Nicki Minaj is slated to perform at a large music festival in Saudi Arabia later this month, sparking concern among human rights activists over the conservative nature and actions of the country.
She will appear at the Jeddah World Fest on July 18, which has been described as the “largest music festival of its kind in the region” by the Saudi Gazette. The event, which will take place at the King Abdullah Sports Stadium in the Red Sea city, will be alcohol-free and open to fans above age 16. While DJ Steve Aoki and One Direction’s Liam Payne are also set to perform at the festival, many people are looking to Minaj to cancel her performance.
Activists are speaking out about the “human rights crisis” in Saudi Arabia, noting that women are treated poorly in the country and will need permission from a man in their household to even attend the event. While Saudi Arabia has recently loosened their grip on social issues – like allowing women to drive and lifting a 35-year movie theater ban – women still have very restrictive rights in the country.
The Human Rights Foundation’s CEO and president Thor Halvorssen penned a letter to Minaj, calling on the rapper to cancel the upcoming performance. In the letter, he touches upon the “peaceful dissidents” who were sentenced to death for helping journalists cover demonstations by the Shia minority, the government critics who were jailed for their Facebook posts, and the oppression women constantly face in the country. He also mentioned Pride Week and Saudi’s execution of homosexuals.
“You recently celebrated Pride Week to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community,” Halvorssen wrote. “Yet, if you move forward with this performance, you will be condoning, and serving the public relations needs, of a government that executes homosexuals for the ‘crime’ of being who they are.”
One Saudi woman shared a video on Twitter questioning why she would have to attend the concert wearing the abaya and dress conservative when Minaj will be on stage with “all her vulgarity and her songs about shaking her ass.” Others shared their opinions of the show, with many noting that Minaj has the opportunity to speak out about women’s rights during her performance:
I hope you speak up for all women who suffers from the guardianship system in #SaudiArabia this has to end, what’s the point in bringing celebrities here when the majority of women’s choices whether to attend concerts or not are controlled completely by men? @NICKIMINAJ
— ? (@pineabaella) July 2, 2019
I don’t mind @NICKIMINAJ performing in Saudi Arabia–if she speaks up about women’s rights there. Dedicate a song to Loujain al-Hathloul, the Nobel Peace Prize nominee who was tortured and sexually assaulted for advocating for women. Ask the crown prince to stop starving Yemen. https://t.co/cN2EsVErTl
— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) July 3, 2019
If Nicki Minaj is performing in Saudi Arabia without a Hijab
I will have questions to ask. pic.twitter.com/wcpQrIOYgN
— Comrade ??? (@iAGB4REAL) July 5, 2019
imagine waking up from a 3 years comma and the first thing you hear is nicki minaj opening an MTV musical festival in saudi arabia, i’d honestly think i woke up in some parallel universe shit https://t.co/O01J8CcYQK
— ⎊ (@NEWEGYPTIANA) July 2, 2019
Previously, artists like Mariah Carey, Enrique Iglesias, OneRepublic, The Black Eyed Peas, and David Guetta have performed in Saudi Arabia, despite backlash. However, this particular festival will reportedly have record-high attendance for a festival in the country.
Minaj has not spoken out about the upcoming performance or her views of the country.