Tawakkol Karman: The West Has Allowed Saudi Arabia To Get Away With Murder For Too Long | Opinion

On October 2 2018, my friend, writer and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi walked into Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul. He was never seen again.

In the few weeks that have followed, Saudi Arabia's official story has changed dramatically, from complete denial of any involvement in Khashoggi's death, to the admission by Attorney General Saud al-Mojeb that Khashoggi's murder inside their consulate building in Istanbul was 'premeditated'.

There is no doubt whether or not Saudi Arabia officials conspired to brutally kill Jamal Khashoggi. His cold murder, in a consulate, on foreign soil, plainly exposes Saudi Arabia's audacity in abusing their power, far beyond their own borders.

But there is nothing new about Saudi Arabia's blatant disregard for human rights and basic international norms.

Since May this year, more than a dozen women's rights activists—including prominent activists, Samar Badawi, Lujain al-Hathlool and Hatoon Al-Fassi—have been detained by Saudi authorities. Most of these women were arbitrarily arrested for their campaign for the right to drive—which was granted in June—and continue to be held incommunicado. One of them, Israa Al-Ghomgham, was due to appear before the country's secretive anti-terrorism court on October 28 and currently faces a possible death penalty for nonviolent protest. Numerous other journalists, bloggers and digital activists, intellectuals, economists and moderate clerics face a similar fate.

If anything, Khashoggi's murder is only the tip of an enormous iceberg and a stark reminder that the world has turned a blind eye on Saudi Arabia's crimes at the expense of millions of innocent lives.

The people of Yemen know this all too well. Thirteen million people face starvation in Yemen today in what could become the "the worst famine in the world in 100 years" according to the United Nations. Millions of Yemenis live trapped in a war led by the Saudi coalition and 22 million people—including 11.3 children—are estimated to be in urgent humanitarian need. A United Nations Experts report issued on August 28, 2018 points to possible war crimes by Saudi and UAE in Yemen. The coalition airstrikes have caused the most direct civilian casualties, hitting people's homes, markets, weddings, civilian boats and even medical facilities.

Read more: Jamal Khashoggi's secret interview on the 'reformist' Crown Prince

The weapons used to bomb Yemeni families are directly supplied by the U.S., U.K., France, Canada and other international allies, who provide logistical support to the Saudi coalition. On August 9, 2018, 40 boys—aged six to 11—were killed by a bomb sold to Riyadh by the United States, and Saudi Arabia remains the single biggest customer for the arms industries, in the U.S and the U.K.

The international community's outrage over Khashoggi's murder is commendable, however it is also deeply inconsistent with its arms sales policy, which directly enable Saudi Arabia's carnage across the region.

Germany is the only western country to have put a temporary hold on its arms sales to Riyadh, in the aftermath of Khashoggi's murder. And although several countries have spoken of the possibility to halt these sales, little action has been taken so far.

A picture taken on October 22, 2018 shows a portrait of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) in the capital Riyadh one day ahead of the the Future Investment Initiative FII conference that will take place in Riyadh from 23-25 October. FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

Over the past week, the U.S., Canada and the U.K. have called for an end to the war in Yemen. But peace will not come to Yemen unless these countries lead the way by ceasing to provide the weapons which fuel this conflict.

As Riyadh's major arms suppliers, the U.S., U.K., France, Canada, and other leading western nations are in a unique position to block further assaults on millions of innocent civilians in Yemen and call for the release of its unjustly imprisoned activists in Saudi Arabia, including women's rights activists.

Failure to act now means failing the Yemeni people who live daily under the threat of Saudi Arabia's persecution. It would also be a clear signal to Saudi Arabia's leadership and—as well as numerous other repressive regimes—that it can continue to brutally silence dissenting voices, with no consequence.

Outrage over Khashoggi's murder must be matched by swift and decisive action: an independent and credible investigation into Khashoggi's murder and accountability for its perpetrators, as well as the cessation of all arm sales to Saudi Arabia.

The best way to pay tribute to Jamal Khashoggi's commitment to freedom and justice is to ensure the violence he suffered is not perpetrated again.

Action is the only way he would want us to honour him.

Tawakkol Karman was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for her work in non-violent struggle for the safety of women in Yemen, women's rights and their full participation in peacebuilding. She is a board member of the Nobel Women's Initiative where she pursues her global work for peace and justice with five fellow women Nobel Peace Laureates.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​​​​