On the morning of Nov. 20, 1979, an unexpected incident happens. At the moment Muslims are about to perform the morning prayer, guns fire at the Kaaba, where even the smallest argument is considered forbidden. A group, that is later found out to be led by a man named Juhayman al-'Utaybi, declares the invasion of the Kaaba based on the grounds that the Saudi family has deviated from the Shariah and that the "Mahdi has appeared," and demands submission to their Mahdi, whose name is al-Qahtani. The invasion that lasts for days is ended by the Saudi forces, Pakistani units and French anti-terrorism units, which appear to have become (made) Muslims. Part of the insurgents are eliminated during the operations, while part of them are eliminated by trying them immediately after the operations.
This major incidents have been ingrained in memories. Books and articles are written about it. But the truth of the matter always remains a secret.
The invasion that caused unrest worldwide is discussed in a press conference held by Al Hadaf magazine in Beirut. A Saudi journalist, writer, intellectual and activist who leaves that press conference suddenly disappears. Sometime later, both the incident and journalist are forgotten - until the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi.
The forgotten story of Nasser al-Said
Nasser al-Said's fame had spread across the entire Arab world from the east to the west, as a matter of fact, even in European meeting places. He was born in Hail, which is one of the most important opposition centers of the Saudi dynasty. He grew up listening to stories of how the Rashidi dynasty was eliminated. That's fine. The Rashidi Emirate may have been eliminated, but eventually, Abdul Aziz bin Saud had established a big state, Saudi Arabia. As a matter of fact, oil was discovered in the country and the Americans had started to process it at the end of World War II.
All the opposition that thought the change expected in the Arabian peninsula would happen had hid their spears. Al Said, the free child of the deserts, went to the oil region of Zahran in 1947 and started working at ARAMCO. But here, he was introduced to modern slavery. He saw how laborers were working under inhumane conditions, and rebelled. He organized his colleagues, held strikes and ensured more humane work conditions. The laborers, who were not treated like humans, thinking that they are Bedouins anyway, were partially relieved thanks to al-Said's rebellious stance.
But al-Said had been marked.
Meanwhile, a revolution happened in Egypt and the wave of Nasserism echoes all over. The king sees this as a threat to himself and clamps down on al-Said's followers. Yet, he is unable to say anything against the Palestine issue that was prevalent back then like today. Al-Said and his laborer friends make their first serious "mistake" by supporting the Palestinian cause and attempting to explain the kind of threat the recently-established Israeli state will create in the region. He will immediately be arrested and put into the Ahsa prison, where conditions are quite heavy. Some time later the matter is forgotten and al-Said, who is extrajudicially held in prison, is released.
Al Said, who returns to his birthplace, demands more freedom, more human rights and a switch to a constitutional order from King Khalid, who replaced King Abdul Aziz. He openly says all this to the king's face during a visit to see him. Even though his demands are appropriate and right, King Khalid is disturbed by the fact that they are said by an opponent and a while later, orders his arrest.
Opposition outside Saudi Arabia
It is now time to escape. In 1956, he goes to Egypt, which is known the land of libertarians. Here, there is freedom to both love Nasser and oppose the Saudi dynasty. He chose the second and produces programs criticizing the Saudi administration on the Voice of Arabs Radio. However, after encountering pressure here as well, he goes to south Yemen and continues his opposition there. But the long-lasting civil wars in Yemen and the Saudi-Egypt agreement on Yemen force him to flee and settle in Damascus. A while later, he crosses over from Damascus to Beirut and tries to publish his ideas here.
Meanwhile, he makes his second big mistake. He writes the "Tarihu Al-i Suud" (History of the Saudi Family). In his book, he criticizes the Saudi administration's lack of sensitivity regarding the Palestine issue despite all its means. His criticisms are hard to swallow. He claims the Saudi dynasty comes from a "Jewish" origin. This book, which is open to debate in terms of the method of history and contains errors, is naturally banned by the Saudi administration and collected around the world.
Under the pressure of this psychology, al-Said implies at Al Hadaf magazine's press conference, that he supports the seizure of the Kaaba by the al-'Utaybi team - with whom his ideas clash - that is obviously targeting the Saudi dynasty. And this becomes his final big mistake.
Al-Said goes missing after he leaves the meeting to head back to his office and is never heard from again. The incident remains on the agenda for some time. Even though everybody is curious about how he goes missing while he was walking on a highly guarded street - where even the former Soviet Embassy is located - there is still no answer to date. Just like journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi Arabian Consulate, which is located in a rare part of a very secure city, and then disappeared.
Even though the office of the al-Fatah organization, which is known for its closeness to the then-Saudi Arabian ambassador to Beirut, being located on the same route that Al-Said walked through led to many speculations, time makes people forget everything. The sole thing that remains is al-Said's ideas and the first print of his book, which can be found in a couple of special libraries.
But it should not be the same this time; the world must face the truth.