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Nicki Minaj pulls out of Saudi music festival

After facing a backlash on social media and criticism from a human rights organisation, the rapper has cancelled her performance in Saudi Arabia

By Anna Grace on 10 Jul 2019

Nicki Minaj pulls out of Saudi Arabia festival

Nicki Minaj


image © Universal Music Group

Rapper Nick Minaj has cancelled her upcoming performance at Jeddah World Fest in Saudi Arabia, citing support for women’s rights, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression.

Minaj was billed to perform alongside EDM artist Steve Aoki and former One Direction member Liam Payne at Saudi Arabia’s largest-ever music festival, which takes place on Thursday 18 July at the 63,241-capacity King Abdullah Sports Stadium in Jeddah.

“After careful reflection I have decided to no longer move forward with my scheduled concert at Jeddah World Fest,” the singer said in a statement.

“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 decision comes after the president of US-based Human Rights Foundation (HRF) penned an open letter to Minaj asking her to cancel the appearance “as a symbol of solidarity with the ongoing suffering of the Saudi people.”

“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”

HRF president Thor Halvorssen detailed cases of human rights abuses in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which he describes as “one of the most repressive regimes on earth”.

Halvorssen has since praised Minaj’s decision to pull out of the festival, and urged Payne to do the same.

“We are grateful to Nicki Minaj for her inspiring and thoughtful decision to reject the Saudi regime’s transparent attempt at using her for a public relations stunt,” writes the HRF president.

After years of restrictions on entertainment, Jeddah World Fest signifies the next step in Saudi Arabia’s embrace of live music events.

A post on the festival’s Facebook page states that Minaj had cancelled “due to personal reasons”. A second wave performers will be announced later this week.

The kingdom hosted its first mixed gender music festival in December, featuring artists including Jason Derulo, Enrique Iglesias and David Guetta. A US$2.7 billion fund was established in 2017 to kickstart the entertainment sector.

 


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