Nicki Minaj cancels controversial concert in Saudi Arabia

The country is notorious for discriminating against women and the LGBTQ+ community

Nicki Minaj, photo via Facebook

    Nicki Minaj has canceled her upcoming performance at Saudi Arabia’s World Jeddah Fest. Her decision comes just days after the Human Rights Foundation publicly requested she withdraw from the event because of the country’s notorious discrimination against women and LGBTQ+ people.

    The New York-bred rapper was originally slated to perform at the World Jeddah Fest on July 18th. The concert, which also promises DJ Steve Aoki and former One Direction star Liam Payne, requires that all female attendees wear modest attire.

    The strict dress code is in line with the Saudi Arabian government’s views on women. Although policies have loosened under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — women are now, finally, allowed to drive and attend sporting events — the consistent mistreatment of women has forced many to flee the country and seek asylum status.

    (Read: 10 LGBTQ+ Musicians Currently on Tour)


    “The cases of Saudi women fleeing the country is indicative of the situation of women in Saudi Arabia,” Amnesty International’s Dana Ahmed told Foreign Policy in May. “Despite some limited reforms, women are inadequately protected against domestic violence and abuse and more generally are discriminated against in large part as a result of the male guardianship system.”

    Additionally, Saudi Arabia is thought to have one of the world’s worst records when it comes to recognizing LGBTQ+ rights. LGBTQ+ people are seen as immoral, and discrimination against the community isn’t considered illegal.

    Last week, Minaj’s scheduled performance drew the attention of the Human Rights Foundation. In a lengthy open letter to Minaj, president and founder Thor Halvorssen wrote,

    “I am writing to urgently inform you of the human rights crisis in Saudi Arabia; to explain the role that the regime of MBS has played in violating the rights of tens of millions of Saudis; and to request that, in light of your status as a global personality, you cancel your appearance as a symbol of solidarity with the ongoing suffering of the Saudi people.”

    “You recently celebrated Pride Week to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community. Yet, if you move forward with this performance, you will be condoning, and serving the public relations needs, of a government that executes homosexuals for the ‘crime’ of being who they are.


    In a statement to the Associated Press on Tuesday, Minaj said she’d decided to cancel her set “after better educating myself on the issues.” She added that her decision directly reflects her support for women and the LGBTQ community,

    “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.”

    For more on Minaj’s cancellation, head over to the Associated Press.