Nicki Minaj Cancels Gig in Saudi Arabia After Backlash

Well, the verdict is in and Nicki Minaj just canceled her appearance at Jeddah World Fest in Saudi Arabia. Ever since it was announced on July 2 that she would be headlining the event, she’s faced backlash.

Although her fans in the Middle East were looking forward to seeing her performance, Minaj was bombarded with complaints from human rights groups and others. The star finally caved to the pressure.

Nicki Minaj
Nicki Minaj 2019 Met Gala | Getty Images/Karwai Tang

What led up to the decision

After the initial announcement was made about Minaj being the main act at music festival, people in Saudi Arabia were divided about whether or not she should come. One woman challenged the government about its stance on how women are to conduct themselves and how that’s a contradiction to what people see at Minaj’s stage shows.

“She’s going to go and shake her ass and all her songs are indecent and about sex and shaking ass and then you tell me to wear the abaya. What the hell?”

While some felt the artist should be subject to the same restrictions as the women in Saudi Arabia, many, including human rights activists, felt Minaj was sending the wrong message by performing there in the first place. They called on Minaj to recognize the human rights violations attached to the regime of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Human Rights Foundation was the most vocal group, and earlier this week they published an open letter to Minaj asking her to remove herself from the show. Citing Saudi Arabia’s track record on its treatment of women and homosexual citizens, HRF issued a challenge to the rapper that implored her to check her moral compass as someone who supports feminism and gay rights.

The New York Times noted that under the regime, homosexuality is punishable by death, and women require consent from their husbands, fathers, or other male relative to go to school and to make decisions. Just last year, the government lifted a longtime ban on women driving. However, female activists who were imprisoned before the change are still incarcerated. The government has largely ignored pleas for their release.

Additionally, questions still remain about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was outspoken against the regime. It is largely believed that Khashoggi’s death was part of a wider campaign to silence those who disagree with the Crown Prince. All these examples were cited in a request for Minaj to cancel.

Minaj formally cancels

Vulture reported that Minaj issued a statement through her record label to cancel the appearance.

“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.”

After news broke that she’d be withdrawing from the show, Minj posted message on her Instagram account to Saudi fans about the decision.

Jeddah World Fest organizers simply posted a message on Instagram letting concertgoers know that Minaj canceled and that refunds were being offered. It stated that she pulled out “for personal reasons.”

While some fans are disappointed that they won’t get to see Minaj perform in their country, festival promoters promise that a second line of acts are being lined up for the event. Since the Saudi Arabian government has slowly been trying to open the country up to tourism, perhaps this incident will lead to changes in the future.