Janet Jackson, 50 Cent, Chris Brown, Tyga and Future were all recently added to the lineup of the debut Jeddah World Fest, which will take place in the city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on the evening of July 18.
The music festival was initially set to feature rapper Nicki Minaj as a headlining artist, however she dropped out last week after a massive backlash, citing human rights concerns as part of the reason behind her decision.
The Megatron rapper said she wanted to show support for women’s rights, gay rights and freedom of expression, among other things.
Nicki Minaj arrives at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards at The Forum on Aug. 27, 2017 in Inglewood, Calif.
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF), a non-profit organization that promotes human rights, equity and equality across the globe, was among those criticizing Minaj, 36, before she cancelled her festival appearance.
Only a day ahead of the controversial music festival, the HRF issued an official statement condemning the newly participating artists.
In Saudi Arabia, gender segregation between single men and women is enforced heavily in public spaces, from restaurants to educational institutions — and, more recently, concerts — according to the Associated Press. There have also been reports of torture involving several women’s rights activists currently in Saudi detention.
Thor Halvorssen, longtime CEO of the HRF, blamed the country’s “atrocious human rights record” on the king of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
Halvorssen also said the king’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is using Jeddah World Fest and other things — such as the opening of Saudi Arabia’s first movie theatre — as a “sophisticated campaign of distraction” from the brutal happenings within the “ultra-conservative kingdom.”
The statement begins: “It’s clear that, after losing Nicki Minaj on the basis of the Saudi regime’s atrocious human rights record and their treatment of women and the gay community, the Crown prince has chosen to spend whatever it takes to give the appearance that things are normal and that this is just another concert.”
“Except it isn’t,” said Halvorssen. “It’s a blatant public relations push on the heels of the premeditated assassination of a Washington Post columnist and the ongoing imprisonment of dozens of human rights activists.”
The HRF leader was referring to the murder of late Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Saudi-born dissident was killed in Turkey on Oct. 2, 2018 by agents working for the Crown prince.
“It’s baffling to the fans of Janet Jackson, 50 Cent and these other artists that despite knowing all of this, they still intend to perform,” Halvorssen said in the statement.
“It’s profoundly distressing that they have chosen money over morals,” he added. “These individuals constantly make public statements of support for LGBTQ+ rights, Black Lives Matter and women’s rights, except, apparently, when a seven-figure cheque is attached.”
The statement concluded: “The hypocrisy is breathtaking. Principal apparently matters to them far more than principles.”
Global News has reached out to Tyga’s publicist. One of Chris Brown’s representatives declined to comment on the matter.
Representatives for Janet Jackson, 50 Cent and Future did not immediately reply to emails seeking comment from the Associated Press.
Liam Payne, formerly of One Direction, and Steve Aoki are also set to perform at the festival.
Though K-pop sensation BTS will not be performing, the group recently announced Saudi Arabia’s first-ever solo stadium concert.
The gig is set to take place at the 68,000-capacity King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, the country’s capital, on Oct. 11.
As a result of this, the Boy With Luv singers have received a mix of support and criticism over social media.
—With files from the Associated Press
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