Posts Tagged ‘star power’

Celebrities Who Risked Their Careers For Human Rights: You Always Have A Choice

February 8, 2021

Smrutisnat Jena, writing in scoopwhoop.com of 7 February 2021, lists 10 celebrities from different walks of life who risked their careers for things they believe in. Beginning with a post in 2014 [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/02/28/and-the-nominees-are-oscars-for-human-rights/] I have regularly referred to the use and abuse of star power (see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/celebrities/), and the article below is a welcome addition be it that such a list always remains a bit arbitrary and in this case very US-centered.  Where they are known to have received recognition through a human rights award this indicated with a link to the Digest.

1. Nina Simone

This African American musician was also a civil rights activist. With her unique voice and powerful music, she would often talk about the injustice and discrimination that black people had to face in the United States. And more often than not, radio stations, at the time, would simply refuse to have her on or play her songs. 

Source: Phillymag

2. Harry Belafonte

Another musician, Belafonte had his boyish charm and powerful voice do the work for him. But he was also a civil rights activist and a friend of Martin Luther King Jr. Due to this, the white American media ostracised him, labelled him a communist during the age of the McCarthism Witch Hunt. See also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/2083D5D5-2B65-456E-8BB0-9CEFEE7B3EC0

Source: Essense

3. Colin Kaepernick

The former NFL quarterback is famous for taking a knee during the national anthem to protest against police brutality and the judicial murders of people of colour. As a result of this, not only was he demonised by ‘patriots’, who believed that he had insulted the American troops, but Kaepernick also lost his spot in the team and has been a free agent ever since. See also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/c871b795-61a3-40e8-8635-37aeb02bc205

Source: Sky Sports

4. Sir Don Bradman

During his years as a cricket administrator, Sir Don Bradman met with South African President, John Vorster during the height of apartheid. Vorster was of the opinion that black people or people of colour were inferior and thus would be a curse on the game of cricket. Bradman then reportedly asked him if he knew who Sir Gary Sobers was. He came back to Australia and said ‘We will not play them until they choose a team on a non-racist basis’. Following this he cancelled Australia’s tour of South Africa.

Source: Sportsadda

5. Muhammed Ali

The greatest boxer of all time was also one of the fiercest defenders of human rights on the planet. When his name was drafted during the illegal war in Vietnam, Ali promptly refused to go. This not only cost him heavyweight title belt but the man also had to spend his prime years in jail. He had very famously said: My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America… And shoot them for what? They never called me n*****, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father…Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail. See also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/76C5F0C9-D414-3DC0-BB0C-AFBD1EEDBD6A

Source: Respectability

6. Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman

During the medal ceremony in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, two African American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, each raised a black-gloved fist during the national anthem. They were also wearing black socks at the time to raise awareness about black poverty. The duo also had other symbols on them protesting the lynchings and murders of black people in America. 

Australian Peter Norman, who had been a staunch critic of the White Australia Policy, also participated in the protest. The three would never participate in the Olympics again and would be ostracised by their countries’ media for years to come. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/10/22/peter-norman-the-missing-third-man-that-famous-picture/]

Source: The Independent

7. Shabana Azmi

Following the murder of the communist playwright and director Safdar Hashmi, actor Shabana Azmi started protesting against the INC government. Addressing the crowd at the 12th International Film Festival of India in 1989, Azmi said: We filmmakers and film lovers wish to register out protest against the system that, on one hand, claims to promote creativity and on the other connive in the murder of a cultural activist.

8. John Boyega

Following the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers, many celebrities stage rose in support of protests against police brutality. One of these celebrities was Star Wars actor John Boyega. Boyega, who was once advertised as a key selling point in the Star Wars franchise, had been gradually losing screen time as the series progressed. Many believed internalised racism was a cause of it. The actor was on the streets on the day of the protests and addressed the crowd: We have always been important. We have always meant something. We have always succeeded regardless. And now is the time. I ain’t waiting…We are a physical representation of our support for George Floyd. We are a physical representation of our support for Sandra Bland. We are a physical representation of our support for Trayvon Martin. We are a physical representation of our support for Stephen Lawrence… I don’t know if I’m going to have a career after this, but fuck that.

Source: John Boyega

9. Aretha Franklin

Franklin was known as the Queen of Soul. In fact, when she passed away, people referred to her as the best America ever had. However, when she was alive, she was a huge supporter of Angela Davis. Davis was and still is quite vocal about black rights, human rights, which at that time was frowned upon in the USA. So Franklin’s white audience wasn’t too please about her association with someone like Davis. 

Source: Hollywood Reporter

10. Paul Newman

Newman was a  famous Hollywood actor and director with awards like the Oscars and BAFTAs associated with his name. He was also one of the more consistent activists during the civil rights movement in the USA. He even marched with Martin Luther King in 1963, along with his colleagues that involved celebrities of the stature of Marlon Brando and Bob Dylan. 

Source: Medium

https://www.scoopwhoop.com/entertainment/celebrities-who-risked-their-careers-for-human-rights/

Pressure works: Egypt releases human rights defenders

December 4, 2020

Many media (here Sudarsan Raghavan for the Washington Post on 3 December 2020) have reported the good news that three Egyptian human rights defenders were released from detention Thursday after a wave of international condemnation against the Arab nation’s authoritarian government that included UN and Hollywood celebrities.

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/09/25/rafto-prize-for-2020-goes-to-the-egyptian-commission-for-rights-and-freedoms-ecrf/

The trio — Gasser Abdel-Razek, Karim Ennarah and Mohamed Basheer — work for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, one of the few remaining rights groups in Egypt, where President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi has waged a massive crackdown on opponents and activists alike.

“They are fine, they are in good spirits,” said Ragya Omran, their lawyer, Thursday night.

 The three men were arrested last month after they met with 13 Western diplomats to discuss ways to improve human rights conditions in Egypt. A few days after the meeting, they were rounded up by Egyptian security forces over a week-long period and charged with “joining a terrorist organization” and “using social media accounts to spread false information.” [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/11/18/in-reprisal-for-talking-to-diplomats-egypt-arrests-human-rights-defender-mohamed-basheern/]

“It was a very quick and clean release, which is unprecedented,” Omran said. “There was a lot of international pressure. … It worked.”

Few arrests have sparked the global outrage that followed the detention of the EIPR employees. The United Nations, France and other governments publicly denounced the arrests. Antony Blinken, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, declared in a tweet that “meeting with foreign diplomats is not a crime. Nor is peacefully advocating for human rights.”

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/11/29/2020-award-of-european-bars-associations-ccbe-goes-to-seven-egyptian-lawyers-who-are-in-prison/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/09/un-expresses-deep-concern-over-egypt-using-special-terror-courts-to-silence-human-rights-defenders/

On social media, a petition campaign with the hashtags #FreeEIPRstaff and #FreeKarimEnnarah went viral, spearheaded by Ennarah’s British wife, Jess Kelly. It prompted Hollywood celebrities such as Scarlett Johansson and Emma Thompson to post videos of themselves on YouTube urging the release of the EIPR staffers. In Egypt, EIPR remained vocal and defiant.

On Thursday night, after the three men took cabs from the prison to their homes, one of the group’s leaders publicly noted that the global outcry played a significant role in convincing the regime to release his colleagues.

I can confirm my friends and EIPR colleague, Gasser, Basheer and Karim have been released and are home which I guess means we (and you) managed to #FreeEIPRstaff,tweeted Hossam Bahgat, the organization’s founder.

Bahgat, despite being under a travel ban and asset freeze imposed by the Sissi government, returned to take the helm last month after Abdel-Razek, its executive director, was taken into custody. Placed in a cold cell, he was initially denied warm clothing and a mattress, among other ill treatment, said Amnesty International.

On 18 December the EU started to look again at its relation: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20201218-european-parliament-calls-for-review-in-relations-with-egypt/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/egypt-human-rights-campaign-international–outcry/2020/12/03/bda49858-3599-11eb-9699-00d311f13d2d_story.html

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/egypt-civil-rights-scarlett-johansson-eipr-leaders-release-free-karim-ennarah/

Belarus elections : will Tyga front for dictator Lukashenko?

August 7, 2020

The New-York-based Human Rights Foundation has a track record when it comes to pressurising celebrities for endorsing human rights violators [e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/18/will-janet-jackson-50-cent-and-tyga-perform-tomorrow-in-jeddah-and-what-will-they-say/]. This time it urges hip-hop artist Tyga to cancela his peformance at a government-sponsored concert in Belarus on August 8.

In 6 August, 2020 HRF’s President sent a letter to the American hip hop artist Tyga pointing  out that his performance is part of a plan to distract from the electoral fraud in the imminent election and prevent protesters from gathering at opposition rallies. The concert is organized and funded by the Belarusian dictatorship, led by Alexander Lukashenko. Under this regime, there is no freedom of speech, no freedom of assembly, and no freedom of association.

This performance, scheduled for the day before Belarus’ elections, is no coincidence. It is an excuse to cancel the opposition’s final electoral rally, and prevent ordinary Belarusians from showing their support for freedom and democracy,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen. “It is also a deliberate attempt to turn attention away from the massive electoral fraud that is already taking place across the country.” Belarus’ elections, which haven’t been free or fair since 1994, have been met with extreme repression. As HRF recounted in its letter to the performer: “Protestors are grabbed off the street at random, and many are beaten bloody. The two most popular candidates in the upcoming presidential election, Viktor Babryka and Sergei Tikhanouvsky, were both arrested on trumped up charges. Many opposition activists have had to flee the country, along with their children, after receiving threats from the government.” “Tyga has been an outspoken advocate of the Black Lives Matter movement. He has urged followers to vote in local elections and take to the streets in protest. His support for Lukashenko’s regime will greatly undermine the activism he has encouraged in the United States, and provide the Belarusian dictator a useful propaganda stunt,” said Halvorssen. “We hope he will stand on the side of the people of Belarus as opposed to their oppressor. He must decline the invitation to perform for the dictator.” HRF requested that Tyga cancel his concert and use this media opportunity to send an urgent and categorical message of encouraging support to protestors in Belarus.

Latest: https://belsat.eu/en/news/head-of-presidential-candidate-cherachan-s-campaign-office-detained/

Read the letter in full: https://hrf.us14.list-manage.com/track/click?u=c5e3037cd362a8e29147b750c&id=d46741b1d8&e=f80cec329e

For some of my older posts on celebrities see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/star-power/

To end the year: sports washing quotes in 2019 from the Guardian:

December 31, 2019

Having this year spent quite a bit of time on the issue of celebrites [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/star-power/] and sports washing [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/sports-washing/] I thought that these quotes from the Guardian of 29 December 2019 are fitting end of year message:

Gianni Infantino in June – addressing Fifa’s congress two years after he sacked the ethics team investigating him. “We turned it around! Fifa has gone from being toxic, almost criminal, to what it should be: synonymous with credibility, trust, integrity, equality, and with human rights.His other big message in 2019: rejecting talk that it was Fifa’s new reliance on Chinese sponsors that led it to drop all human rights checks and award China the 2021 Club World Cup. “There are problems in this world, everywhere, in many countries. It is not the mission of Fifa to solve the problems of this world.

Also not buying complaints from human rights and ethics groups about sportswashing in 2019 UEFA head Aleksander Ceferin:

a) Explaining why holding the Europa League final in Azerbaijan was the right thing to do: “Human rights is a problem in other places too. Does it mean the fans in Baku do not deserve live football?”, and

b) reacting to the World Anti‑Doping Agency’s call for Russia to be stripped of Euro 2020 by confronting Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg. His message to Putin – Uefa stands by Russia because: “I must say, the World Cup was organised perfectly… I do not speak just to be nice: I really mean it.

from: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2019/dec/29/alternative-2019-sports-awards-quotes-gaffes-meltdowns

Celebrity endorsements and the Dubai Expo: on the one hand and the other

October 26, 2019

Why will.i.am and Mariah Carey should say 'no' to Dubai Expo 

Serial sinner, Mariah Carey [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/10/nicki-minaj-did-the-right-thing-and-cancelled-her-performance-in-saudi-arabia/] performed this week at the one-year countdown to Dubai Expo 2020.  Lyndon Peters argues that celebrities, businesses and governments still have time to take a stand against UAE’s human rights record, and pull their support from Dubai Expo 2020.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan proclaimed 2019 as the ‘Year of Tolerance’, but for many it has been the Year of Intolerance. So far this year, the situation for human rights defenders and political prisoners in the UAE has deteriorated. Over 135 human rights organisations issued a joint call last week for the release of human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor in solitary confinement at Al-Sadr prison, Abu Dhabi [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/01/ahmed-mansoor-goes-on-second-hunger-strike-after-severe-prison-beating/ ].

Nevertheless it seems “The World’s Greatest Show” will go on and with the help of Mariah Carey, will.i.am and Lionel Messi; Dubai Expo 2020 is not short of celebrity endorsements!

That the issue of celebrity endorsements is not an easy is clear [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/11/star-power-and-human-rights-food-for-thought-by-kate-allen/] is clear considering that:
The rapper will.i.am provides the voiceover on an Expo 2020 promotional video in which he reels off a series of great accomplishments in the history of human civilisation. On the other hand, in 2007 ‘will.i.am’, as part of the Black Eyed Peas, recorded a song for a charity album called Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur. Darfuris suffered massacres at the hands of Janjaweed militias. Rebranded as the RSF, former Janjaweed militias, are now a key ally of the UAE within Sudan itself, and have fought as mercenaries for the UAE and Saudi Arabia in Yemen and Libya.

– Meanwhile Lionel Messi is “Proud to be an Expo 2020 Dubai ambassador” and he features in a promotional video for the event. Still, in 2016 he donated $72,000 to the NGO Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF). MSF have provided medical services in various parts of Yemen during the ongoing conflict, and their hospitals have been hit by the airstrikes of the Saudi coalition of which the UAE is a member.That Lionel Messi and will.i.am would promote an event on behalf of the UAE government is unfathomable, especially considering their previous support for Medecins Sans Frontieres and Amnesty International respectively, states Peters.

….

With one year until Dubai Expo 2020, there is still time for trade delegations to reconsider their attendance and for businesses to consider their human rights policies. There is also time for the UAE to stop violating the rights of their own citizens, enforce protections for migrant workers and cease the harmful interventions in Yemen, Libya and Sudan.

https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/comment/2019/10/24/will-i-am-mariah-carey-should-say-no-to-dubai-expo

Hollywood celebrities and human rights: backlash from China

August 30, 2019

Jocelyn Neo in the Epoch Times of 17 August 2019 traces the backlash from China against some of Hollywood’s best-know names for standing up against China on human rights related matters. As most of this is some time ago it is mostly for the record as this blog likes to keep up with star power and human rights [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/02/10/star-power-and-human-rights-a-difficult-but-doable-mix/%5D.

Read the rest of this entry »

Angelina Jolie extolls women human rights defenders in new essay

August 6, 2019

On 5 August 2019, Annie Martin wrote that “Angelina Jolie sends love to ‘wicked women‘ (women breaking rules and pushing boundaries) in new essay”

Angelina Jolie reflected on women’s rights and societal expectations in the September issue of Elle. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
The 44-year-old actress reflected on women’s rights and societal expectations in an essay for the September issue of Elle published Monday. Jolie began by asking the question, “What is it about the power of a woman free in mind and body that has been perceived as so dangerous throughout history.” She recounted how accusations of witchcraft have ben used “to control and silence women” in many societies throughout the centuries….”Since time immemorial, women who rebel against what is considered normal by society — even unintentionally — have been labeled as unnatural, weird, wicked, and dangerous. What is surprising is the extent to which this kind of myth and prejudice has persisted throughout the centuries and still colors the world we live in”Jolie discussed how modern women across the globe are considered “wicked” for such behaviors as dancing or singing in public, running for political office, or fighting for human rights. These women are sometimes met with violence, imprisonment or social ostracism. “Female human rights defenders across the world are incarcerated for their political views or for defending themselves or others, with courage I can hardly imagine. For all our modern advances, the independence and creative energy of women is still frequently seen as a dangerous force to be controlled, often in the name of religion, tradition, or culture,” Jolie wrote.

“Looked at in this light, ‘wicked women’ are just women who are tired of injustice and abuse,” she said. “Women who refuse to follow rules and codes they don’t believe are best for themselves or their families. Women who won’t give up on their voice and rights, even at the risk of death or imprisonment or rejection by their families and communities.” “If that is wickedness, then the world needs more wicked women,” the star declared.

For more on Angelina Jolie and her human rights work, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/angelina-jolie/

https://www.upi.com/Entertainment_News/2019/08/05/Angelina-Jolie-sends-love-to-wicked-women-in-new-essay/1591565015424/

Will Janet Jackson, 50 Cent and Tyga perform tomorrow in Jeddah and what will they say?

July 18, 2019

The Human Rights Foundation in New York continues its efforts to stop Saudi Arabia from using star power to shore up its reputation. Janet Jackson, 50 Cent, Future, Chris Brown, and Tyga are scheduled to perform at a concert on 18 July in Saudi Arabia. In a surprise, last-minute announcement, the Jeddah World Fest has added these high-profile performers to their concert, which is funded and authorized by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), one of the world’s worst human rights violators. Last week, their top-performer, Nicki Minaj, publicly cancelled her performance in solidarity with the Saudi LGBTQ+ community, Saudi women, and the principle of freedom of expression. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/10/nicki-minaj-did-the-right-thing-and-cancelled-her-performance-in-saudi-arabia/]

It’s clear that, after losing Nicki Minaj on the basis of the Saudi regime’s atrocious human rights record and their treatment of women and the gay community, the Crown Prince has chosen to spend whatever it takes to give the appearance that things are normal and that this is just another concert. Except it isn’t,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of the Human Rights Foundation (HRF). “It’s a blatant public relations push on the heels of the pre-meditated assassination of a Washington Post columnist and the ongoing imprisonment of dozens of human rights activists. Saudi is engaged in a sophisticated campaign of distraction. It’s baffling to the fans of Janet Jackson, 50 Cent, Liam Payne, and these other artists,  that despite knowing all of this, they still intend to perform. It’s profoundly distressing that they have chosen money over morals. These individuals constantly make public statements of support for LGBTQ+ rights, Black Lives Matter, and women’s rights, except, apparently, when a seven-figure check is attached. The hypocrisy is breathtaking. Principal apparently matters to them far more than principles.

HRF has written individually to each of these performers and explicitly referenced their previous positions on matters of women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, public policy, and police brutality. ..

The artists who are scheduled to perform in Saudia Arabia tomorrow have a long track record of supporting human rights causes:

  • In 2008, Janet Jackson received the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Vanguard Award. In 2010, she partnered with the Trevor Project’s “It Gets Better” campaign to support an initiative to reduce suicide and promote mental health among LGBTQ+ youth. In 2017, she received Out Magazine’s Music Icon Award. She accepted the Icon Award at the 2018 Billboard Awards (and as the first black woman to do so) and stated: “Women have made it clear we will no longer be controlled, manipulated, or abused.”  That same year, after accepting the Global Icon award at the MTV Europe Music Awards, she said the world could no longer tolerate gender inequality. Jackson also voiced her concern for gender inequality at the 2018 Global Citizen Festival saying: “I’m sick, I’m repulsed, I’m infuriated by the double standards that continue to [put] women as second-class citizens. Enough!”
  • Tyga was outspoken when the artist A$AP Rocky was arrested in Sweden. On Twitter he promoted the hashtag #FREEASAPROCKY and even went so far as to cancel his scheduled performance there on July 14. To that end, why wouldn’t he use the hashtag #FREELOUJAIN and cancel his Saudi Arabia appearance in solidarity with the imprisoned artists and activists there?
  • Chris Brown publicly expressed his frustration about artists who fail to raise their voices in favor of positive change. Expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement, he said: “I am asking all the celebrities and people with actual voices … how about we speak up right now and help people? Can our voices actually mean something? Please?”
  • In 2011, 50 Cent performed for the enjoyment of the family of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. The public outcry and embarrassment was slow in coming but when it came it compelled him to donate his dictatorial paycheck to UNICEF.

HRF believes that the participation of these artists in a festival sponsored by a murderous, repressive regime involved in gross human rights violations  — especially of women and sexual minorities — would be highly unfortunate and would send the message that dictatorial regimes can simply purchase the endorsements of high-profile celebrities while simultaneously discouraging those in the population seeking to bring about peaceful transformation. HRF hopes that these artists will stand up for human rights, women’s rights, and the rights of sexual minorities by being outspoken when they take the stage in Saudi Arabia tomorrow.

For the letters see: Janet Jackson; 50 Cent; Chris Brown; Tyga; and Future.

In the meantime, Saudi Arabia has also signed another big boxing match in its sports washing drive:

Amir Khan claims he and Manny Pacquiao have both signed up for a fight and is targeting a meeting in Riyad later this year with Amnesty International calling on the Briton to speak out on Saudi Arabia’s human rights issues. The 32-year-old says the pair have both agreed terms with Riyadh the venue for a long-awaited bout. Khan won the WBC international welterweight title with a fourth-round stoppage of Billy Dib in Jeddah on Friday night. Now he intends to return to Saudi Arabia on November 8 to face former sparring partner Pacquiao, if the Filipino comes through unscathed against Keith Thurman in their WBA welterweight title fight in Las Vegas this weekend.

https://mynbc15.com/news/entertainment/janet-jackson-50-cent-to-perform-at-saudi-arabia-concert

Saudi Arabia Spends Millions to Add Last-Minute Performers Janet Jackson, 50 Cent, and Others to the Jeddah “World Fest”

https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/sport/other-sport/amir-khan-manny-pacquiao-sign-16604847

Star power and human rights: food for thought by Kate Allen

July 11, 2019

The issue of star power for or against human rights has been referred to regualry in this blog. See e.g. my older post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/02/10/star-power-and-human-rights-a-difficult-but-doable-mix/ and the recent: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/10/nicki-minaj-did-the-right-thing-and-cancelled-her-performance-in-saudi-arabia/

On 11 july 2019 Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK Director, published a thoughtful piece on this topic in Metro:

Nicki Minaj’s on-off concert in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, has once again shone a spotlight on the thorny business of artists who agree to perform in countries with abysmal human rights records. Was she right – finally – to call it off? Should she ever have agreed to play in a country where women are treated as second-class citizens, where same-sex relations are forbidden, and where a whole host of other basic rights are denied? It sounds like a no-brainer – don’t go. But I don’t think it’s as simple as that. Musicians like Minaj are understandably keen to play in front of their fans in all sorts of countries, including Saudi Arabia. After all, they’re in the entertainment industry. If the popular demand’s there, you satisfy the demand. And ordinary Saudi fans of Minaj’s raunchy brand of pop (of which there are apparently a surprising number) aren’t themselves the people responsible for institutional human rights abuse in Saudi Arabia, so why punish them? Artists – and their management and publicity teams – will very likely go back and forth on this. Do we play? Is it worth the reputational risk? At Amnesty, we don’t believe in telling artists to ‘boycott’ this or that country.

Instead, number one, we say: ensure you are not, in any way, contributing to existing human rights violations through a specific performance. Madonna’s dancers at Eurovision Madonna’s dancers wore Israel and Palestine flags. If, for example, you’re a singer asked to play a concert in a stadium that’s just been built on land which has seen local people’s houses illegally destroyed, then playing there would be a form of complicity in the act of forced dispossession. Similarly, if the catering company at one of your foreign shows is an abusive employer, then you shouldn’t be party to this abuse by using them.

Number two: when agreeing to play in a country with a very poor human rights record (and we’re talking about scores of countries, not just obvious ones like Saudi Arabia, China or North Korea), you should be prepared to use your influence for good. Raise human rights issues directly where you can. Speak about cases publicly. Advocate for them after you’ve left the country. While the match was never played due to injury, tennis stars Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic agreed to play in Jeddah last year and we asked them to tweet their support for human rights defenders who’d recently been jailed in the country. Similarly, this May, we called on the boxer Amir Khan – also hired for a well-paid exhibition bout in Jeddah – to go with his eyes firmly open and with a preparedness to speak about human rights issues wherever possible. There’s often a degree of fuzziness – perhaps unavoidable – in this. Madonna was criticised by some people for agreeing to perform at the recent Eurovision in Tel Aviv. For sure, Israel’s human rights record is dire, not least through its half-century military occupation of the West Bank. But others praised her for including both Palestinian and Israeli flags in her show.

At the end of the day, it’s unrealistic to expect singers or sports stars to act as celebrity arms of the United Nations. That’s not their job. But they don’t operate in a vacuum either. They need to understand the reputational risk of accepting big money from hosts with dire human rights records. And that risk is compounded if they make no effort to address some of the grim realities of where they go. Nicki Minaj says she’s now ‘educated’ herself about how women and LGBTI people are oppressed in Saudi Arabia, and how basic freedom of expression is denied. Minaj is an expressive performer free to speak her mind. It would be great if she continues speaking out on Saudi human rights issues.

https://metro.co.uk/2019/07/11/celebrities-arent-the-un-but-can-use-concerts-to-defend-human-rights-10176034/?ito=cbshare

Nicki Minaj did the right thing and cancelled her performance in Saudi Arabia

July 10, 2019

Yesterday I reported on Nicki Minaj’s scheduled performance in Saudi Arabia [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/09/nicki-minaj-asked-by-human-rights-group-to-refuse-saudi-money/] and just now media (here the BBC) report that she has cancelled, citing her support for the rights of women and the LGBT community.

So congratulations to her and the Human Rights Foundation. Shaming works sometimes.

After careful reflection I have decided to no longer move forward with my scheduled concert at Jeddah World Fest,” the singer said in a statement. “While I want nothing more than to bring my show to fans in Saudi Arabia, after better educating myself on the issues, I believe it is important for me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression.

Other celebrities can learn from this, e.g. Mariah Carey who earllier this year defied calls from human rights activists to cancel her performance in Saudi Arabia.

{One of the women in prison is Loujain al-Hathloul and her sister, Alia, had criticised Mariah Carey for playing a concert the King Abdullah Economic City. She said: “My own baby sister said she is being whipped, beaten, electrocuted and harassed on a frequent basis.” She stated: “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’t forget to thank her on stage,” she wrote to Carey on Twitter. But Mariah Carey is an old hand when it comes to selling her soul: see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/12/19/mariah-carey-needs-better-informed-staff-and-donate-her-1-million-fee-to-human-rights-defenders-in-angola/].}

But will Liam Payne follow the good example?

HRF Urges Liam Payne to Follow Nicki Minaj: Cancel Performance in Saudi Arabia

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-48930029