Pop star Justin Bieber is facing growing calls to cancel his concert in Saudi Arabia next month with the fiancée of slain Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi urging him in an open letter not to perform at the kingdom’s Formula One race.
In the letter published by
Bieber’s concert is the most headline-grabbing performance scheduled for the race in Jiddah, though other F1 concert performers include rapper A$AP Rocky, DJs David Guetta and Tiesto and singer Jason Derulo.
Bieber’s concert in Saudi Arabia comes shortly before he opens a world tour in February that was rescheduled from 2020 due to the pandemic.
The concert and sporting event is also meant to rebrand the country as a desirable tourist destination.
Justin Bieber is set to headline a concert in Saudi Arabia on December 5
Journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, wrote an open letter to the pop star, which was published in the Washington Post on Sunday, urging him to cancel his performance
She said Bieber’s invitation comes directly from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (pictured), who is widely credited as having ordered Khashoggi’s execution
In her letter, published on Sunday, Cengiz writes: ‘A little over three years ago, my fiancée, the journalist and [Washington] Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul believing he was going to pick up some documents needed for our upcoming wedding.
‘He was instead murdered inside the consulate by operatives acting on the orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
‘Perhaps you heard about the case. His brutal murder made headlines all over the world.
‘Ever since, many human rights organizations and individuals, including myself have been calling for justice and accountability.’
Cengiz then pleaded for the international pop star to cancel his upcoming performance, noting that the an investigation by the United Nations into her fiancée’s death deemed it an ‘international crime,’ and held Saudi Arabia responsible.
‘Please know that your invitation to participate in a concert in Jiddah comes directly from MBS, as the crown prince is known,’ Cengiz wrote in her open letter to Bieber. ‘Nothing of significance happens in Saudi Arabia without his consent, and certainly not an event as important and flashy as this.’
‘I know that you are dedicated to your fans, and are travelling to Saudi Arabia on their behalf,’ she continued. ‘However, there are hundreds of Saudis of all ages, backgrounds and religious beliefs, languishing in prison, punished for merely expressing their opposition to the merciless Saudi dictatorship of MBS.’
‘Last year, you wrote to your followers: “I want to use the platform I have to remind people that racism is evil and ingrained in our culture,” Cengiz noted, pointing to an October 2020 Instagram post about the Black Lives Matter movement on the pop star’s page.
‘Considering this very honorable commitment that you have made to take a stand against injustice, please use your platform now to support the cause of human rights in Saudi Arabia.
‘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.’
Khashoggi had been writing columns for The Washington Post criticizing the crown prince´s brash foreign policy moves and simultaneous crackdown on activists and perceived critics when he was killed on October 2, 2018
His death was carried out by a team of 15 Saudi government operatives who had been sent to Istanbul to deal with the rogue writer
Khashoggi, 59, a once Saudi Arabian royal-insider turned critic, was killed and dismembered, allegedly with a bone saw on October 2, 2018, after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain a document saying he was divorced so that he could marry Cengiz.
He was last seen on surveillance camera entering the building at 1.14pm that day.
She waited from him outside the consulate, but he never walked out, and his body was never found.
According to officials, his body was then dismembered and removed from the building, with investigators later concluding he was restrained and injected with a large amount of drugs.
The murder was carried out by a team of 15 Saudi government agents who had been sent to Instanbul. At the time of Khashoggi’s killing, the crown prince was being lauded for ushering in social reforms transforming life for many inside the country.
Khashoggi had been writing columns for The Washington Post criticizing the crown prince’s brash foreign policy moves and simultaneous crackdown on activists and perceived critics, including women´s rights activists, writers, clerics and economists.
Turkish court notes released in June claimed the 15-member hit squad considered burying the journalist’s body in the consulate garden but ‘gave up the idea’ because they feared they could be caught.
It was instead alleged they dismembered Khashoggi and carried his remains away on a private plane.
According to the notes, Khashoggi’s body was then deposited in black plastic bags that were loaded in the back of a Mercedes sedan.
Surveillance footage showed Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain documents needed for his upcoming marriage to Cengiz
Footage also showed Intelligence officer Maher Abdulaziz M. Mutreb, second from left, a member of the 15-man execution team, leaving the residence of Saudi Arabia’s Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey after carrying out the killing
He was seen on security footage before his departure to Saudi Arabia at the Istanbul Ataturk Airport on October 2
The killing, by agents who worked for the crown prince drew international gasps and cast a shadow over Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose reputation never fully recovered.
He has maintained he had no prior knowledge of the operation that killed Khashoggi, and the Saudi Arabian deputy public prosecutor Shalaan al-Shalaan said in November 2018 that the murder was ordered by the head of a ‘negotiations team’ sent to Istanbul to bring Khashoggi back to the kingdom ‘by means of persuasion or force.’
Saudi Arabian officials claimed it was a ‘rogue operation’ by a so-called ‘Tiger Team.’
But a U.S. intelligence assessment made public under President Joe Biden determined the crown prince approved the operation.
And in September 2019, MbS indicated some accountability, saying ‘it happened under my watch.’
Eleven people – most of whom were not named – were indicted in the killing.
Five were sentenced to death – though they were ultimately spared from execution – three face jail terms totaling 24 years and the others were acquitted.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, has denied any involvement in the killing of Khashoggi, right, despite saying in 2019 ‘it happened under my watch.’
In the years since the brutal killing, several music stars have faced public pressure not to perform in the country.
Mariah Carey was the biggest-name performer to hit the stage in Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi’s killing, after brushing off calls to boycott the show.
Public pressure, however, prompted Nicki Minaj in 2019 to cancel her appearance on stage at a concert in Jiddah, telling The Associated Press at the time she wanted to show support for women´s rights, gay rights and freedom of expression.
And the Human Rights Watch has also called on Bieber and the other performers to pull out of the F1 concerts in Saudi Arabia, saying these events are aimed at ‘sportwashing’ by diverting attention and deflecting scrutiny from Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.
But in the time since the brutal murder, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned sovereign wealth fund – steered by Prince Mohammed – scooped up shares in Live Nation, the company that owns Ticketmaster and promotes concerts for Bieber and other major stars.
As Live Nation’s shares plummeted last year during COVID-19 lockdowns and the cancellation of thousands of shows, the Public Investment Fund bought $500 million worth of shares in the battered company.
Public filings show the Saudi wealth fund is now the second largest institutional holder in Live Nation, with a stake worth some $1.4 billion.
Bieber’s concert in Saudi Arabia comes shortly before he opens a world tour in February that was rescheduled from 2020 due to the pandemic
A road crew works on a outside the Formula One corniche circuit, in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, on November 21 in preparation for the premier sporting event, which is meant to rebrand the country as a tourist destination
Next month’s F1 race will be the first time Saudi Arabia hosts the premier sporting event, though the kingdom has hosted the lesser known Formula-E race in past years in an effort to raise the country’s profile as a tourist destination.
Saudi youth are the main attendees of these concerts, enjoying the country’s newfound social changes that allow for music and gender mixing. The kingdom’s General Sports Authority argues that sports is a tool for social change within the kingdom.
Khashoggi´s fiancée has told The Associated Press she will keep speaking out in the hopes of giving voice to those who remain imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for expressing their opinion.
The murder of Jamal Khashoggi: Key moments surrounding the writer’s disappearance and death
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote critically of the kingdom’s policies and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials say a 15-men team tortured, killed and dismembered the writer, while Saudi Arabia says he died in a ‘fistfight.’
Here are some key moments in the slaying of the Washington Post columnist:
BEFORE HIS DISAPPEARANCE
September 2017: The Post publishes the first column by Khashoggi in its newspaper, in which the former royal court insider and longtime journalist writes about going into a self-imposed exile in the U.S. over the rise of Prince Mohammed. His following columns criticize the prince and the kingdom’s direction.
September 28, 2018: Over a year after the Post published his first column, Khashoggi visits the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, seeking documents in order to get married. He’s later told to return October 2, his fiancee Hatice Cengiz says. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says a plan or a ‘road map’ to kill Khashoggi was devised in Saudi Arabia during this time.
September 29: Khashoggi travels to London and speaks at a conference.
October 1: Khashoggi returns to Istanbul. At around 4.30pm, a three-person Saudi team arrives in Istanbul on a scheduled flight, checks in to their hotels then visits the consulate, according to Erdogan. The Turkish president says another group of officials from the consulate travel to a forest in Istanbul’s outskirts and to the nearby city of Yalova on a ‘reconnaissance’ trip.
Jamal Khashoggi (right) arriving at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 2
THE DAY OF HIS DISAPPEARANCE
3.28am, October 2: A private jet arrives at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport carrying some members of what Turkish media will refer to as a 15-member Saudi ‘assassination squad.’ Other members of the team arrive by two commercial flights in the afternoon. Erdogan says the team includes Saudi security and intelligence officials and a forensics expert. They meet at the Saudi Consulate. One of the first things they do is to dismantle a hard disk connected to the consulate’s camera system, the president says.
11.50am: Khashoggi is called to confirm his appointment at the consulate later that day, Erdogan says.
1.14pm: Surveillance footage later leaked to Turkish media shows Khashoggi walking into the main entrance of the Saudi Consulate. No footage made public ever shows him leaving. His fiancee waits outside, pacing for hours.
3.07pm: Surveillance footage shows vehicles with diplomatic license plates leaving the Saudi Consulate for the consul general’s home some 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away.
5.50pm: Khashoggi’s fiancee alerts authorities, saying he may have been forcibly detained inside the consulate or that something bad may have happened to him, according to Erdogan.
7pm: A private plane from Saudi Arabia carries six members of the alleged Saudi squad from Istanbul to Cairo, the next day returning to Riyadh.
11pm: Seven members of the alleged Saudi squad leave on another private jet to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which the next day returns to Riyadh. Two others leave by commercial flights.
Erdogan confirms reports that a ‘body double’ – a man wearing Khashoggi’s clothes, glasses and a beard – leaves the consulate building for Riyadh with another person on a scheduled flight later that day.
CCTV images showed a a private jet alleged to have been used by a group of Saudi men suspected of being involved in Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death
October 3: Khashoggi’s fiancee and the Post go public with his disappearance. Saudi Arabia says Khashoggi visited the consulate and exited shortly thereafter. Turkish officials suggest Khashoggi might still be in the consulate. Prince Mohammed tells Bloomberg: ‘We have nothing to hide.’
October 4: Saudi Arabia says on its state-run news agency that the consulate is carrying out ‘follow-up procedures and coordination with the Turkish local authorities to uncover the circumstances of the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi after he left the consulate building.’
October 5: The Post prints a blank column in its newspaper in solidarity with Khashoggi, headlined: ‘A missing voice.’
October 6: The Post, citing anonymous Turkish officials, reports Khashoggi may have been killed in the consulate in a ‘preplanned murder’ by a Saudi team.
October 7: A friend of Khashoggi tells the AP that officials told him the writer was killed at the consulate. The consulate rejects what it calls ‘baseless allegations.’
October 8: Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Turkey is summoned over Khashoggi’s disappearance and alleged killing.
October 9: Turkey says it will search the Saudi Consulate as a picture of Khashoggi walking into the diplomatic post surfaces.
October 10: Surveillance footage is leaked of Khashoggi and the alleged Saudi squad that killed him. Khashoggi’s fiancee asks President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump for help.
October 11: Turkish media describes Saudi squad as including royal guards, intelligence officers, soldiers and an autopsy expert. Trump calls Khashoggi’s disappearance a ‘bad situation’ and promises to get to the bottom of it.
October 12: Trump again pledges to find out what happened to Khashoggi.
October 13: A pro-government newspaper reports that Turkish officials have an audio recording of Khashoggi’s alleged killing from his Apple Watch, but details in the report come into question.
October 14: Trump says that ‘we’re going to get to the bottom of it, and there will be severe punishment’ if Saudi Arabia is involved. The kingdom responds with a blistering attack against those who threaten it, as the manager of a Saudi-owned satellite news channel suggests the country could retaliate through its oil exports. The Saudi stock exchange plunges as much as 7 percent at one point.
Khashoggi (pictured), went missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul
October 15: A Turkish forensics team enters and searches the Saudi Consulate, an extraordinary development as such diplomatic posts are considered sovereign soil. Trump suggests after a call with Saudi King Salman that ‘rogue killers’ could be responsible for Khashoggi’s alleged slaying. Trump says Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to the Mideast over the case. Meanwhile, business leaders say they won’t attend an economic summit in the kingdom that’s the brainchild of Prince Mohammed.
October 16: A high-level Turkish official tells the AP that ‘certain evidence’ was found in the Saudi Consulate proving Khashoggi was killed there. Pompeo arrives for meetings in Saudi Arabia with King Salman and Prince Mohammed. Meanwhile, Trump compares the case to the appointment of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing, saying: ‘Here we go again with you’re guilty until proven innocent.’
October 17: Pompeo meets with Turkey’s president and foreign minister in the Turkish capital, Ankara. Turkish police search the official residence of Saudi Arabia’s consul general in Istanbul and conduct a second sweep of the consulate.
October 18: A leaked surveillance photograph shows a member of Prince Mohammed’s entourage walked into the consulate just before Khashoggi vanished there.
October 20: Saudi Arabia for the first time acknowledges Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, claiming he was slain in a ‘fistfight.’ The claim draws immediate skepticism from the kingdom’s Western allies, particularly in the U.S. Congress.
October 22: A report says a member of Prince Mohammed’s entourage made four calls to the royal’s office around the time Khashoggi was killed. Police search a vehicle belonging to the Saudi consulate parked at an underground garage in Istanbul.
CCTV emerges showing a Saudi intelligence officer dressed in a fake beard and Jamal Khashoggi’s clothes and glasses on the day he went missing.
October 23: Erdogan says Saudi officials murdered Khashoggi after plotting his death for days, demanding that Saudi Arabia reveal the identities of all involved.
October 25: Changing their story again, Saudi prosecutors say Khashoggi’s killing was a premeditated crime.
November 2: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government. Earlier the same day, Yasin Aktay, a ruling party adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said he believed the body had to have been dissolved in acid.
November 4: Khashoggi’s sons Salah and Abdullah Khashoggi issue appeal for his remains to be returned so that he may be buried in Saudi Arabia.
November 10: President Erdogan says Turkey gave the audio recordings linked to the murder to ‘Saudi Arabia, to Washington, to the Germans, to the French, to the British’.
November 13: Turkish media reports that the luggage carried by the Saudi ‘hit squad’ included scissors, defibrillators and syringes that may have been used against Khashoggi.
November 15: Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor announces that he is seeking the death penalty for five out of 11 suspects charged in the murder. Shalaan al-Shalaan said the person who had ordered the killing was the head of the negotiating team sent to repatriate him, and exonerated Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. On the same day, the U.S. Treasury announces sanctions against 17 Saudi officials, including the Consul General in Turkey, Mohammed Alotaibi.
November 16: A CIA assessment reported in the Washington Post finds that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination.
November 18: Germany bans 18 Saudi nationals believed to be connected to the murder from entering Europe’s border-free Schengen zone. Berlin also announces it has as halted previously approved arms exports to Saudi Arabia amid the fallout.
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