Nicki Minaj drops out of Saudi Arabia festival after backlash over human rights record

Rapper was due to headline Jeddah World Fest on 18 July

Clémence Michallon
New York
Tuesday 09 July 2019 22:12
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Nicki Minaj attends the 2019 Met Gala on 6 May, 2019 in New York City.
Nicki Minaj attends the 2019 Met Gala on 6 May, 2019 in New York City.

Nicki Minaj has announced that she is pulling out of a planned concert in Saudi Arabia next week, citing her support for the rights of women and the LGBTQ community.

The US rapper was due to headline the Jeddah World Fest music festival on 18 July. Her plan to appear was criticised last week on social media.

“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 “Starships” singer said in a statement.

The New York-based Human Rights Foundation (HRF) last week urged Minaj to cancel her performance, saying her appearance would be at odds with the rapper’s participation in festivities in New York marking Gay Pride month in June. Homosexuality is banned in Saudi Arabia.

On Tuesday, HRF chief executive Thor Halvorssen welcomed Minaj’s change of heart, praising her “inspiring and thoughtful decision to reject the Saudi regime’s transparent attempt at using her for a public relations stunt”.

Saudi officials last week said the Jeddah World Fest would be the region’s biggest ever live musical event.

Other announced performers include former One Direction British singer Liam Payne and American DJ Steve Aoki.

Halvorssen said on Tuesday he hoped Payne would follow Minaj and withdraw.

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Around a dozen Saudi women activists have been detained for the past year on charges related to human rights work and contacts with foreign journalists and diplomats in a case that has drawn global attention after last year’s murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Additional reporting by agencies

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