RIYADH (Dispatches) –
Human Rights Watch (HRW), a non-governmental human rights research and advocacy organization, urged artists booked on Saudi Arabia’s MDLBeast to “speak out” or not participate in the event over the regime’s rights abuses.
The festival, funded by the Saudi regime, is no stranger to criticism. Back in November, many artists announced in the first two phases faced significant backlash, Selector News reported.
The Saudi government has a long track record of human rights abuses.
On December 15, HRW published an article written under the pseudonym Arwa Youssef. The writer calls the festival a Saudi “reputation-launder scheme” and encourages artists to speak out about human rights abuses or not participate in the event.
“MDL Beast Soundstorm performers and promoters should use their microphones, stages, and screen time to speak out,” he writes.
“Dozens of Saudi activists and human rights defenders remain unjustly imprisoned, some horrifically tortured. Recent social reforms, while important, fall far short of bringing Saudi Arabia in compliance with international human rights standards or else offer only surface-level freedoms.”
Launched in 2019, the festival has attracted influencers, producers, and musical artists in an attempt to rehabilitate the country’s image.
To draw these people, organizers offered them many times their usual rates, partially funded by the Saudi Public Investment Fund.
In exchange, they are asked to write social media posts about their experiences. These posts were “guided” by state-sponsored PS firms and follow strict guidelines.
Numerous artists and celebrities have turned down the offer due to human rights concerns in Saudi Arabia.