NEW YORK (November 9, 2021) — On December 5, 2021, Canadian pop star Justin Bieber is scheduled to perform at the Formula 1 STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021, a state-sponsored music festival funded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) considers the Saudi regime to be one of the world’s worst human rights violators, and has contacted Mr. Bieber and his team, urging him to cancel his performance and refuse the Kingdom’s efforts to whitewash its appalling human rights record. Instead, HRF has asked him to use his global influence to issue a statement in support of human rights in Saudi Arabia, just as his colleague Nicki Minaj did when she canceled her 2019 performance in Saudi Arabia, following a letter from HRF.
“It would be disastrous for Justin Bieber, an artist with a vast global following, and who is idolized by millions, to be used as a pawn by MBS’ murderous regime,” said HRF President Céline Assaf-Boustani. “Instead of giving into MBS’ plot to launder his image, as other artists have done since MBS’ ascent to power, Mr. Bieber should follow the lead of his fellow artist Nicki Minaj, who boldly shut down MBS and refused to perform for him.”
Saudi Arabia is not a democracy. It is an absolute monarchy whose de facto dictator, MBS, brutally silences anyone who dares to criticize his policies or calls for reform. Since the beginning of his rule in 2017, MBS has spearheaded a brutal crackdown on dissidents, many of whom have been harassed, arbitrarily detained, sentenced, and tortured to death. Among the groups that his crackdown has targeted are women, who are treated like second-class citizens, the LGBTQ+ community, and other minority groups.
Should he follow through with the performance, Mr. Bieber, who has shown support for the LGBTQ+ community throughout his career, will be profiting off a regime that executes LGBTQ+ individuals for the “crime” of being who they are. In April 2019, for example, five gay men were beheaded after they confessed to crimes under torture. Mr. Bieber has also supported the Black Lives Matter movement and the advancement of civil rights and social justice in the United States, indicating that he wants to use his artistic gifts to “serve this planet and each other,” and to help those who feel helpless in the face of “suffering, injustice, and pain.”
“As someone who has articulated a commitment to civil rights and social justice, Mr. Bieber should stay true to his words and use his platform to raise awareness about the atrocities being perpetrated every day in Saudi Arabia, especially against members of the LGBTQ+ community,” added Assaf-Boustani. “This performance would stand in stark contrast to the core values he claims to subscribe to. Music is not just a business, but also an influential art form that should not be purchased by a brutal dictatorship.”
In Saudi Arabia, freedom of expression is severely curtailed, as there is no independent media, and public officials use an extensive surveillance network to enforce Orwellian policies restricting free speech. The regime even surveils and attacks dissident voices outside its borders. One of the most harrowing examples of this is the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose murder was confirmed by Agnès Callamard, then UN. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings, to be the result of a premeditated, extrajudicial execution orchestrated by the Saudi State.
The Formula 1 event at which Justin Bieber is scheduled to perform, is one of many events that is integral to the Saudi regime’s “Vision 2030” plan. Vision 2030 is a massive undertaking designed to project an image of modernism and prosperity to the rest of the world, and a critical component of it includes the funding of sporting and entertainment industries. This plan, along with a major public relations campaign abroad, has the clear intention of whitewashing the crimes of MBS’ dictatorship, and preventing any form of democratic reforms from taking hold in the country.
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.
HRF also sent letters to A$AP Rocky, David Guetta, Tiësto, Jason Derulo, and Mohamed Hamaki regarding their participation in the event.
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