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Nicki Minaj cancels Saudi Arabia concert after complaints from human rights groups

"There is no good reason for Minaj to do business with the Saudi dictatorship,” the Human Rights Foundation's president said.
Image: Nicki Minaj
Nicki Minaj performs onstage at the 2018 BET Awards at Microsoft Theater on June 24, 2018, in Los Angeles.Leon Bennett / Getty Images file

Rapper Nicki Minaj said Tuesday she is pulling out of a concert in Saudi Arabia to show support for women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and freedom of expression.

“After careful reflection, I have decided to no longer move forward with my scheduled concert at Jeddah World Fest," Minaj said in a statement to NBC News. "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."

Minaj was due to headline the July 18 festival, billed as “one of the biggest music events ever staged in the Middle East.” The event will take place at the King Abdullah Sports Stadium in Jeddah, with other scheduled performers including former One Direction member Liam Payne and Steve Aoki.

The Human Rights Foundation in a letter last week called on Minaj to cancel her performance. The advocacy group cited Saudi Arabia's imprisonment and execution of homosexuals, oppression of women and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“There is no good reason for Minaj to do business with the Saudi dictatorship,” Thor Halvorssen, the president of the Human Rights Foundation, said in an online statement.

"If she proceeds with the show, she will be whitewashing the vast array of human rights crimes" committed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, he added.

On Tuesday, the New York-based organization praised Minaj’s decision to not perform at the concert.

“We are grateful to Nicki Minaj for her inspiring and thoughtful decision to reject the Saudi regime’s transparent attempt at using her for a public relations stunt,” the foundation president said. “The July 18 festival in Saudi Arabia still shows Liam Payne as a performer. We hope that he follows Nicki Minaj’s lead.

"Minaj’s moral stance differs from celebrity performers like J-Lo and Mariah Carey who in the past have chosen to line their pockets with millions of dollars and stand with dictatorial governments as opposed to with oppressed communities and imprisoned human rights activists,” the statement said.

Organizers of Jeddah World Fest did not immediately return a request for comment.

A post on the event's Instagram page Tuesday afternoon said Minaj had canceled "due to personal reasons."