Liam Payne is scheduled to perform at the Jeddah World Fest in Saudi Arabia next week but a human rights foundation is calling on him to follow in the footsteps of Nicki Minaj and cancel.
“The Jeddah World Fest is funded and authorized by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), one of the world’s worst human rights violators,” the statement reads. “The Human Rights Foundation is urging Payne to cancel his July 18 performance and use his global influence and platform in solidarity with the Saudi women’s rights activists who are currently in prison.”
As the statement points out, the One Direction singer is “an outspoken supporter of women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights,” but “will be performing for a regime where homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment or death. In April of this year, five men were beheaded by the Saudi government after enduring months of torture and admitting to sexual relations with other men.”
In addition, the group sent Payne a letter urging him to reconsider performing in Saudi Arabia.
“For decades the Saudi government has harassed, arrested, and sentenced dissidents violating their freedom of expression, opinion and assembly,” the letter reads. “Not only does the Kingdom hold a seat at the United Nations Human Rights Council, Saudi Arabia was recently appointed to lead an influential panel that ‘selects top officials who shape international human rights standards and report on violations worldwide.’ Still, the Kingdom regularly engages in the systematic repression of activists and human rights defenders, often leading to numerous years of imprisonment, without trial, and the use of repressive measures against them.”
After listing specific instances of horrific human rights abuse, the letter adds: “If you move forward with this performance for a festival sponsored by the Crown Prince, you will be in league with the people who respond to freedom of expression and thought with murder.”
In its statement, HRF president Thor Halvorssen praises Minaj for pulling out of the festival, while calling out Payne.
“Nicki Minaj demonstrates what leadership looks like,” said Halvorssen. “Human rights advocates should be grateful for her inspiring and thoughtful decision to reject the Saudi regime’s transparent attempt to use her for a public relations stunt and for standing up for LGBTQ+ and women’s rights. It is surprising that Liam Payne, who so frequently has positioned himself as an ally for oppressed people and sexual minorities, has remained silent despite the public outcry. We hope he and his managers choose morals over money.”
Minaj announced her decision in a statement to The Associated Press. “After careful reflection I have decided to no longer move forward with my scheduled concert at Jeddah World Fest. 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.”
Payne has yet to respond to the HRF’s request.