Jeddah World Fest: Janet Jackson, Chris Brown, 50 Cent and more added to Saudi Arabia concert after Nicki Minaj pulls out

Human Rights Foundation and other organisations have asked artists not to perform in Saudi Arabia

Clémence Michallon
New York
Thursday 18 July 2019 15:03 BST
Janet Jackson performs on day four of the Glastonbury Festival on 29 June, 2019 in Glastonbury, England.
Janet Jackson performs on day four of the Glastonbury Festival on 29 June, 2019 in Glastonbury, England. (Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

Janet Jackson, Chris Brown, 50 Cent, Future and Tyga have been added to the lineup of a Saudi Arabian concert that Nicki Minaj pulled out of because of human rights concerns.

The website for the event, the Jeddah World Fest, posted photos of the newly added acts alongside previously announced performers Liam Payne and Steve Aoki.

The Human Rights Foundation and other organisations have asked artists not to perform in Saudi Arabia, where gender segregation between single men and women is enforced in many restaurants, coffee shops, public schools and universities. Other rules have loosened in the kingdom with women now allowed to drive and attend events at sports stadiums.

Thor Halvorssen, president of the Human Rights Foundation, criticised the entertainers in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday, saying it was “profoundly distressing that they have chosen money over morals”.

“These individuals constantly make public statements of support for LGBT rights and women’s rights, except, apparently, when a seven-figure check is attached,” he added. ”The hypocrisy is breathtaking. Principal apparently matters to them far more than principles.”

The Independent has contacted representatives for Janet Jackson, Chris Brown, 50 Cent, Future, Tyga, Liam Payne and Steve Aoki.

Minaj said earlier this month that she pulled out of the concert because she wants to show support for women’s rights, gay rights and freedom of expression. Human rights organisations praised the rapper for her decision.

Saudi Arabia saw some change last year as a result of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s top-down reform efforts, including the opening of the first movie theatre and the lifting of the world’s only ban on women driving.

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But there’s a hard limit to the reforms — as revealed by the brutal killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents close to the crown prince in October and the reported torture of several women’s rights activists in detention. While the arena for entertainment is widening, the space for political engagement and dissent has virtually disappeared.

Additional reporting by agencies

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