An ongoing socio-economic policy in Saudi Arabia means to develop the country to become less dependent on its petroleum industry while also pursuing a modicum of societal liberties to achieve that same end. These included the resumption of the cinema industry after a decades-long ban, allowing women to drive and other freedoms. But this phase of progressivism by one of the most religiously conservative nations in the world also seems to be running parallel to a renewed campaign of restriction that global human rights watchdogs are concerned with. So when a number of major recording artists were invited to perform at a cultural festival in Jeddah, they were approached by activists and asked to refuse.
One of these music artists is rapper and pop idol Nicki Minaj, and she has responded to the call by the Human Rights Foundation by cancelling her planned appearance at the concert in question. CNN tells us that Minaj was supposed to be the lead act for the Jeddah World Fest on July 18, but has made known her decision to bow out this Tuesday, July 9. In a statement she remarked that while she would have loved to indulge her Saudi Arabian fans, she had opted to say no, to show support for the country’s women and LGBT community.
It has been noted by human rights watchdogs that despite the new opportunities being provided to Saudi women such as driver’s licenses, there is still ongoing repression particularly among vocal female citizens who have been pushing for an escalated liberation of women’s rights in the Middle Eastern nation. Said activists have since been arrested and imprisoned. And the plight of the Saudi LGBT remains unchanged, seeing as their orientation and lifestyle is forbidden in Islam. There is also the general human rights issue reflected on the unsolved murder of journalist Jamal Kasshiogi, allegedly committed in the Saudi Embassy of Turkey.
The reactions to Nicki Minaj’s no-show at the Jeddah World Fest showed the divide between opinions in Saudi Arabia. While many social media commentators expressed disappointment at her impending absence, conservatives who both slam Minaj’s support for the LGBT and her general seductive idol image plus profanity-laden lyrics were pleased that she would not come, punctuating their statements with praises to Allah. On a more extreme note, some conservative media sources are running an alternate narrative wherein Minaj was actually removed from the concert by the Royal Saudi government first, due to her opinions opposed to “traditional culture and values.”
Without Minaj, a Trinidadian resident in America, on the list of performers, other recording artists remaining to appear on the Jeddah concert are DJ Steve Aoki from the US and Liam Payne from the UK.
Image from New York Times