Saudi critic’s fiancé urges Justin Bieber to cancel Formula One show
Dubai Pop star Justin Bieber faces mounting calls to cancel his concert in Saudi Arabia next month as the fiancée of murdered Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi joined a chorus of voices on Sunday urging him not to race in the kingdom’s Formula 1 race.
In an open letter published by the Washington Post, Hatice Cengiz urged the Canadian star to cancel his December 5 show in the Red Sea city of Jeddah “to send a strong message to the world that your name and talent will not be used to reclaim your name and talent. The reputation of a regime that is killing its critics.”
The Bieber concert is the most titled performance to be held at the race in Jeddah, although other F1 performers include ASAP rapper Rocky, DJs David Guetta and Tiesto and singer Jason Derulo.
This isn’t the first time the pop star has faced pressure to quit a concert in Saudi Arabia. Mariah Carey was the biggest artist to appear on stage in Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi agents in Turkey in October 2018. She ignored calls to boycott the show.
However, public pressure prompted Nicki Minaj in 2019 to cancel her appearance on stage at a concert in Jeddah, and she told the Associated Press at the time that she wanted to show her support for women’s rights, gay rights and freedom of expression.
The shocking Khashoggi murder was carried out in 2018 by members of a team of 15 Saudi government agents who were sent to Istanbul, where a writer and former government spokesperson had an appointment at the Saudi consulate to obtain the documents needed to marry Cengiz. I waited for him outside the consulate, but he never left. His body was never found.
The killing of agents who worked for the Crown Prince sparked international uproar and cast a shadow over Prince Mohammed, whose reputation has not fully recovered. Prince Mohammed confirmed that he had no prior knowledge of the operation that killed Khashoggi. But a US intelligence assessment published under President Joe Biden determined that the crown prince approved the operation.
“Please know that your invitation to participate in a party in Jeddah comes directly from Mohammed bin Salman, as the crown prince is known,” Cengiz wrote in her open letter to Bieber. “Nothing significant happens in Saudi Arabia without his consent, and certainly not an important and glamorous event like this.”
Bieber’s concert in Saudi Arabia comes shortly before he opens his world tour in February, which has been postponed from 2020 due to the pandemic.
At the time, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned sovereign wealth fund – led by Prince Mohammed – acquired shares in Live Nation, the company that owns Ticketmaster and promotes concerts by Bieber and other top stars. With Live Nation shares plummeting last year during COVID-19 shutdowns and thousands of bids canceled, the Public Investment Fund bought $500 million worth of stock in the affected company.
Public filings show that the Saudi wealth fund is now Live Nation’s second largest institutional owner, with a stake of about $1.4 billion.
Human Rights Watch has also called on Bieber and other performers to withdraw from Formula 1 concerts in Saudi Arabia, saying that these events are aimed at “sportswashing” by diverting attention and distracting attention from Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.
Saudi youth are the main attendees of these parties, enjoying the new social changes in the country that allow music and gender mixing. The kingdom’s General Sports Authority says sport is a tool for social change within the kingdom.
Next month’s F1 race will be the first time Saudi Arabia will host the premier sporting event, although the kingdom has hosted a lesser-known Formula E race in past years in a bid to raise the country’s profile as a tourist destination.
At the time of Khashoggi’s murder, the crown prince was praised for launching social reforms that changed the lives of many inside the country. Khashoggi was writing columns in the Washington Post criticizing the crown prince’s reckless moves in foreign policy and the simultaneous crackdown on activists and critics, including women’s rights activists, writers, clerics, and the economy.
Saudi Arabia tried some of those involved in his murder, and sentenced five to death before they were spared the execution.
Khashoggi’s fiancée told The Associated Press that she will continue to speak out in hopes of giving a voice to those still imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for expressing their views.
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