American rapper Nicki Minaj cancelled her upcoming concert in Saudi Arabia in a show of support for women’s and gay rights in the ultra-conservative kingdom.
Her scheduled appearance in the western city of Jeddah next week as part of a cultural festival triggered a social media backlash over human rights in the country.
“After careful reflection I have decided to no longer move forward with my scheduled concert at Jeddah World Fest,” Minaj said.
“While I want nothing more than to bring my show to fans in Saudi Arabia, after better educating myself on the issues, I believe it is important for me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression.”
The singer who is known for her profanity-laced lyrics and raunchy music videos was due to perform as headline act of the festival – to be televised globally on MTV – as the kingdom loosens its decades-old restrictions on entertainment.
British musician Liam Payne and American DJ Steve Aoki are scheduled to perform as well.
The Saudi human rights record have been described by Amnesty International as “abysmal” adding that the nation is in the “grip of a sweeping crackdown against critics of the government.”
The Jeddah World Fest in Saudi Arabia, which forbids alcohol and has a strict social code comes as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pursues a sweeping liberalisation drive that has led to new cinemas, concerts and sporting extravaganzas.
Due to economic downturn, the Saudi government announced big plans to diversify its economy from oil and one of it is to build up its entertainment options at home.
Saudi citizens regularly travel abroad — to the Emirates, for example — to see concerts, movies and other forms of entertainment.
A concern for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s public image, on both a national and an international scale, may also lie behind the festival and its high-profile headliners.
The organisers plan to broadcast the festival internationally, and to make visas accessible for foreigners to attend the Jeddah World Fest.
The reform is seen by some as an attempt to blunt public frustration over an economic downturn and high youth unemployment. -/TISG