Justin Bieber went through with a scheduled performance in Saudi Arabia over the weekend despite the many calls for him to cancel the gig in recent weeks.
The “Sorry” hit-maker put on a show during the Formula One race, which took place in the city of Jiddah, according to the Associated Press.
The Human Rights Foundation urged Bieber to back out and avoid appearing tied to the country’s controversial Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The organization took to Instagram to reveal that they even sent a letter to the singer’s team explaining their reasoning.
“HRF asks him to use his global influence to issue a statement in support of human rights in #SaudiArabia,” they wrote in the comments section. “If Bieber performs, he would be playing into the regime’s strategy of whitewashing human rights abuses.”
Hatice Cengiz — fiancée of the Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi, whose 2018 murder was linked to the crown prince — also published an open letter asking the star to reconsider, according to Billboard.
The requests went unanswered and the singer went through with the performance. Although he has not publicly commented on the event in the hours since leaving the stage, his wife Hailey Bieber posted a video of him mid-set on her Instagram story.
Bieber was not the only artist to perform at the race. The AP notes that Jason Derulo took the stage ahead of Bieber during Saudi Arabia’s Grand Prix. David Guetta, Tiesto and A$AP Rocky also reportedly performed sets, according to TMZ.
The AP reports that this sort of performance is a new phenomena in Saudi Arabia. Previously, concerts were banned and single people were segregated by gender in public.
Other artists have been met with similar backlash upon announcing plans to perform in the country.
For example, Nicki Minaj pulled out of headlining a music festival in 2019, according to Billboard. “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,” she explained in a statement shared with the publication.
It remains to be seen if Bieber or any of his fellow performers will comment on their decision to perform in Saudi Arabia. It is also unclear why Bieber agreed to the show. However, the AP notes that he will embark on a world tour in 2022. The tour is being promoted by Live Nation, and Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund holds stock in the company.