Canadian Justin Bieber at the center of the human rights debate in Saudi Arabia

 Canadian pop star Justin Bieber was not expected to become part of a controversy between Saudi Arabia and human rights activists that could last for years, after he was invited to sing during the first edition of the Saudi Grand Prix for Formula One.


Bieber, 27, is giving a huge party in Jeddah on Sunday in front of thousands of spectators as part of this Formula One race.
Also participating in the concert are the famous French DJ David Guetta and American singer Jason Derulo.


The widow of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, Khadija Cengiz, called on Bieber to boycott the race in Jeddah, against the backdrop of the involvement of Saudi elements in the killing of the journalist in his country's consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

In an article published by the "Washington Post" newspaper, she urged the famous artist not to sing "for the killers of my beloved Jamal."
"This is a unique opportunity to send a strong message to the world that your name and talent will not be used to restore the reputation of a regime that is killing its critics," she said.


The campaign received global attention, as a hashtag spread on Twitter to question Bieber about his decision to hold the concert, while a plane flew with a sign saying "Why Bieber sings for the Saudi killers" on the occasion of the American Music Awards last month in Los Angeles.
Justin Bieber has not yet commented on this.


Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and other Formula One drivers are openly supportive of human rights and a variety of social issues and are unlikely to be held back this week about human rights abuses.

Under the country's de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom has embarked on a series of reforms, lifting the ban on women driving and reopening cinemas in 2018.


The Formula One race is part of a campaign to show a more open face as the world's largest oil exporter tries to lure foreign companies while diversifying its economy, despite criticism from rights groups over high execution rates and the prosecution of opponents.
"It may seem like it's just Justin Bieber and an audience of people gathering to hear him sing," said Simon Chadwick, a sports expert from Emilion School of Business in Leon, explaining, "But the truth is that there are complex issues that underpin a lot of what's happening in Saudi Arabia this weekend, including Who sings and drives there.”
The race is among many major events that have recently found their way to the Kingdom, after an international boxing match and European golf tours.


Other countries hosting Formula One races, such as Azerbaijan, Bahrain, China and Hungary, faced accusations of so-called "sports washing", that is, using sport to divert attention from violations, but the controversy is very raging in Saudi Arabia, partly because of the Khashoggi case.
James Dorsey, a researcher at the Middle East Institute in Singapore, believes that the Saudis "cannot erase history" regarding Khashoggi's murder.

Instead of accepting and acting on criticism, Dorsey said, Saudi Arabia continues to use its vast oil wealth to lure sports and celebrities.
"There are indications that they will provide enough money that the offers cannot be rejected," he added.
Chadwick asserts that the Saudis will reject accusations of “sports laundering,” and will say that they are using sports to diversify the economy and push for “positive social change.”


The head of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal, said in an interview with Agence France-Presse that Saudi Arabia does not need the Canadian singer to promote it, explaining, "The one who whitens the kingdom's reputation is not a singer, but rather its leadership and people. It is not possible to polish a picture contrary to reality.”
He continued, "There are many people, singers and actors, who have not come before, but when they saw reality and the truth with their own eyes, they said yes, we will come because we have an idea of ​​everything that is happening in the kingdom."


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