July 12, 2019 Print

Editorial credit: JStone / Shutterstock.com​

Saudi Arabia has been under constant fire for a brutal series of human rights violations that have taken place at the hands of Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, known internationally as MBS. Just last May, ten women were imprisoned for peacefully protesting women’s rights abuses, outspoken activists face lengthy prison sentences and torture for exercising freedom of expression, women and girls are legally not allowed to make decisions without a male guardian, and same-sex couples have been banned, causing relentless hate crimes against the LGBTQ community. Now celebrities are taking their stand against MBS and the cruel treatment he has inflicted on others. 

Popular hip-hop sensation Nicki Minaj was scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia to headline at the Jeddah World Festival on July 18, but canceled after New York-based Human Rights Foundation (HRF)—an Atlas Network partner—opened up a line of communication with her team about what her non-attendance could mean. HRF not only sent a public letter to Minaj, but also to other Jeddah World Fest headliners to cancel their appearances and make a public statement about human rights in Saudi Arabia. After receiving the HRF letter, Minaj released a statement expressing her strong support for LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, and freedom of expression. 

"Celebrities have significant power to support the cause of freedom and liberty around the world, but they rarely ever make statements or take action for fear of being too political,” says Alex Gladstein, Chief Strategy Officer at Human Rights Foundation. HRF also flooded the media with stories about the festival in dozens of media outlets, making it impossible for anyone to ignore the regimes attempt to veil its poor treatment of basic human rights and freedom of expression. 

“In this environment, it's refreshing and inspiring to see a public figure as famous as Nicki Minaj make a clear statement of support for freedom in Saudi Arabia and also take action by canceling her participation in a regime-sponsored concert,” continues Gladstein. “We look forward to more celebrities using their influence to make a difference!"

The Human Rights Foundation’s victory has been covered by a plethora of well-known news outlets including The New York Times, TIME, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, Bloomberg, CNN, Fox News, The New York Post, and many more.