Nicki Minaj asked by human rights group to pull out of Saudi Arabia concert: 'Refuse the regime's money'

A human rights group is calling on Nicki Minaj to cancel her performance at a Saudi Arabia music festival being funded by controversial Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).

The Human Rights Foundation sent a letter to the rapper imploring her to pull out of Jeddah World Fest in the ultra-conservative country on July 18. The organization said it “considers the Saudi regime to be one of the world’s worst human rights violators” and urged the singer, known for her provocative performances and racy lyrics “to cancel her performance, refuse the regime’s money and instead use her global influence to issue a statement demanding the release of the Saudi women activists who are currently in prison.”

2018 MTV Video Music Awards - Photo Room - Radio City Music Hall, New York, U.S., August 20, 2018. - Rapper Nicki Minaj poses backstage with her Best Hip-Hop Video award for "Chun-Li." REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Nicki Minaj, at the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards, is being criticized for agreeing to perform at a state-funded concert in Saudi Arabia. (Photo: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

The letter was an attempt to explain to Minaj the inhumanities suffered by “tens of millions of Saudis” by the crown prince’s regime, which is an “absolute monarchy.” Since he took power in 2017, “MBS has spearheaded a crackdown on human rights, especially those of the women who live in his Kingdom,” it said, adding, “citizens have no freedom of thought, expression, religion or association.”

The letter detailed how the kingdom has “no independent judiciary.” Instead, it’s “predominantly based on Islam’s Shari’a law, as advocated by the Wahhabi movement.”

Any human rights defenders — and others speaking out against the regime (even in social media posts) — face “numerous years of imprisonment, without trial, and the use of repressive measures against them.” And “public demonstrations and protests are illegal.”

Nicki Minaj Letter by on Scribd

It also noted the country has “no independent media” with the royal family having control of “most newspapers and media broadcast.” Therefore, “self-censorship is widespread, and freedom of the press is practically non-existent.”

The letter also discusses the country’s abuse of its LGBTQ citizens, including how at least five men were beheaded in April for admitting to sexual relations with other men. It connected that to Minaj taking part “in World Pride festivities in her hometown of New York City” last month, pointing out the hypocrisy.

Toward the end of the letter, the human rights group wrote, “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.”

The organization said it sent the letter weeks ahead of the show so that Minaj can’t claim she is unaware. It noted that in 2015, the organization condemned the singer for signing on to perform “for the dictatorial regime of former president José Eduardo dos Santos and his family in Angola” for $2 million. “She performed anyway — and later claimed she was ‘high’ when she made the decision to perform. This time, Minaj and her team have been briefed about MBS two weeks in advance of her scheduled performance and therefore she cannot claim ignorance.”

Minaj has not publicly commented on the letter.

Liam Payne and Steve Aoki are also part of the Jeddah World Fest, which was touted in a Saudi newspaper as the "largest musical festival of its kind in the region." Concertgoers at the King Abdullah Sports Stadium event in the Red Sea city must be 16 and older to attend, and there is to be no alcohol or drug use.

MBS has done some high-profile things — like bringing music to the masses, lifting the 35-year cinema ban, allowing women to drive — but the country is still very far behind. Women don’t have anywhere near the rights that men have, according to Human Rights Watch. Minorities even fewer.

This abuse extends outside of his own country. In November, the CIA concluded that MBS was behind the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

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