Aug 7, 2020

MINSK, BELARUS (August 7, 2020) – American hip hop artist Tyga has cancelled his performance at a government-sponsored concert in Belarus on August 8, after pressure from the Human Rights Foundation and hundreds of fans on social media.

HRF wrote to Tyga, urging him to cancel his concert on Saturday and stand with the people of Belarus against the dictator. Within hours of receiving HRF’s letter, Tyga announced that he was cancelling the show and wrote to his 25 million followers on Twitter and Instagram: “I was looking forward to playing in Minsk for my fans in Belarus in the spirit of bringing great music to a market I’ve never played before. My performance was not politically motivated and to avoid any conflict with the Belarus elections, I will not be performing on August 8th in Minsk. I hope to be back to play for my fans there at a future date.” 

Across social media, Belarusians celebrated the cancellation as a symbol of solidarity with the opposition to Belarus’ dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, whose regime organized the show.

“We applaud Tyga for recognizing what’s at stake in Belarus this weekend, and stepping back from his planned performance,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen.

The concert, scheduled for the day before Belarus’ elections, was largely seen as an excuse to cancel the opposition’s final electoral rally in what is set to be a historic election. The government has responded brutally to the recent opposition rallies and a surge in support for a trio of women standing up to the regime. Since the beginning of May, over 1,300 people have been arbitrarily detained in Belarus, just for expressing their dissatisfaction with the government.

The concert was also supposed to turn attention away from the massive electoral fraud that is already taking place across the country. Though the election isn’t until Sunday, on the first day of early voting independent election observers recorded 2,056 violations, despite not being allowed inside polling stations. Belarus has not held free and fair elections since 1994, when Lukashenko took power. 

Tyga’s withdrawal from the propaganda concert is also an important gesture of solidarity with oppressed artists and musicians in Belarus. On Friday, DJs Kirill Galanov and Vlad Sokolovsky were arrested at a government-sponsored concert-turned opposition rally for playing Viktor Tsoi’s “Changes,” a song associated with the Belarusian democracy movement. Today, the two DJs were handed ten-day jail sentences in a highly politicized judiciary system that regularly jails opposition activists.

Soon after Tyga’s withdrawal, Hip Hop Artist SAINtJHN (Carlos St. John Phillips) also withdrew from the concert scheduled in Minsk, apologizing to his fans on social media. The American musicians join several other Russian and Belarusian groups that have cancelled performances in Belarus in the past couple of days after pressure from fans and civil society groups.

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The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. For further comment, please contact [email protected]