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Mariah Carey performs "With You" at the American Music Awards on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
Matt Sayles/Invision/AP
Girls & Women

Why Activists Are Angry About Mariah Carey’s Latest Concert


Why Global Citizens Should Care
While Saudi Arabia has made some strides toward gender equality over the past two years, it continues to suppress and imprison women’s rights activists. Gender equality advocates called on Mariah Carey to use her platform to help amplify women’s voices in the country and are disappointed by the singer’s response. You can take action here to help advance gender equality globally. 

Mariah Carey became “the first female international artist to perform in Saudi Arabia” on Thursday, according to her publicists. And though she likely dazzled concert attendees, many are upset the artist did not cancel her highly anticipated performance.

Saudi Arabia has consistently made headlines over the past year for seemingly taking steps toward gender equality, only to back peddle by cracking down on and arresting rights activists.

In the lead up to Carey’s concert, Saudi women and rights activists implored the singer to take a stand on behalf of the women whose rights have been suppressed, by either canceling or using her performance to call attention to the struggles of the country’s jailed activists.

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Saudi Arabia has been widely criticized for its gender discriminatory policies — particularly its male guardianship system, which requires a woman to obtain a man’s permission in order to travel, to seek employment, or get surgery. Women’s rights activists have made some gains in recent years, but many have been punished for speaking out against such policies.

Among those who called on Carey to cancel was Walid Alhathloul, the brother of imprisoned women’s rights activist Loujain Alhathloul.

In an op-ed published on CNN, Walid says his sister, a “women’s rights hero” who championed women’s right to drive, was helping to set up a domestic violence shelter, which ultimately led to her arrest. She has been held in prison for eight months and has repeatedly been tortured in a separate facility she describes as a “palace of terror,” Walid wrote.

Read More: Imprisoned Women's Rights Activists Share Details of Torture in Saudi Arabia

Despite the activists’ appeals, the singer went through with the performance as planned. 

The vast majority of public spaces, including workplaces, are segregated by gender in Saudi Arabia. Often women are even required to enter restaurants and other shared spaces through a separate door.

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The Grammy winner accepted the “offer to perform for an international and mixed gender audience … as a positive step toward the dissolution of gender segregation,” her publicists told the Associated Press in a statement ahead of the concert.

But activists have criticized the performance, calling it a “distraction” from ongoing rights abuses and saying it will do little to further gender equality in the country.