Activists are calling on Mariah Carey to cancel her upcoming performance in Saudi Arabia over the Kingdom’s alleged human rights abuses and jailing of women’s rights advocates.
Carey is scheduled to take the stage in her first concert in Saudi Arabia on January 31 in a lineup that also features DJ Tiesto and Sean Paul.
Some are heralding the event as another milestone in Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s liberalization agenda, which has included loosening restrictions on the entertainment industry. Carey would be the highest profile, Western female singer to perform in the Kingdom, according to Bloomberg.
But others see the performance as further indication of a troubling paradox undergirding the prince’s reforms. Even as the self-styled modernizer invites famous westerners like Carey to headline shows, his government continues to detain women’s rights activists who had campaigned for the right to drive, and perpetuates a male guardianship system that treats women as legal dependents.
Women’s activist group CodePink called on Carey not to “artwash” Riyadh, and urged her and the other performers to cancel the show. “Doesn’t she know Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive and murderous regimes on the planet?” the group said in a statement launching its petition to call off the concert.
On Twitter, several commentators also tried to draw Carey’s attention to the Kingdom’s treatment of women.
“Dear @MariahCarey, I hear you’re planning on performing in #Saudi Arabia,” wrote Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy. “Are you aware that women’s rights activists have been detained without charge since May 2018?”
Dear @MariahCarey, I hear you’re planning on performing in #Saudi Arabia: are you aware that women’s rights activists have been detained without charge since May 2018 & tortured at the orders of Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman? https://t.co/NqbRBlYpR4
— Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) January 26, 2019
The scheduled performance comes in the wake of a Saudi teenager’s highly mediatized and ultimately successful quest for asylum earlier this month. Eighteen-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun’s plight cast a spotlight on the guardianship system, which Human Rights Watch has called the most “significant impediment to realizing women’s rights in the country.”
The event also follows international backlash over the regime’s killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last October. His editor at the Post, Karen Attiah, also tweeted at Carey, DJ Tiesto and Paul.
Performing at the behest of the Saudi regime that kills and dismembers US-based journalists like #khashoggi, targets others abroad, and imprisons and tortures beautiful souls like @LoujainHathloul? pic.twitter.com/B2O44erSIf
— Karen Attiah (@KarenAttiah) January 27, 2019
Others called for Carey to skip the performance and join an artists’ boycott of the Kingdom.
Remember, thanks to my sister @LoujainHathloul, you r able to perform in Saudi Arabia.
I wish she can attend your concert. But she’s locked behind bars because she tried to improve women's condition.
Don' forget to thank her on stagehttps://t.co/0Pf7bfz3yB
— علياء الهذلولAlia al-Hathloul (@alia_ww) January 25, 2019
Does @MariahCarey know that #Saudi imprisons & tortures activists? Does she know know that Saudi uses entertainment 2 showcase fake reforms & 2 distract from their countless human rights abuses. Help us urge MC 2 reconsider performing in Saudi. #BoycottSaudi & sign the petition:
— Ms Saffaa (@MsSaffaa) January 28, 2019
Carey’s press team did not immediately return a request for comment. As of Monday, Thursday’s concert appeared to be proceeding as scheduled.