Nicki Minaj Drops Out of Saudi Arabia Festival to Stand for Women's and LGBTQ Rights

Nicki Minaj has dropped out of a festival appearance in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia after facing backlash for her headlining slot.

“After careful reflection I have decided to no longer move forward with my scheduled concert at Jeddah World Fest,” Minaj told PEOPLE in a statement on Tuesday. “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.”

Last week, the Jeddah World Festival announced the “Megatron” rapper, 36, as one of its headliners at its 2019 show in the Saudi Arabian city; the lineup also includes Liam Payne and deejay Steve Aoki, among others.

Soon after the announcement, fans — and social justice organizations — urged the Queens native to pull out of the concert, citing the Middle Eastern country’s history of human rights violations.

On Monday, advocacy group the Human Rights Foundation sent Minaj a five-page open letter calling on the Grammy-nominated artist to cancel her performance after detailing the country’s crackdown on freedom of speech and the press, as well as women’s rights and LGBTQ rights.

“If you move forward with this performance … you will be in league with the people who respond to freedom of expression and thought with murder,” HRF CEO and president Thor Halvorssen wrote in the letter, adding: “Your participation in a performance sponsored by a murderous, repressive regime involved in gross human rights violations — especially of women and sexual minorities — would be highly unfortunate. Furthermore, it would be disastrous for a public figure of your standing who has articulated a commitment to education, women’s rights, and social justice.”

Since Minaj confirmed her decision to pull out of the festival, she received an outpouring of support on social media.

“This is what leadership looks like! @HRF is grateful to ⁦@NICKIMINAJ⁩ for her inspiring and thoughtful decision to reject the #Saudi regime’s attempt at using her for a public relations stunt,” Halvorssen tweeted Tuesday.

Added BET News host Marc Lamont Hill: “This is major. Salute to @NICKIMINAJ for this!!!!”

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