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Rapper Nicki Minaj canceled her show in Saudi Arabia citing concerns over women and LGBTQ rights after being criticized for accepting the offer to perform.
U.S. rapper Nicki Minaj said she was pulling out of a planned concert in Saudi Arabia next week, citing her support for the rights of women and the LGBTQ community, which are gravely lacking in the ultra-Islamist country, according to a report by the Associated Press published Tuesday.
“After careful reflection I have decided to no longer move forward with my scheduled concert at Jeddah World Fest. 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,” Minaj said in a statement.
Minaj, known for her raunchy outfits and provocative stage performances, was due to headline the Jeddah World Fest music festival on July 18, but her plan to appear was criticized last week on social media.
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.
On Tuesday, HRF Chief Executive Thor Halvorssen welcomed Minaj’s decision, 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.
“The July 18 festival in Saudi Arabia still shows Liam Payne as a performer. We hope that he follows Nicki Minaj’s lead,” Halvorssen said.
Saudi Arabia is criticized worldwide for its abysmal human rights records, especially in regards to women and minorities.
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.
Saudi women must have permission from a male relative to work, marry and travel under the ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom’s guardianship system. Homosexuality is banned in Saudi Arabia and offenders could face serious enetences that include execution and crucifixion.
Some Saudi social media users had been taken to the internet criticizing the decision to host the singer, calling her a "porn star" and saying that her appearance in the country would be against islamic teachings, especially as the country enters the holy month of Haj or pilgrimage.
Others were pointing out how the singer would have worn revealing outfits, local women would never be allowed to sport, while singing about alcohol, sex and drugs, things that are illegal in the Saudi kingdom.