West News Wire: Spending billions of dollars, Saudi Arabia is hosting extravagant entertainment, cultural, and sporting events as a part of a deliberate government strategy aimed at whitewashing human rights violations.
The investment in major entertainment, cultural, and sports events is tied to Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030, a plan to overhaul the country’s economy and attract foreign investors and tourists.
Among the programs it has developed to realize its vision is one focused on creating more leisure and recreational options to “enhance the image of the Kingdom internationally.”
As Human Rights Day approaches on December 10, Human Rights Watch is launching the #SaudiRegrets campaign, which seeks to counter Saudi Arabia’s “image laundering” by educating actors, musicians, and athletes courted to play or perform in Saudi Arabia about the country’s rights record.
The #SaudiRegrets campaign also asks celebrity influencers to tell the Saudi government they won’t take its money and participate in events whose primary purpose is to deflect attention from human rights abuses. While the government continues to persecute Saudi human rights defenders and hold women’s activists in detention, stars can send their #SaudiRegrets.
Dozens of prominent influencers and celebrities have performed in Saudi Arabia over the years, including since the brutal 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, for which there has been no accountability.
Among those who have performed since 2018 are: Enrique Iglesias, Mariah Carey, Andrea Bocelli, Janet Jackson, 50 Cent, Jennifer Lopez, and David Guetta.
Meanwhile, some celebrities, such as Nicki Minaj, Emily Ratajkowski, and John Cena, have declined, citing the Saudi government’s terrible human rights record.
Major sporting events include the 2020 Dakar Rally, the Saudi Invitational Golf Tournament, and WWE pay-per-view professional wrestling events. The country will also host a Formula 1 race beginning in 2023.
Such events can serve to counteract negative scrutiny of the Saudi government’s human rights violations, including the Khashoggi murder, and undermine efforts to hold Saudi officials accountable.
Saudi citizens and residents should enjoy top-notch entertainment and sporting events, but they also should enjoy basic rights such as free expression and peaceful assembly.