Justin Bieber is facing calls to cancel a planned concert in Saudi Arabia next month, led by the fiancee of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Bieber is one of several performers scheduled in free concerts surrounding the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix, a Formula 1 race scheduled for the first weekend in December.
Bieber, A$AP Rocky and David Guetta are scheduled for Sunday’s performance, which will take place after the Formula 1 race finishes along the shores of the Red Sea in the Saudi city of Jeddah. Jason Derulo and Tiesto are also performing free shows, scheduled for after qualifying laps are completed on Saturday.
Khashoggi was Saudi native and critic of the government living in exile when he was murdered while at the Saudi consulate in Turkey in October of 2018, allegedly at the behest of the country’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The actions led to international outcry and the indictment by Turkish officials of 20 Saudi nationals who were believed to have perpetrated the crime – though none have faced trial as they are no longer in the country. Saudi Arabia held trials for some involved, but those who were found guilty and sentenced to death were subsequently spared.
Since that time, public pressure has often been mounted against performers who have scheduled events in the country, particularly those from liberal “western” democracies, such as Bieber, who hails from Canada.
Bieber had already been facing calls to cancel his performance when the Washington Post published an open letter from Hatice Cengiz – Khashoggi’s fiance at the time of his murder – asking him to spike his appearance to “send a powerful message to the world that your name and talent will not be used to restore the reputation of a regime that kills its critics.”
“Please know that your invitation to participate in a concert in Jeddah comes directly from MBS, as the crown prince is known,” Cengiz wrote in her open letter to Bieber. “Nothing of significance happens in Saudi Arabia without his consent, and certainly not an event as important and flashy as this.”
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund bought $500 million in shares in Live Nation Entertainment during the spring of 2020 while the stock (NYSE:LYV) was at a major low due to the coronavirus. That investment, which amounted to more than 5 percent of the company, made the Saudi government the third largest shareholder in the company, helping stabilize the stock price that has since soared to more than $100 per share – even amid the Astroworld Festival fallout of late.
According to the Associated Press, the Saudi wealth fund’s holdings of Live Nation are now worth a sum of approximately $1.4 billion, making it the second largest institutional shareholder behind Liberty Media.
Human Rights Watch has also been a voice calling for the performers to pull out of the performance, which it says is intended to “use these celebrities to whitewash its abysmal human rights record,” and paint it as a desirable destination for future events and tourist dollars.