February 1, 2019 5:14 pm

Mariah Carey defies human rights activists, performs concert in Saudi Arabia

Mariah Carey performed in Saudi Arabia on Thursday despite criticism from human rights activists and appeals for her to cancel the performance.

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Despite mass pleas from an abundance of women’s rights activists to cancel, Mariah Carey decided to go through with her scheduled performance in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Thursday night.

Carey’s now being widely criticized for allowing the Saudi government to divert the attention of their nation from important issues — namely their allegedly poor human rights system.

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According to Omaima Al-Najjar, the co-founder of Saudi women activist group Women For Rights In Saudi Arabia (or WARSA). The goverment’s request for musicians to perform in their country is merely a publicity stunt.

She spoke to The Associated Press to explain the issue and the controversy surrounding Carey’s performance.

“The Saudi government is using entertainment to distract people from human rights abuses because it can sense anger among the public.”

The All I Want for Christmas is You singer performed in front of a mixed-gender crowd — something she believed was “an opportunity to work towards gender desegregation” in the nation, according to her spokesperson.

Carey joined Sean Paul and DJ Tiesto among many others asked to play in King Abdullah Economic City. She’s the first international woman to ever do so.

Mariah Carey onstage during the 2018 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on Oct. 9, 2018 in Los Angeles, Calif.

John Shearer/AMA2018/Getty Images For dcp

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WARSA launched a petition on change.org last week. It called for Carey to boycott against the “gender apartheid” Saudi Arabian government before her scheduled performance by not showing up.

“She has power to stand for women,” Al-Najjar said. “As an artist and as a female.”

Activists are now tweeting Carey directly, urging her to take notice of the prominent Saudi women’s rights activists. Many of the activists have been imprisoned since last May.

They long campaigned for social changes and women’s empowerment. The women — who include activists in their 20s, mothers, grandmothers and retired educators, have been accused of vague national security violations in connection to their human rights efforts.

Carey or her reps have not yet addressed any of these tweets. They did however speak with The Associated Press.

They explained to AP that when “presented with the offer to perform for an international and mixed gender audience in Saudi Arabia, Mariah accepted the opportunity as a positive step towards the dissolution of gender segregation.”

“Mariah recognizes the cultural significance of this event and will continue to support global efforts towards equality for all.”

Although the first woman to perform in the country, Carey’s not the first ever to believe she’s doing a favour for the societal state of Saudi Arabia.

Mariah Carey performs live during her ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ tour at Motorpoint Arena on Dec. 9, 2018 in Nottingham, England.

Samir Hussein/WireImage

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Last December, David Guetta performed in the King Abdullah Economic City during a three-day Formula-E festival.

The 51-year-old remixed a number of patriotic Saudi Arabian songs with hopes to endear his fans. However, he received a massive amount of criticism.

“It’s disgusting that David Guetta is playing songs praising the king while leading human rights defenders are in prison,” Bahraini rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja wrote on Twitter. “We even have reports that the women human rights defenders have been subjected to torture.”

While it was a major foot forward in cultural progression for the nation, many, including al-Khawaja, were not impressed with Guetta’s “oblivious” actions, disregarding the government’s veil.

— With files from The Associated Press

adam.wallis@globalnews.ca

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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