Nicki Minaj is pulling out of a massive music festival in Saudi Arabia after complaints from human rights groups about the country’s treatment of women and LGBTQ people. The festival, Jeddeh World Fest, scheduled for next week, is being billed as on the biggest festivals in the Middle East. The festival is sponsored by Saudi Arabia and is a project of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
After news that Minaj would be performing, human rights groups asked her to reconsider her plans due to human rights violations by the country, including LGBTQ executions and the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) said that it considers Saudi Arabia to be “one of the world’s worst human rights violators” and urged Minaj to cancel her performance at the festival. In Saudi Arabia, homosexuality is punishable by jail time or execution, and in April at least five men were executed after allegedly engaging in homosexual activities. The country also has strict restrictions on women’s rights, and women are subject to guardianship laws that prevent them from having autonomy in personal decisions.
On Tuesday, Minaj announced that she was pulling out of the festival.
“After careful reflection, I have decided to no longer move forward with my scheduled concert at Jeddah World Fest,” Nicki Minaj told NBC News. “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.”
HRF told NBC News that the organization applauded Minaj’s decision, saying that they were grateful that the performer’s “thoughtful and inspiring decision” to cancel her performance, and stand with “oppressed communities and imprisoned human rights activists.”
The Jeddeh World Fest will still move forward, and other performers, including Liam Payne, are still scheduled to appear at the event.