MUSICWASHING: Justin Bieber faces backlash for performing in Saudi Arabia
Justin Bieber performed at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, December 5, amid controversy over his attendance that was against the kingdom's human rights practices. The 27-year-old Canadian pop sensation wore a red jersey and athletic leggings onstage for his performance in connection with the Formula One Grand Prix, singing a set that included the songs 'Deserve You', 'Somebody', and 'Hold On'.
His 25-year-old wife, Hailey Baldwin, posted a photo from the event on Instagram with the caption, 'Go baby,' in support of her husband, who had received several calls to withdraw from the event.
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A$AP Rocky, Jason Derulo, David Guetta, and Tiesto were among the performers set to perform at the F1 concert. Beiber's decision to carry on the event despite the active campaigns to scrap the show was upsetting to many. Hatice Cengiz, the fiancée of late Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi, who was slain by Saudi agents in Istanbul, Turkey, was among those who urged the 'Peaches' singer to cancel.
In a November column for The Washington Post, Cengiz wrote that canceling the concert would provide him "a unique opportunity 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."
"Nothing significant happens in Saudi Arabia without his agreement, especially not an event as important and flashy as this," she claimed. "Your face is even featured on the event's website with his - the executioner of my fiancé, Jamal." "If you refuse to be a pawn of MBS, your message will be loud and clear: I do not perform for dictators," Cengiz said in the letter to Bieber. "I would rather have justice and freedom than money."
Last month, Human Rights Foundation President Céline Assaf-Boustani said in a statement, "It would be awful for Justin Bieber, an artist with a wide global following and who is admired by millions, to be exploited as a pawn by MBS' murderous regime."
Assaf-Boustani stated that Bieber, "as someone who has articulated a commitment to civil rights and social justice... should stay true to his words and use his platform to raise awareness about the atrocities being perpetrated every day in Saudi Arabia, especially against members of the LGBTQ+ community,"
"This performance would be diametrically opposed to the underlying ideas he purports to hold. Music is more than simply a business; it is also a powerful art form that should not be bought by a harsh regime," she remarked.