Highlights

  • Justin Bieber went ahead amid calls to cancel his performance
  • Activists have called on celebrities to boycott the kingdom
  • They say, events deflect scrutiny from Kingdom's human rights record

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Justin Bieber performs at Saudi F1 race after boycott calls

His wife, Hailey Baldwin Bieber, posted a supportive video on Instagram of him on stage, with the words: “Go Baby.”

Pop star Justin Bieber performed to a packed crowd in Jiddah in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, singing some of his biggest hits, even as human rights campaigners and activists called on Bieber to cancel his performance, to protest the kingdom’s arrests and crackdown of critics.

Bieber’s model wife, Hailey Baldwin Bieber, posted a supportive video on Instagram of him on stage, with the words: “Go Baby.”

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Other videos on social media showed Bieber on stage solo, wearing a coordinated red outfit.

Human Rights Watch and others, however, have called on celebrities to boycott the kingdom, saying such events are aimed at diverting attention and deflecting scrutiny from Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

Bieber was the biggest name performer to take the stage as part of Saudi Arabia’s Grand Prix, which saw Lewis Hamilton win ahead of the last race of the Formula One season.

The Canadian pop star has not commented on the public pressure surrounding his performance and calls for him to cancel the show.

Weeks before his show in Saudi Arabia, the fiancée of slain Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi joined a chorus of voices urging him not to perform at the kingdom’s F1 race.

In an open letter published by The Washington Post, Hatice Cengiz had urged the megastar to cancel his performance to “send a powerful message to the world that your name and talent will not be used to restore the reputation of a regime that kills its critics.” She noted that the decision to host the F1 race and invite a star like Bieber “comes directly” from the crown prince.

But like other stars, such as Mariah Carey in 2019, Bieber performed anyway to excited fans. It’s unclear how much celebrities have been paid for their appearances in the kingdom. Saudi youth are the main attendees of these concerts, enjoying the country’s newfound social changes.

Bieber’s concert in Saudi Arabia comes shortly before he opens a world tour next year. The tour is being promoted by Live Nation, the company that owns Ticketmaster. Saudi Arabia’s state-owned sovereign wealth fund — steered by Prince Mohammed — is among the largest institutional holders in Live Nation, with a stake worth some $1.4 billion.

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