Activists urge Nicki Minaj to refuse 'Saudi regime money'
Minaj, known for her profanity-laced lyrics and raunchy music videos, is expected to perform in the western city of Jeddah on July 18.
The performance in the kingdom, which forbids alcohol and has a strict social code, comes as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) pursues a liberalisation drive that has led to new cinemas, concerts and sporting extravaganzas.
The reform push, however, has been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, including the arrests of women's rights activists, clerics and intellectuals.
In its letter, the Human Rights Foundation has accused Minaj of collaborating with a regime that "violates the rights of 10s of millions of Saudis".
"(MbS) is the individual who authorized and is financing your seven-figure performance at the event," the HRF's CEO and president Thor Halvorssen said, urging Minaj to cancel her appearance "as a symbol of solidarity with the ongoing suffering of the Saudi people".
"If you move forward with this performance for a festival sponsored by the Crown Prince, you will be in league with the people who respond to freedom of expression and thought with murder."
The letter also points out that any women attending Minaj’s concert will need to have obtained permission from a man and be accompanied, referring to the kingdom's mahram ("guardianship") system, which gives men the final say over whether a woman can marry, travel or get a passport.
"It would be disastrous for a public figure of your standing who has articulated a commitment to education, women's rights, and social justice," Halvorssen said.
Saudi Arabia is boosting entertainment that allows citizens to have fun, in what some see as an attempt to blunt public frustration over an economic downturn and high youth unemployment.
The kingdom's General Entertainment Authority said it plans to pump $64 billion into the sector in the coming decade.
But such acts have fuelled controversy in a kingdom still steeped in conservatism.
The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October has also tarnished the country's image and scared off some potential investors.
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