Calls from advocates for human rights were not enough to get Justin Bieber to exit a gig in Saudi Arabia Sunday.
Beiber took the stage at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit for a show connected to the Formula One Grand Prix race that was held there over the weekend.
He performed despite pleas from people around the globe, who saw the show as something that might help rehab the reputation of the Middle Eastern nation’s monarchy, battered by a series of more public scandals in recent years.
The public appeals to Bieber included an open letter from journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s widow Hatice Cengiz. Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was murdered by intelligence agents of the country after going into their consulate in Turkey in 2018 and never exiting the building.
“Do not sing for the murderers of my beloved Jamal,” Cengiz wrote in the Washington Post last month. “Please speak out and condemn his killer, Mohammed bin Salman. Your voice will be heard by millions. This year, you released an album that you titled ‘Justice.’ You also released one titled ‘Freedom.’ Saudi Arabia is in dire need of both.”
Bieber, however, proceeded with the show while his wife Hailey Bieber looked on, taking to her Instagram account to capture a short video of her husband performing, with the caption, “Go baby.”
“It would be disastrous for Justin Bieber, an artist with a vast global following, and who is idolized by millions, to be used as a pawn by MBS’ murderous regime,” Human Rights Foundation President Céline Assaf-Boustani said in a statement last month, as reported Sunday by the Daily Mail.
“This performance would stand in stark contrast to the core values he claims to subscribe to,” Assaf-Boustain added. “Music is not just a business, but also an influential art form that should not be purchased by a brutal dictatorship.”