Nicki Minaj has been no stranger to controversy over the last few years and now the “Megatron” rapper has been called out by advocacy group the Human Rights Foundation for a performance she is scheduled to give in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Even though she will share a stage with other A listers like former One Direction star Liam Payne, all the other female attendees at the alcohol-free event will be required to wear modest full-length robes known as abaya and be expected to abide by ultra conservative guidelines that Minaj, usually a vocal women’s empowerment champion, normally speaks out against.
In response to Minaj’s decision to perform, on Friday, the HRF published a five-page open letter asking her to pull out of attending the festival, which is funded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“I am writing to urgently inform you of the human rights crisis in Saudi Arabia; to explain the role that the regime of MBS has played in violating the rights of tens of millions of Saudis; and to request that, in light of your status as a global personality, you cancel your appearance as a symbol of solidarity with the ongoing suffering of the Saudi people,” wrote HRF president and founder Thor Halvorssen. “Since coming to power in 2017, MBS has spearheaded a crackdown on human rights, especially those of the women who live in his Kingdom.”
Some of the nation’s strictest rules have been softened under bin Salman’s rule including allowing women to drive and attend sporting events. In 2018, the country opened its first movie theater after a 35-year ban. But the nation has been under serious scrutiny for a long list of human rights violations, not the least of which include the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Kashoggi last year.
Further, women are still legally obligated to obtain permission from a male guardian — meaning a father, husband, brother or son to do things like travel abroad, get passport, marry or even be released from prison.
Halvorrsen added, “You recently celebrated Pride Week to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community. Yet, if you move forward with this performance, you will be condoning, and serving the public relations needs, of a government that executes homosexuals for the ‘crime’ of being who they are. Just three months ago five gay men were beheaded after they confessed to crimes under torture. If you move forward with this performance for a festival sponsored by the Crown Prince, you will be in league with the people who respond to freedom of expression and thought with murder.”
The HRF had also asked Minaj not to perform in Angola in 2015 in protest of human rights violations in that country at a Christmas festival hosted by Unitel, a communications company controlled by Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of former president José Eduardo dos Santos, who has been accused of running a corrupt and brutal dictatorship in the country while in power. Minaj however, did give the performance as scheduled.