- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
The chairman and CEO of the Human Rights Foundation are calling for Justin Bieber to cancel a scheduled performance in Saudi Arabia “as a symbol of solidarity with the ongoing suffering of the Saudi people.”
In a letter dated Nov. 2 and shared with Bieber’s representatives, the nonprofit’s chairman, Garry Kasparov, and CEO, Thor Halvorssen, take issue with the “Stay” singer’s reported performance at the Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021 on Dec. 5. The Formula One event will also feature performances from A$AP Rocky, Jason Derulo, Tiesto and David Guetta, and HRF says that it also sent letters to these performers as well as Egyptian singer Mohamed Hamaki about performing in the event. (The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to HRF for additional comment.)
“We are writing to urgently inform you of the human rights crisis in Saudi Arabia; to explain the role that the regime of MBS [Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] has played in violating the rights of tens of millions of Saudis; to ask that you consider the unfortunate implications of your engagement with the brutal dictatorship of MBS; and to respectfully request that, in light of your status as a global personality, you take this opportunity to positively influence human rights policy in Saudi Arabia by canceling your appearance, as a symbol of solidarity with the ongoing suffering of the Saudi people,” Kasparov and Halvorssen write.
The Hollywood Reporter reached out to Bieber’s representatives for comment, as well as the representatives for A$AP Rocky, Derulo, Tiesto and Guetta.
In the letter, the HRF leaders criticize the current regime’s treatment of dissidents and members of the LGBTQ+ community, its track record on individual rights, its restriction of the media, and imprisonment of women’s rights activists, among other issues. They note that Reporters Without Borders ranked Saudi Arabia 170 out of 180 countries in its 2021 World Press Freedom Index.
The letter also mentions that Halvorssen and the Human Rights Foundation produced The Dissident, Bryan Fogel’s 2020 documentary exploring the death of Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi, in which the Saudi royal family was infamously implicated.
A key argument of the letter is that Saudi Arabia’s monarchy is currently using entertainment and sports ventures to distract from abuses of power, and that Bieber’s statements in support of various social-justice causes are at odds with the planned performance. “The Saudi regime is happy to pay large sums to international celebrities to give the Kingdom a veneer of respectability, as long as the human rights violations occurring within Saudi Arabia are never mentioned,” the authors write.
HRF calls for Bieber to cancel his performance, just as Nicki Minaj canceled a planned performance at Jeddah World Fest in the country in 2019 after outcry from various rights groups including HRF. “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 at the time. In 2019, South Korea’s BTS also faced criticism for a planned concert in Riyadh but stood by their decision.
Formula One’s decision even to hold a race in Saudi Arabia has come under fire from human rights groups, with leaders from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty U.K. criticizing the decision. The promoter of the F1 event in Saudi Arabia said earlier this year that he had spoken to “a couple of drivers” to address concerns about the Saudi Arabia event.
The Hollywood Reporter recently reported that Disney’s Eternals will not be released theatrically in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar because local censors made edit requests that the studio was not willing to comply with. Sources suggested the edit requests may have involved the film’s portrayal of a same-gender couple and the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first gay superhero.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day