A week ago, it was announced that rapper Nicki Minaj would headline the Jeddah World Fest in Saudi Arabia. Soon, calls for her to cancel the performance started rolling in. And now, Minaj is saying she will no longer participate.
“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 Tuesday to the Associated Press.
As the AP reported last week, the initial announcement came as a surprise to many, given the kingdom’s ultraconservative laws — including gender segregation between single men and women in many restaurants and public schools. While some said performances by stars such as Minaj and Mariah Carey, who performed in Saudi Arabia earlier this year, are steps forward, others argue that it’s hypocritical for the country to invite Minaj to perform while restricting the rights of Saudi women.
The Human Rights Foundation sent Minaj and her team a five-page letter last week detailing Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses and requested that the “Megatron” rapper use her global megaphone to loudly cancel her appearance as “a symbol of solidarity with the ongoing suffering of the Saudi people.”
One Direction alum Liam Payne and DJ Steve Aoki are still scheduled to perform at the July 18 music festival, which will be drug and alcohol-free in keeping with the country’s laws. Neither artist has commented yet on their own participation in the concert.