Nicki Minaj Slammed By Human Rights Advocates Over Saudi Arabian Concert
Amnesty International has joined a growing chorus of voices sounding off against Nicki Minaj's decision to play a music festival in Saudi Arabia.
The rapper is scheduled to take the stage at Jeddah World Fest on July 18, revealed as part of the lineup on Thursday alongside acts like Liam Payne and DJ Steve Aoki.
Almost instantly, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) made a plea for the artists to reconsider their appearance. In a letter to Minaj's record label, HRF's CEO Thor Halvorssen asked the artist to "urgently consider cancelling" her performance.
"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," Halvorssen wrote.
The concert is backed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who "has spearheaded a crackdown on human rights" in Saudi Arabia, Halvorssen claimed. The Crown Prince, who came to power in 2017, was found by the CIA to have ordered the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.
Amnesty International has also raised human rights issues in calling for Minaj and the other artists to change their minds.
Minaj "should not be doing the bidding of Donald Trump by helping to soften the image of this brutal regime that oppresses women and free speech," campaigner Tim O'Connor told 10 daily.
"If she truly believes in equality for women, Nicki should stand with the brave Saudi women, like Loujain al-Hathloul who risked arrest, jail and even death for simply standing up for their rights, including the right to drive," O'Connor said.
The 36-year-old is yet to comment on her scheduled performance, which will reportedly be broadcast around the globe via MTV Networks.
In his letter, Halvorssen noted the kingdom only hosted its first public concert by a female artist just two years ago.
He also pointed out "any woman attending your performance will require permission from a man and will have to be accompanied to go there".
The Human Rights Foundation's push imploring Minaj not to attend Jedda World Fest came on the heels of growing backlash on social media.
A separate set of conservative Saudi opponents also voiced their disapproval of Minaj's scheduled performance -- but on a different set of grounds, citing concern over a flamboyant and sexually empowered act performing in the holy land of Mecca.
Yet more voices accused Minaj of hypocrisy for performing in a country where homosexuality is illegal, less than a week after attending a gay pride event.
Women-led activist group Code Pink has created an online petition calling for Minaj not to "artwash" Saudi crimes.
"Nicki Minaj considers herself a symbol of women’s empowerment. Why is she performing in the most gender-segregated, repressive country?" it reads.
Saudi Arabia is a monarchy with a legal system based on Islam’s Shari’a law, as advocated by the Wahhabi movement.
Most areas of the law are regulated by religious principles not embodied in a written legal instrument, and therefore subject to the discretion of judges.
Many women who advocated to lift Saudi's driving ban last year are in jail, reportedly subjected to torture like electric shocks, flogging, and rape.
One of these women is activist Loujain al-Hathloul, arrested weeks before the ban was lifted and accused of “treason” and “undermining national security".
Al-Hathloul, who has spent the past year in jail, was first arrested in 2014 after she attempted to drive from the United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia.
Her siblings are advocating for her release and bringing light to the suffering she has reportedly endured at the hands of the Saudi regime.
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