Justin Bieber just announced he will be performing at the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia on December 5th. He will be joined by David Guetta, A$AP Rocky, and Jason Derulo. Big name artists traveling to places like Saudi Arabia help the Saudi government distract from its constant human rights abuses. While Justin and other artists perform on the stages in Jeddah, prisoners of conscience will be languishing in prisons just miles away. Tell these artists to boycott the event!
Dear Justin Bieber, Jason Derulo, David Guetta, and A$AP Rocky,
We, the undersigned, ask that you boycott the upcoming performances happening at the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia on December 4th and 5th. Big name performers like yourselves are used by the government of Saudi Arabia to distract the world from the leader's human rights violations inside and outside the country. If you choose to boycott, you would not be the first celebrity to do so. Nicki Minaj has refused to perform in Saudi Arabia based on her human rights concerns. We have outlined our main concerns for you here:
1. Women’s Rights: Saudi leaders have imprisoned women’s rights activists for calling for the same reforms the kingdom and MBS so publicly tout as public advancements in support of women’s rights. For example, Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain AlHathloul was imprisoned in Saudi Arabia since May 2018 in retribution for her campaigning (successfully) for women to secure the right to drive in the Kingdom. Following her arrest, Loujain endured waterboarding, electroshock, beatings, sexual assault, and more. Loujain was released in early 2021 but remains on a strict travel ban where she cannot leave the Kingdom.
2. Labor Rights: Yours, and Formula 1 driver’s comfortable stay in Saudi Arabia will not be possible without the countless foreign laborers who are exploited in the Kingdom. An estimated 6.6m foreign workers made up about 20 percent of the Kingdom’s population. Migrant workers are exploited under a system known as “Kafala”. Kafala endows employers with control over migrant workers’ legal status in the country. Under the current system, many migrant workers, including domestic workers who are primarily women, are trapped with abusive employers, and can face arrest, deportation and bans if they leave their employers without their consent. The kafala system also traps foreign women inside the country under the control of their husbands. In August of 2020, the story broke about Saudi Arabia’s treatment of African migrant workers. Images were leaked of African, largely Ethiopian migrants, being kept in horrible conditions. The government sent the workers to camps where they were put in rooms packed with other workers, were physically abused, and starved. Many were affected by heatstroke because the rooms were not kept cool during the hot summer in southern Saudi Arabia.
3. Prisoners of Conscience: While you will be in Saudi Arabia, just miles away there are dozens of Saudi activists languishing in prison for disagreeing with the government. The Saudi oligarchs regularly arrest and detain people with differing religious or political opinions. For example, Salman Alodah, is a 63-year-old reformist scholar of Islamic law in Saudi Arabia and he’s been held in solitary confinement since he was arrested in 2017. He was arrested for a Tweet where he called for peace between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The Saudi attorney general is seeking the death penalty for Alodah. His health continues to deteriorate in prison.
The Saudi authorities continue to target human rights defenders, including Internet activists, with arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, and long sentences after show trials before the Specialized Criminal Court that lacked minimum international standards for fair trial and due process. One notable example is the recent sentencing of Internet activist Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan to twenty years in prison for his peaceful activism on Twitter in addition to twenty years of travel ban after the completion of his sentence.
4. The War on Yemen: The leaders of Saudi Arabia are also waging a brutal war on Yemen that is starving almost twenty million people in the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet. In 2015, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia started bombing Yemen. The Saudi military then imposed a land, air, and sea blockade on the country, leaving Yemen to starve. A report released by Save the Children in 2018 estimated that about 85,o00 children died of starvation in Yemen. Because of the blockade and war, Yemen is dealing with one of the highest COVID death rates in the world. In February of 2021, UN agencies released a report saying that 400,000 children under the age of five in Yemen could starve to death by the end of the year.
We hope you take these concerns to heart and change your mind about performing in Saudi Arabia at the end of this year. Plenty of other artists have made the brave decision to do so.