohammed bin Salman if it became apparent that he was involved in this assassination, yet he hasn’t sanctioned him personally.

I really don’t understand the American policy and how the political rules go in America, but I am happy about president Biden. He kept his promise. 

What about the fact that former president Trump did not release this report?

This is a question mark as well for me. As I mentioned, I don’t know who is American political rules going and how is it toward Middle East.

A lot of people were surprised to hear from you because a lot of people thought that he was committed to this fiancé who was waiting outside the embassy for him. Can you tell me why you want to share your story now, and what you know about that other woman?

I don’t know anything about this woman, I hear about her from TV like anyone else in the world.  I don’t know anything about her, I don’t know what’s behind her. Why I came out now, because I didn’t have the freedom to speak and say the truth about my husband for two years.

Now, I’m free to talk. Now, I have a duty toward my husband to keep his legacy and to say his real message; it’s not been delivered yet. That is the reason I come out now. I will do it always to defend him and to keep his legacy and to tell the world how much he suffered.

Ms. Cengiz, the woman who says she was his fiancé, she was outside that embassy waiting for him. Do you have any interest in talking to her and working together to help get justice for your husband?

No, I don’t, because I really don’t know, after all of this polarization and political use, I’m not sure about this woman’s situation, and because I’m standing alone, I refuse to stuck in any agenda.

There was never an official recognition of your marriage, and you’ve now sued the imam who performed the ceremony. Can you talk about that and why it was never officially recognized?

I’ve been arrested after I got engaged, and I have a big family, and I’m worried about my brother, sister and my family to get affected with my choice, which I believe is a right choice in my life.  

That pushed me and Jamal not to publish our marriage in social media or put it in a newspaper. We don’t want to trigger more problems, because I was full of fear, full of scared. When they took me, I never experienced this in my life, detained me for 17 hours investigation.

This all changed our decision, from the ceremony to have a reception and to announce it and to let everybody know who I am.

My main issue, me and Jamal, just to get married under eye of God according to our Islamic region.

I did not allow my husband, Jamal Khashoggi, to go to Saudi embassy in Washington and to take permission to get married to me because I’m not Saudi citizen, I don’t have a Saudi passport, I stopped him. 

You understand why some people seeing this might say, if their marriage is recognized, then she’ll be entitled to any claim against the Saudi government, and so maybe there’s money involved. What do you say to that?

I never ask for this, and I’m not the one done a case asking for money, and anyone can trace this and see my performance and my attitude.

I know that you loved your husband very much, I can tell. If it turns out that he was about to marry someone else, is that OK with you? If it turns out that that is the truth, would you accept that?

Yes, because he done it before. He had two wives before. I’m a fourth wife, but he had two wives before, together.

My understanding is that he was going to transition from journalism into starting a political organization, a pro-democracy political organization, and that that might have been why he was targeted. 

He was never going to leave his journalism, but he left with no choice, and since they did not give him the freedom to be advisor to his country and to fight for freedom, justice, democratic equal rights for human, and to be one of them as well. 

He doesn’t want to be enemy for his country but at same time, he doesn’t want to keep quiet.  He was thinking about some form to implement democratic. You can call it organization, you can call it party, you can call it a group, but he was thinking about to create something to support democratic.

Why do you feel that they went to this extent to carry out this murder?

I really cannot explain this crazy and sick. If they know the truth, they will regret. No one knows how much Jamal was close to go back.  When the crown prince visit us in 2018, Jamal was expecting a call from the people around him or from the crown prince to meet him and to listen to him, and to give him the opportunity to advise regarding his country, for the future of his country.  I don’t know how this decision was taken. 

Can you tell me what he told you about the crown prince? I know he was close to his father

Frankly, he love all of them.

He loved the crown prince?

He was faithful. Yes. He was very optimistic because he believe crown prince, he is youngish, healthy, because most of them reach the role old, and have a medical issue. He believed the crown prince is still young, and he has a vision, and he starting fight corruption, but Jamal have a lot of point to say to the crown prince, which no one give him the chance and not been heard.

Well, he was very critical of Mohammed bin Salman in his columns in The Washington Post. Don’t you think that’s the reason he was targeted?

I assume the high authority are the one who take decision to have my husband, did have wrong information about my husband, did not have the truth about my husband. 

You said that you wanted to do this interview today to bring the truth about him and to deliver his message. What is his message?

I know for sure I’m not going to see my husband anymore, and I’m glad the whole world together for Jamal, and he deserve and he must be happy now, because he used to feel down and he think no one care about him, no one value his movement.  

I tell him, Jamal, the whole world changed after you been killed. The reason he run away from Saudi Arabia, was because he want to talk about the freedom everybody.

I need everybody help, and I’m asking King Salman bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, please, the price of blood of my husband, release all of the political prisoner in Saudi Arabia, all of them, no exception.

I want all of these prisoners to be released. I’m not asking about revenge.  I want to save the people still alive. We need together all of us to put the pressure to save people’s lives.  

Jamal is not here, but we all can continue with his message, with his mission, and this is my duty now. I will go on with this.

NewsNation reached out to the imam who performed their marriage, but have not heard back. We also have not heard back from Hatice Cengiz’s attorney.

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