The Human Rights Foundation has praised Nicki Minaj after the pop star cited her support for the rights of women and the LGBTQ community for her decision to pull out of headlining a major new music festival in Saudi Arabia.

Minaj was set to be the star performer at the Jeddah World Fest at the King Abdullah Sports Stadium on July 18.

“After careful reflection I have decided to no longer move forward with my scheduled concert at Jeddah World Fest,” Minaj 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.”

The Human Rights Foundation, which had urged Minaj and the festival’s other performers to pull out of the event last week, responded to the latest development by praising the star’s “leadership” on the issue.

“We are grateful to Nicki Minaj for her inspiring and thoughtful decision to reject the Saudi regime’s transparent attempt at using her for a public relations stunt,” Human Rights Foundation Thor Halvorssen said.

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage confirmed the line-up for the event earlier this month, with the event set to be broadcast by international music channel MTV.

Whilst DJ Steve Aoki and singer Liam Payne were also named as performers, it was the addition of Minaj, who is renowned for her provocative lyrics and live performances, which raised eyebrows.

Whilst Saudi Arabia has softened some elements of subjugation of women in recent times – with women now allowed to drive and attend events in sports stadiums – gender segregation is still enforced in many places, while the kingdom does not recognise LGBTQ rights.

Halvorssen added: “The July 18 festival in Saudi Arabia still shows Liam Payne as a performer. We hope that he follows Nicki Minaj’s lead.

“Minaj’s moral stance differs from celebrity performers like J-Lo and Mariah Carey, who in the past have chosen to line their pockets with millions of dollars and stand with dictatorial governments as opposed to with oppressed communities and imprisoned human rights activists.”

Robert Quirke, president of the Jeddah event’s organiser, Roqu Media International, described Minaj earlier this month as “an absolute global icon” and added: “She has 130 million followers on Instagram, she is considered one of the top 10 female performers of all time, she’s had multiple awards and she’ll have her new album come out this year.

“She is going to get a lot of attention for Jeddah in the most positive way you can imagine. She’s going to be actively on her social media, she’ll be posting right from the stage in Jeddah and at her hotel in Jeddah. Everyone is going to know that Nicki Minaj has landed in Saudi Arabia.”

Image credit: Eva Rinaldi