K-Pop's BTS performs to Saudi fans despite backlash
The seven members of the wildly popular K-pop band were sweating it out as they danced and sang on Friday night in front of thousands of Saudis and expatriates in Riyadh's 70,000-capacity King Fahd International Stadium.
"I am very happy that they are here in Saudi Arabia for the first time," said a young girl, Amira, who wore a veil loosely over her head.
"I hope that there will more of these kinds of concerts," she told AFP.
Another young Saudi, who asked not to be named, said she was happy that her country was "opening up to pop music".
She added that she was a big fan of BTS songs and that they had "personally touched" her.
Some welcomed the group's decision to perform in Saudi Arabia, which has loosened decades-old restrictions on entertainment as part of a push to improve its image and attract tourists in a broader plan to diversify its economy away from oil.
But others criticised BTS for performing in the kingdom due to its oft-criticised human rights record and targeting of dissidents and homosexuals.
While the contentious liberalisation drive has also seen women gain some more freedoms, including being able to drive and travel more independently, the crackdown on rights campaigners and dissidents has intensified at the same time.
As Saudi Arabia boosts its entertainment offering, its record has put off some artists, including rapper Nicki Minaj, who pulled out of the Jeddah World Fest in July, citing human rights concerns.
Janet Jackson, 50 Cent and Chris Brown were among artists who did not turn down the kingdom's invitation to perform.
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