Hatice Cengiz, late Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancée, wrote an open letter to singer Justin Bieber on Sunday, urging him to not perform in Saudi Arabia and let his name and talent be used to “restore the reputation of a regime that kills its critics.”
The Canadian singer is set to perform in Saudi Arabia’s second-largest city Jeddah (also spelled Jiddah) on December 5.
Published in the Opinion section of The Washington Post, Hatice Cengiz’s letter reads, “Do not sing for the murderers of my beloved Jamal. Please speak out and condemn his killer, Mohammed bin Salman. Your voice will be heard by millions.”
Mohammed bin Salman is the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, under whose orders Khashoggi is said to have been murdered and dismembered by a team of operatives.
Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident, columnist for The Washington Post and editor-in-chief of Al-Arab news channel, was killed in 2018 when he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, where he was supposed to collect the documents required for his marriage to Cengiz. While the Saudi government initially denied the death and any complicity, it later admitted that the murder was premeditated, but denied that Salman had given the orders for the assassination.
However, as per a report de-classified by the Director of National Intelligence in February 2021, US intelligence agencies assessed that Salman had approved an operation that was aimed at capturing or killing Khashoggi.
In her open letter to Bieber, Cengiz wrote, “Please know that your invitation to participate in a concert in Jiddah comes directly from MBS, as the crown prince is known. Nothing of significance happens in Saudi Arabia without his consent, and certainly not an event as important and flashy as this. 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 has not yet responded to the request.
This is not the first time that artists have been discouraged from performing in Saudi Arabia.
In 2019, Mariah Carey was urged to cancel her show there to show support for all the detained women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia. Activists who made the request said her concert was an attempt by the government to polish its image after the killing of Khashoggi. However, Carey refused to cancel.
The same year, Nicki Minaj cancelled her show after similar requests. The rapper and singer said in a statement, “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.”