Jul 10, 2019

NEW YORK  (July 10, 2019) — British pop star Liam Payne is still scheduled to perform at a concert next week in Saudi Arabia. The Jeddah World Fest is funded and authorized by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), one of the world’s worst human rights violators. The Human Rights Foundation is urging Payne to cancel his July 18 performance and use his global influence and platform in solidarity with the Saudi women’s rights activists who are currently in prison.

Payne, an outspoken supporter of women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights, will be performing for a regime where homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment or death. In April of this year, five men were beheaded by the Saudi government after enduring months of torture and admitting to sexual relations with other men.

Yesterday, in a breathtaking public statement, American hip-hop artist Nicki Minaj announced her decision to withdraw from the concert: “After careful reflection I have decided to no longer move forward with my scheduled concert at Jeddah World Fest. 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.”

“Nicki Minaj demonstrates what leadership looks like,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen. “Human rights advocates should be grateful for her inspiring and thoughtful decision to reject the Saudi regime’s transparent attempt to use her for a public relations stunt and for standing up for LGBTQ+ and women’s rights. It is surprising that Liam Payne, who so frequently has positioned himself as an ally for oppressed people and sexual minorities, has remained silent despite the public outcry. We hope he and his managers choose morals over money.” 

Minaj’s decision to cancel her performance in Saudi Arabia was highlighted and celebrated this week in major world media outlets such as The New York Times, BBC, The Washington Post, NPR, CNN, NBC, The Huffington Post, Bloomberg, CBS, TIME, Voice of America, People, TMZ, and many others.

HRF sent Payne and his managers a letter describing the human rights crisis in Saudi Arabia, which is ruled by a fully authoritarian regime under which there is no independent judiciary, no independent media, and where citizens have no freedom of thought, expression, religion or association. There is no guarantee of independence in the administration of justice or respect for the fundamental rights of people who live in Saudi Arabia. This is especially true for those who openly express their disagreement with the government, such as the women who advocated to lift the driving ban in Saudi Arabia and who are currently in jail, where they are being subjected to torture by electric shock, flogging, and rape.

HRF hopes that Payne and the other scheduled performers, like DJ Steve Aoki, follow Minaj’s example and use their considerable influence to lead a global conversation condemning the human rights atrocities routinely committed by the Saudi government.

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.

Read HRF’s letter to Liam Payne here.