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Justin Bieber ignores Human Rights Watch calls to boycott Saudi Arabia

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) – Pop star Justin Bieber performed before a large crowd in the Red Sea town of Jiddah in Saudi Arabia, singing some of his most popular hits. Sunday night’s concert came even as activists and human rights activists called on Bieber to cancel his performance in protest against the kingdom’s arrests and crackdown on critics.

Bieber’s model wife Hailey Baldwin Bieber posted a supportive Instagram video of him on stage, with the words: “Go Baby.” Other videos on social media showed Bieber on stage solo, wearing a coordinating red outfit. Pop and R&B singer Jason Derulo performed for Bieber with back-up dancers in sweatpants and baggy tops.

Just a few years ago, this would have been an unthinkable scene in Saudi Arabia, where ultra-conservative standards prevailed. Concerts were banned and single men and women were kept separate in public spaces. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is driving these sweeping changes as he strives to modernize society, attract foreign investment and create jobs for young people.

Human Rights Watch and others, however, have called on celebrities to boycott the kingdom, saying such events are intended to distract and distract from Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

Bieber was the greatest performer to take the stage in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, which saw Lewis Hamilton win ahead of the final race of the Formula 1 season.

The Canadian pop star has not commented on public pressure surrounding her performance and asks her to cancel the show. Weeks before his performance in Saudi Arabia, the fiancee of assassinated Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi joined a chorus of voices urging him not to participate in the kingdom’s F1 race.

In an open letter published by the Washington Post, Hatice Cengiz had urged the megastar to cancel her performance to “send a powerful message to the world that your name and your talent will not be used to restore the reputation of a regime that kills its detractors. . She noted that the decision to host the F1 race and invite a star like Bieber ‘comes straight’ from the crown prince.

But like other stars, such as Mariah Carey in 2019, Bieber still performed in front of enthusiastic fans. It is not known how much the celebrities were paid for their appearances in the kingdom. The young Saudis are the main participants in these concerts, taking advantage of the new social changes in the country.

Prince Mohammed attended the F1 race and social media showed him taking selfies with young Saudis lining up to meet the powerful heir to the throne. The F1 race marked the first time the kingdom has hosted the premier sporting event, although it has hosted the lesser-known Formula-E race and other sporting events in recent years in an effort to raise the profile of the country as a tourist destination.

At the time of Khashoggi’s murder in late 2018, the crown prince was praised for transforming the lives of many inside the country. Khashoggi, meanwhile, wrote articles for the Washington Post drawing attention to the prince’s brash foreign policy moves and the simultaneous crackdown on activists and perceived critics, including women’s rights activists, writers. , religious and economists.

Khashoggi was killed by a team of Saudi agents who worked for the crown prince during a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain papers to marry his Turkish fiancee.

A U.S. intelligence assessment released under President Joe Biden determined the crown prince had approved the operation. Prince Mohammed said he had no prior knowledge of the operation.

Bieber’s concert in Saudi Arabia comes shortly before he opens a world tour next year. The tour is promoted by Live Nation, the company that owns Ticketmaster. The Saudi state sovereign wealth fund – headed by Prince Mohammed – is among Live Nation’s largest institutional holders, with a stake worth around $ 1.4 billion.


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