- The Washington Times - Friday, July 5, 2019

A leading human rights watchdog group is calling on American hip-hop artist Nicki Minaj to cancel her performance at the upcoming Jeddah World Fest in Saudi Arabia, citing the kingdom’s poor record on human rights and civil liberties.

“There is no good reason for Minaj to do business with the Saudi dictatorship,” the Human Rights Foundation said in a statement Friday. “If she proceeds with the show, she will be whitewashing the vast array of human rights crimes committed by [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] including torture, rape, extrajudicial assassination, and the slaughter of innocent civilians.”

Saudi Arabia has been globally criticized by human rights organizations and Western nations for its role in the deadly war in Yemen, the detainment of journalists, dissidents, and activists, and various women’s rights policies. The outrage reached new heights in the aftermath of the 2018 killing of U.S.-based dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a frequent critic of the Saudi government.

The Human Rights Foundation statement said that if the “Super Bass” artist chooses to perform at the festival, “she should do so only under the condition that the Saudi regime release Loujain al-Hathloul, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Saddah, and the rest of the Saudi women’s rights activists who have been targeted, harassed, imprisoned, tortured and sexually assaulted by the government.”

Ms. Minaj has not yet publicly responded to HRF’s call to back out of the performance.

Saudi officials are pitching the star-studded July 18 music festival, to be broadcast globally on MTV, as a sign the socially conservative kingdom is turning a new leaf.

“There is a stereotype of the kingdom all over the world, and today it is disappearing,” Raed Abuzinadah, the director-general of Jeddah Season, told Harper’s Bazaar this week. “In its place is a new picture of the kingdom that accepts everyone.”

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