Saudi Arabia just had a festival and now everything’s a big fat mess
Recently, Saudi Arabia has been an image overhauling mission. The country, which was once the most conservative place in the world, has started allowing women to drive, opened up cinemas, has allowed concerts by world famous musicians to happen and has even allowed women to go around with the abaya, in certain cases. None of that can discount the fact that the regime is still largely oppressive and freedom is only insofar as the authorities want to show to the Western world.
Recently, Saudi Arabia had a festival with huge celebrities from around the world attending
Saudi Arabia opened itself to the MDL Beast Fest. The three-day festival which included more than two dozen acts was held in Riyadh.
A huge number of celebrities and influencers attended the music festival and expressed their joy upon being a part of the event and showed a “lighter” side of the country that is still otherwise notorious for its human rights track record.
The list of celebrities who went to Saudi included Sonam Kapoor, Armie Hammer, Scott Disick, models like Alessandra Ambrosio, among many others
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What I just witnessed was truly special. I saw Saudi men and women ecstatic about an event that they never thought they would ever see in their lifetimes… it felt like a cultural shift. A change. Like Woodstock in the 1960’s. Social evolution is slow and takes time but what I was able to be a part of felt like one giant seed of growth. The people there throwing themselves into the experience will lead a cultural revolution that we all need to get behind and support. #mdlbeast
However, many people are calling out these celebrities because there are rumors that they were paid to attend
i’m muslim & you wouldn’t catch me in saudi arabia if it wasn’t for Mecca/doing Hajj. seeing all of these influencers/celebs doing PR to rehabilitate it’s image after decades…fuck it centuries of oppression & the root of many humanitarian crisis’ is…disturbing. do better.
— miski (@musegold) December 22, 2019
Can we cancel influencer culture?
Celebrities & influencers being paid to clean & rehabilitate the image of Saudi Arabia, one of worst human rights abusers & one of the least free countries in the world. You choose what to do with your platform. And you choose this? pic.twitter.com/nL35PV75co
— Noura Berrouba (@NouraBerrouba) December 22, 2019
The influencers were accused of ‘cashing big fat checks’ by participating in the Saudi effort to restore the image of the country while ignoring heinous atrocities like the Jamal Kashoggi incident
People argued that despite Saudi’s link to human right abuses, these celebrities were a part of the event because they only cared about their own monetary gains and were hypocritical for championing progressive causes otherwise.
Would love to know which PR firm/s kingdom of Saudi Arabia hired to do its image rehab.
Sick to see celebs and influencers shamelessly promoting this nonsense. pic.twitter.com/jiGTbGB3wD
— Aminatou Sow (@aminatou) December 22, 2019
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What’s worse than an all white @revolve influencer trip? Cashing big fat checks in exchange for #content creation (aka propaganda) to rehabilitate the image of Saudi Arabia, a country said to be causing “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”, according to the United Nations. According to anonymous sources, six-figure sums were offered for attendance and geo-tagged posts. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Following the government’s pre-meditated murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi in October 2018 , the arrest of women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul in May 2018, the outing of a gay Saudi journalist and his partner who began receiving death threats from their families (homosexuality is a crime in Saudi Arabia and punishable by death), and countless other human rights abuses, a bevy of supermodels, influencers, celebrities, and musicians convened in Riyadh for the inaugural @mdlbeast . According to @hypebeast , the electronic music festival is “one of the most significant musical events the region has ever seen”. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Saudi Arabia has been spending billions to change its image in the west, but this is sure to be the most expensive campaign yet. In a series of Instagram stories posted by transgender model @teddy_quinlivan , it was revealed that fellow model @emrata had turned down the trip, evidently aware of the country’s human rights crisis. “It is very important to me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, freedom of expression and the right to a free press. I hope coming forward on this brings more attention to the injustices happening there”, said Ratajkowski in a statement to Diet Prada. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Unfortunately, not all shared the same sentiments. There are simply too many attendees to name. Dieters, feel free to tag any attendees you know of… just in case they haven’t been reading the news. • #propoganda #jamalkashoggi #humanrights #humanrightsabuse #lgbtq #lgbtqrights #freespeech #journalism #independent #womensrights #mdlbeast #edm #electronicmusic #supermodel #influencer #content #riyadh #emrata #emilyratajkowski #teddyquinlivan #model #celebrity #dj #electronicmusic #musicfestival #wtf #smh #government #corruption #dietprada
several instagram influencers were paid to visit saudi arabia to help restore its image.they overlooked the major human rights violations in the country.
“you’re not an influencer, you’re a for-hire human billboard” – khashoggi’s editor at WaPo said about the incident
— beril a. (@berilakman) December 22, 2019
Sonam Kapoor pushed back by saying that she was treated with respect while she was there but many are arguing that if she wasn’t mistreated doesn’t mean that everyone in Saudi Arabia is treated as respectfully as her
People called out Sonam Kapoor for being hypocritical in her actions because she champions LGBTQ and progressive causes otherwise while she was okay promoting Saudi Arabia just for the money she was made, despite the fact that the country explicitly persecutes members of the LGBTQ community and is extremely conservative, otherwise.
People shared that this effort by Saudi government to show a “lighter side” of the country is failing
I’ve been too busy working to realize that a raft of influencers were just paid (again) to fly to Saudi to brighten MBS’s image. Seeing the caption “Saudi girls” is especially grating when I think of Saudi women’s rights activists jailed or exiled for pushing for basic freedoms. pic.twitter.com/lPd8YjrQVN
— Gissou Nia/ گیسو نیا (@GissouNia) December 21, 2019
They also asserted that Saudi Arabia is not a changed place for women and the Saudi women can still not have the freedoms that these foreign celebrities who were paid and given special treatment just to show a false image
The music festival has definitely ruffled quite a few feathers among the aam awaam. Do you think the efforts by Saudi Arabia to change the image is actually a good effort or just a government propaganda to lure in the Western world for more money and resources.
Cover image via: @sonamkapoor via Instagram / @alessandraambrosio via Instagram