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Neighborhood leaders ask D.C. officials to name Saudi embassy street after Khashoggi

Local elected officials in Northwest approve a resolution about the slain journalist

The Saudi embassy at 601 New Hampshire Ave. NW, as seen from 25th Street NW
Andriy Blokhin/Shutterstock

A group of local elected officials who represent Foggy Bottom and West End voted in favor of a symbolic resolution on Wednesday recommending that D.C. lawmakers act to ceremonially name part of one of the streets outside the Saudi Arabian embassy at 601 New Hampshire Ave. NW after slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and a noted critic of the Saudi state who was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2A considered the resolution during its Nov. 28 meeting at the West End Library. As approved, the resolution requests that the east side of New Hampshire Avenue NW between F Street NW and Juarez Circle—directly across from the Kennedy Center and the Watergate complex—be designated as “Jamal Khashoggi Way.” The D.C. Council and the mayor would have to make such a change official by passing a law, as ANCs lack legislative power, though their views are supposed to be given “great weight.”

The proposal describes relabeling the stretch of street “as a tribute to a fallen neighbor and an expression of support by the residents of the District...for the indispensable value of a free and independent press.” Khashoggi lived in Virginia, and the Saudi embassy lies inside the boundaries of ANC 2A. James Harnett, a commissioner and a current George Washington University student who helped draft the resolution, said the effort was in part inspired by a petition to create a “Jamal Khashoggi Way” that has received more than 7,600 signatures. The Committee to Project Journalists commented in support of the proposal.

The resolution also says the Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that Khashoggi’s death “was the result of pre-planned, deliberate action, authorized and directed by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman,” a Saudi leader who had previously drawn worldwide attention for social reforms. Despite this assessment, President Donald Trump has sought to defend the U.S.’s relationship with the Saudi government and said that the crown prince might or might not have known about Khashoggi’s killing. Responding to a recent statement by the president, Post CEO Fred Ryan called on Congress to take action.

The Saudi government’s explanation for Khashoggi’s disappearance has shifted since he entered the country’s consulate in Istanbul and was not seen again. The public prosecutor who is handling the case in Saudi Arabia has charged 11 people in the journalist’s murder. The prosecutor has reportedly said it was premeditated and resulted from a lethal injection.

The District has ceremonially named other streets after celebrated institutions and figures, including political dissidents like Boris Nemtsov. In February, the part of Wisconsin Avenue NW in front of the Russian embassy was designated as “Boris Nemtsov Plaza” by lawmakers. It is not immediately clear whether they would support the “Jamal Khashoggi Way” request.

Update, Nov. 30: The ANC’s proposal may not gain traction anytime soon. On Friday, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans—whose ward includes the Saudi embassy and who supports the effort—said in an interview on WAMU’s “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” that, as of now, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson does not intend to move a formal Khashoggi bill.

Calling Mendelson a “stickler,” Evans said that in a recent conversation the two had, the chairman made note of the fact that in almost all cases, current District law bars public spaces from being named after any person who has been dead for less than two years. A spokeswoman for Mendelon’s office also told DCist that he “adheres to that law strictly.”