Nicki Minaj has cancelled her highly debated scheduled performance in Saudi Arabia next week, it had emerged.
The Megatron crooner cited her support for the rights of women and the LGBT community as some of her reasons for cancelling.
Since the news of her headlining the festival in Jeddah was announced, critics and fans have criticised her decision because of the country’s human rights record.
Others wondered how her revealing outfits and explicit lyrics would be received in the ultra-conservative kingdom.
Saudi Arabia has been trying to ease restrictions on entertainment and to encourage growth in its arts sector.
Scrutiny of the country’s human rights record intensified after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October.
In March, the kingdom drew further criticism when it put 10 women’s rights activists on trial.
“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.”
On Friday, the US-based Human Rights Foundation wrote an open letter to Minaj urging her to withdraw from the 18 July festival.
It called on her to “refuse the regime’s money” and use her influence to demand the release of the detained women activists.
Minaj is not the first artist to cause controversy by accepting an invitation to perform in Saudi Arabia.
Earlier this year, Mariah Carey defied calls from human rights activists to cancel her performance in the kingdom, while last December rapper Nelly came under fire for performing a “men only” concert.