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Jamal Khashoggi disappearance puts Saudi Arabia NEOM city in jeopardy



Aerial view of Riyadh downtown on August 22, 2016 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
view of downtown Riyadh.


  • Saudi Arabia plans to build a $500 billion
    megacity that links to Africa via a bridge crossing the Red
  • The development is part of Crown Prince Mohammed
    bin Salman’s Vision
    , a plan to diversify Saudi Arabia’s oil-driven
  • Bin Salman has been
    accused of ordering
    killing of Jamal Khashoggi
    , a local journalist who
    criticized the Saudi government.
  • In light of
    this news
    , the megacity has lost many of its
    high-profile advisers
    , including the head of Y
    Combinator, Sam Altman, and former US Energy
    Secretary Ernest Moniz.

The disappearance and alleged murder
of journalist Jamal
 has shaken Saudi Arabia’s many
international ties. In the days since Khashoggi went missing
on October 2, at least four board members have pulled out of a

megacity development
backed by $500 billion in

At 10,230 square miles, the project would be 33 times
larger than New York City and one of the largest cities in the
world to run on 100% renewable energy. Its name, NEOM — a
nod to the Arabic terms for “new future” — symbolizes
its utopian vision of robot workers and drone taxis. 

The project is closely tied to the Saudi Arabian
government, and particularly to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,
whom Khashoggi
had criticized
in his writing. Turkish officials
now claim
that the journalist’s alleged murder was carried
out by 15 Saudi men, including those with high-level government
connections. Reports even suggest that the crown prince himself

ordered the killing

A week after the story broke, NEOM announced
the members
of its global Advisory Board, which includes
former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and
CEO Masayoshi Son.

Immediately after the announcement, the head of Y
Combinator, Sam Altman,
told The Intercept
he was suspending his involvement “until
the facts regarding Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance are

IDEO CEO Tim Brown also declined to
participate, but his spokesperson wouldn’t say
why. Former European Union Vice President Neelie Kroes said
she would suspend her involvement “until more is

US Energy Secretary Ernest
Moniz also released
a statement
 about his suspension to Business
Insider: “Given current events, I am suspending my
participation on the NEOM board. Going forward, my engagement
with the advisory board will depend on learning all the facts
about Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance over the coming days and

Both Dan Doctoroff, the CEO of the Google-backed company
Sidewalk Labs, and Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer,
said they were
incorrectly cited
 as board members, though it isn’t
known whether they were once attached to the

An anonymous source recently
told The Intercept
that some of the members were “inclined to
just stay on the board,” but noted that could change.

Prior to Khashoggi’s disappearance, the tech community had
celebrated bin Salman’s Vision 2030, a strategy to
boost global economic activity by making the less nation less
oil-dependent. As part of this vision, NEOM planned to
welcome the energy, biotechnology, advanced manufacturing, and
entertainment industries. This could become difficult — if not
impossible — if executives no longer wish to

recent tragedy
could also make it harder for future
megacities to get off the ground. The nation currently has around

4,700 active construction projects
, worth a total of $852

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