The announcement that the event's performances have been confirmed was made by Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, who was overjoyed to deliver the news.
He said, “Those stars have a massive talent and influence in the music world. We look forward to seeing them perform during the live concerts on the major stage next December and transporting all the cheerfulness and excitement from the racetrack to the stage after a day of racing competition. We also want to provide the fans with an unforgettable entertainment experience and a unique opportunity to celebrate the arrival of the F1 competition to Saudi Arabia. I invite everybody to book their race tickets early to guarantee that they enjoy themselves during the Kingdom’s biggest entertainment event ever and see the world’s most prominent stars (light up) Jeddah.”
But now, The Human Rights Foundation's chairman and CEO have called on Justin Bieber to cancel his upcoming performance in Saudi Arabia "as a gesture of solidarity with the Saudi people's continuous suffering." The Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021, at a new street track in Jeddah near the Red Sea coast, was slated to take place. The Human Rights Foundation wrote to Justin Bieber's representative, the nonprofit's chairman, Garry Kasparov, and CEO, Thor Halvorssen, on November 2, 2021, to express their displeasure with the "Stay" singer's reported performance at the Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021.
The letter said, "We are writing to urgently inform you of the human rights crisis in Saudi Arabia; to explain the role that the regime of MBS [Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] has played in violating the rights of tens of millions of Saudis; to ask that you consider the unfortunate implications of your engagement with the brutal dictatorship of MBS; and to respectfully request that, in light of your status as a global personality, you take this opportunity to positively influence human rights policy in Saudi Arabia by canceling your appearance, as a symbol of solidarity with the ongoing suffering of the Saudi people".
Former chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov has also accused Justin Bieber of becoming a 'pawn' of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman if he plays in the country. HRF officials, among other things, criticize the current regime's treatment of dissidents and members of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as its record on individual rights, media restrictions, and the imprisonment of women's rights advocates. They point out that Saudi Arabia was ranked 170th out of 180 nations in Reporters Without Borders' World Press Freedom Index for 2021.
Saudi Arabia has tormented women with electric shocks, whipping, and rape under MBS for fighting for equal rights, such as driving a car and attending school, according to Justin Bieber's letter, which was co-signed by HRF CEO Thor Halvorssen.
The letter argues that the Saudi monarchy is now leveraging entertainment and sports businesses to divert attention from power abuses and that Justin Bieber's declarations in support of numerous social-justice issues conflict with the planned performance. "The Saudi administration is prepared to pay enormous sums to worldwide celebrities to give the Kingdom a veneer of legitimacy", the authors continue, "as long as the Kingdom's human rights crimes are never addressed."
After receiving backlash from numerous rights organizations, including HRF, Nicki Minaj canceled a planned performance at the country's Jeddah World Fest in 2019. Nicki Minaj stated in a statement at the time, "I believe it is vital for me to make explicit my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, and freedom of speech after properly educating myself on the topics”. BTS, a South Korean boy band, was similarly criticized in 2019 for a planned concert in Riyadh, but they stayed firm in their decision.
A$AP Rocky, Jason Derulo, Tiesto, and David Guetta will also perform at the Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in 2021, and letters similar to Justin Bieber's have been issued to the other artists, as well as Egyptian singer Mohamed Hamaki, regarding performing at the event.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Marvel Cinematic's recently released, "Eternals", will not be distributed theatrically in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or Qatar due to local censorship restrictions that the company refused to comply with. The edit demands may have been related to the film's portrayal of a same-gender couple and the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first homosexual superhero, according to sources.
Human rights organizations have traditionally targeted American entertainers appearing in Saudi Arabia. In 2018, World Wrestling Entertainment was chastised for scheduling a show in the country just weeks after Saudi Arabian journalist and dissident Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi was killed. The most recent Crown Jewel event took place less than a month ago.