50 Cent, Janet Jackson Criticized by Human Rights Activists for Saudi Arabia Concert Plans

Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images; Paul Archuleta/Getty Images
Janet Jackson, 50 Cent

Nicky Minaj has already backed out of the Jeddah World Fest after pressure from the Human Rights Foundation.

Nine days after Nicki Minaj bowed out of a Saudi Arabian music festival under pressure from a human-rights group, the same organization is asking Janet Jackson, 50 Cent, Chris Brown and others to do the same, though the requests come just a day or two ahead of their scheduled performances at the Jeddah World Fest.

The festival is funded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has a poor track record when it comes to the treatment of  minorities and women.

"Not a single public position you have taken on social and political matters during your career would be permitted in Saudi Arabia. In fact, if you were a Saudi, you would be imprisoned, tortured, or even executed for expressing yourself as you have in the past," the Human Rights Foundation wrote in a letter to Jackson made public on Thursday.

"Just imagine the set-up for your upcoming performance: Gender segregation between unmarried men and women is still strictly enforced. Saudi Arabia's male guardianship law requires women to obtain permission from a male for everything from registering for school to checking into a hospital. Any woman attending your performance will require permission from a man and will have to be accompanied by a male 'guardian' in order to go there," the letter states.

Known as HRF, the organization is best known for smuggling Western media into North Korea, including The Interview, the 2014 film that poked fun at Kim-Jong un, whom the FBI says authorized an infamous hacking of Sony Pictures in an effort to prevent distribution of the movie.

The organization sent letters similar to the one it sent to Jackson to other scheduled performers, including Curtis Jackson, better known as 50 Cent; Chris Brown; Michael Stevenson, the rapper-actor known as Tyga; and Nayvadius Wilburn, a rapper who goes by the name Future.

Shortly after HRF and a few other groups, such as Code Pink, pressured Minaj more than a week ago, the singer said on July 9 she would cancel her performance. "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," she said at the time.

The HRF letters made public Thursday also reference Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist who was assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, an incident that caused international backlash a year ago.

"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," HRF president Thor Halvorssen said. "It's a blatant public-relations push."

The artists set to perform, said Halvorssen, "constantly make public statements of support for LGBTQ+ rights, Black Lives Matter, and women's rights, except, apparently, when a seven-figure check is attached. The hypocrisy is breathtaking."