Trinadian rapper is due to perform in the eastern city of Jeddah prompting accusations of hypocrisy against Riyadh.
Rapper Nicki Minaj will headline a music festival in the Saudi city of Jeddah on July 18, in the latest attempt by the country to shed its reputation for hardline religious conservatism.
The Jeddah World Fest features a number of high profile international artists and comes as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) tries to rebuild his reputation after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Western intelligence agencies, as well as UN investigators, have concluded that there was credible evidence that the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia and son of its monarch, King Salman, was responsible for the slaying.
MBS has run a programme of social liberalisation in tandem with an often brutal campaign of repression against dissidents of all shades.
Hey @NICKIMINAJ if you ever go to Saudi Arabia for a concert, please don’t forget to shoutout to #Lujain and her friends that fought for women rights in #Saudi and now they are all in prison.— MowGli (@RickButler93) July 2, 2019
While Saudis are able to visit cinemas and attend concerts featuring international stars, those fighting for civil liberties or voicing criticism of the country’s rulers face arrest, imprisonments, and even death.
Many on social media were keen to point out the contrasting trends in Saudi society.
One Twitter user, going by the name @RickButler93 wrote:
“Hey (Nicki Minaj) if you ever go to Saudi Arabia for a concert, please don’t forget to shoutout to #Lujain and her friends that fought for women rights in #Saudi and now they are all in prison.”
All the celebrities in the world can’t gloss over Saudi Arabia’s abysmal human rights record and gender inequality. Most of us know better, even if these celebrities don’t https://t.co/2IZdFEvdoU— Samah Hadid سماح (@samahhadid) July 3, 2019
Another, named Hiba Ismael said:
“While the Saudi regime detains women's right activists (like Loujain), Nicki Minaj who is known for her sexually explicit music videos (like Anaconda), gets an invitation to Saudi Arabia to show the world how 'progressive' is the Saudi regime!”
Others turned on Minaj herself for agreeing to perform in a country where women were subject to strict dress codes and where human rights were frequently disregarded.
Singer Mariah Carey and DJ Tiesto have also performed in the Gulf kingdom.
"My own baby sister said she is being whipped, beaten, electrocuted and harassed."— TRT World (@trtworld) March 14, 2019
Loujain al Hathloul is among around 10 women's rights activists on trial in Saudi Arabia. Her brother says she has faced systematic torture in jail pic.twitter.com/aLvXTWDIAw
“All the celebrities in the world can’t gloss over Saudi Arabia’s abysmal human rights record and gender inequality,” said Amnesty International's Samah Hadid, adding:
“Most of us know better, even if these celebrities don’t.”