Fiancé of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi—Hatice Cengiz—is urging Canadian singer Justin Bieber to cancel his upcoming performance in Saudi Arabia’s city of Jeddah on 5 December. The performance is taking place at the upcoming Formula 1 Saudi Arabia Grand Prix. Cengiz made her plea known in an open letter written and published in The Washington Post. In it, she recited the details of the case and stated:
“That’s why I am writing to you with a plea: Cancel your 5 [December] performance in Saudi Arabia. This is a unique opportunity to send a powerful message to the world that your name and talent will not be used to restore the reputation of a regime that kills its critics.”
Khashoggi, a well-respected journalist for The Washington Post and open critic of Saudi Arabia, was famously and brutally murdered in Istanbul by a team thought to be directly linked to Mohammed bin Salman (MBS)—Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. He was killed at the country’s consulate where he had gone to collect the paperwork needed to marry Cengiz. She was waiting for him outside. In fact, since then, evidence has made apparent that it was more than just a link.
In February 2021, a US intelligence report carried out by President Joe Biden’s administration stated that MBS was implicated in the murder of the journalist but no direct action or punishment was taken against the royal. The prince has long denied any involvement in the killing.
“Do not sing for the murderers of my beloved Jamal. Please speak out and condemn his killer,” Cengiz continued in her letter, “If you refuse to be a pawn of MBS, your message will be loud and clear: I do not perform for dictators. I choose justice and freedom over money.”
Bieber is not the only star set to headline at the race. Among him are other artists like A$AP Rocky, David Guetta and Jason Derulo.
Along with Cengiz’s pleas for performers to pull out of the event, human rights organisation Human Rights Watch stated, “Saudi Arabia has a history of using celebrities and major international events to deflect scrutiny from its pervasive abuses” and “urges those who are courted for events sponsored by the Saudi government to speak out publicly on rights issues or, when reputation laundering is the primary purpose, not participate.”
Citing Bieber’s previous pledges to use his platform for justice, Cengiz wrote, “Please use your platform now to support the cause of human rights in Saudi Arabia. This year, you released an album that you titled Justice. You also released one titled ‘Freedom’. Saudi Arabia is in dire need of both.”