Mariah Carey performs in Saudi Arabia despite calls for boycott over human rights concerns
Mariah Carey has performed a headline show in Saudi Arabia – despite activists’ concerns over human rights abuses in the kingdom.
The US singer behind hits like Honey and Fantasy performed in a sequinned black dress in front of screaming crowds at the King Abdullah Economic City
DJ Tiesto and dancehall artist Sean Paul are also among those set to perform at the multi-billion dollar mega-city, about two hours drive north of Mecca.
Carey is the first international female artist to perform in Saudi Arabia since restrictions were lifted on gender segregation and entertainment last year.
In December, Enrique Iglesias, The Black Eyed Peas and David Guetta also played at shows in the kingdom following high-profile liberalising reforms by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
But the decision to perform in Saudi Arabia has been criticised by rights advocates who point to the imprisonment of women’s rights activists, the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the ongoing war in Yemen as evidence that the regime is not serious about human rights.
Many argue that flashy concerts are an attempt by the regime to polish its international image while it continues and even expands oppression at home.
Groups including Amnesty International criticised Carey’s decision to perform, arguing that “Mariah should use her voice” to call for the immediate release of female rights activists in prison.
Walid Al Hathloul, whose sister Loujain is imprisoned in Saudi after campaigning for women’s rights and against male guardianship, urged Carey to call for her release on stage.
“This concert is a pathetic attempt to show that the country is becoming more tolerant toward women,” he wrote. “All I want is justice for my sister.”
Omaima A-Najjar, a political refugee from Saudi, also branded the concerts a distraction from the war in Yemen and repressive laws at home.
She has backed a petition calling on Carey to boycott the country, saying taking such a stand would not impact ordinary Saudis as tickets which start at $80 (£61) are unlikely to be affordable for most.
Carey’s publicist said the singer was “presented with the offer to perform for an international and mixed gender audience in Saudi Arabia” and “accepted the opportunity as a positive step towards the dissolution of gender segregation”.
“As the first female international artist to perform in Saudi Arabia, Mariah recognises the cultural significance of this event and will continue to support global efforts towards equality for all,” Carey’s publicist said. – news.sky.com