With a career fueled by hits chock full of provocative language and content, many were puzzled when Nicki Minaj accepted a gig at Saudi Arabia’s ‘Jeddah World Fest.’ A country renown for its conservatism, as well as repressive treatment of women and minorities, reports have it the nation’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman authorized the performance – an invitation accompanied by a seven figure payout for the rapstress.
As news spread about the forthcoming appearance, locals, fans, and human rights activists alike spoke out to urge the Grammy nominee to withdraw. While Saudi Arabians were generally more concerned about the femcee’s suggestive songs and stage attire, the latter seemed to focus on the country’s mistreatment of its citizens. The most headline-grabbing criticism came courtesy of Thor Halvorseen – the CEO and President of the Human Rights Foundation (who recently the rapper a lengthy reprimand for her involvement and strongly advised her to reconsider the outing).
Did you miss it? Read highlights inside:
Dear Ms. Minaj,
According to reliable information obtained by the Human Rights Foundation (HRF), you will be traveling to Saudi Arabia to perform at Jeddah World Fest on July 18, 2019. I am writing to urgently inform you of the human rights crisis in Saudi Arabia; to explain the role that the regime of MBS has played in violating the rights of tens of millions of Saudis; and to request that, in light of your status as a global personality, you cancel your appearance as a symbol of solidarity with the ongoing suffering of the Saudi people.
…the Kingdom regularly engages in the systematic repression of activists and human rights defenders, often leading to numerous years of imprisonment, without trial, and the use of repressive measures against them. Advocacy organizations are not allowed to exist.
…Ms. Minaj, as you can see, you are scheduled to perform at a state-sponsored event in one of the most repressive regimes on earth — a country whose leader has also led a relentless campaign to silence women’s rights activists. Many of the women who have advocated to lift the driving ban in Saudi Arabia are currently in jail and being subjected to torture that includes electric shocks, flogging, and rape.
Saudi Arabia hosted its first public concert by a female artist just two years ago and gender segregation between unmarried men and women is still strictly enforced. Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship law requires women to obtain permission from a male for everything from registering for school to checking into a hospital. Any woman attending your performance will require permission from a man and will have to be accompanied to go there.
You recently celebrated Pride Week to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community. Yet, if you move forward with this performance, you will be condoning, and serving the public relations of a government that executes homosexuals for the “crime” of being who they are. If you move forward with this performance for a festival sponsored by the Crown Prince, you will be in league with the people who respond to freedom of expression and thought with murder.
Considering the information above, HRF believes that your participation in a performance sponsored by a murderous, repressive regime involved in gross human rights violations —especially of women and sexual minorities—would be highly unfortunate. Furthermore, it would be disastrous for a public figure of your standing who has articulated a commitment to education, women’s rights, and social justice. HRF asks you to urgently consider canceling your performance, scheduled for July 18, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Click here to read the letter in full. As of time reported, the event is scheduled for King Abdullah Sports Stadium in Jeddah on July 18.