Rod Stewart Declines Saudi Arabia Concert Offer Due To Human Rights 'Injustices'

13 October 2023 | 11:04 am | Mary Varvaris

"I’d like my choice not to go to shine a light on the injustices there and ignite positive change."

Rod Stewart @ Rod Laver Arena

Rod Stewart @ Rod Laver Arena (Credit: Jonathan White)

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Rod Stewart has turned down a massive offer to perform in Saudi Arabia, citing “injustices” faced by “women, the LGBTQ community [and] the press” in the kingdom.

“I’m grateful that I have a choice whether or not to perform in Saudi Arabia,” the British music icon said in a new interview with The Mirror. “So many citizens there have extremely limited choices… women, the LGBTQ community, the press.”

According to Freedom House, the Saudi Arabian government controls its domestic media, meaning that the kingdom doesn’t have a free and independent press; freedom of assembly is illegal, and women and the LGBTQIA+ community face restricted rights. Same-sex relationships and sexual activities are prohibited, with the death penalty doled out as a possible punishment.

Stewart continued, “I’d like my choice not to go… to shine a light on the injustices there and ignite positive change.” A source close to the singer said that “some things are more important” than money to Stewart, revealing that he previously turned down £1 million to perform in Qatar. The source commented that the amount offered by Saudi Arabian officials was “much higher” but declined to give a figure.

“I usually keep all my charitable efforts nice and quiet and just do it,” Stewart said. “But I thought, ‘I am a knight; I have been given this knighthood because of the things I’ve achieved in my life and the charity work I’ve done over the years.’

“But that was the past. I want to be seen to be doing something now. I am a knight; I should be using my power to do something for people. I am sure that if there are people out there who see what I am doing, they will pick up some slack, too.”

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Artists such as Liam Payne, Nicki Minaj, Bruno Mars, and more have come under fire for booking concerts in Saudi Arabia.

The Music reviewer Andy Hazel said of Stewart’s March Melbourne show alongside Cyndi Lauper: “As he throws up his arms and leaves the stage for a final time, there is the sense that, while Stewart might have inspired a lot of different feelings tonight, disappointment was never on the cards.”

You can read the full review here.