Saudi music concert slammed for being ‘mass sexual assault festival’

Lauded as the Middle East’s biggest music event, the so-called MDL Beast Festival ran from 19-21 December in the Saudi capital Riyadh promising to offer a “multi-sensory, multi-stage experience, showcasing both local and international talent, representing all spheres of the cultural landscape across multiple districts. A feast for the senses, it will enable festival goers to enjoy the most innovative, immersive experiences in world-class arts, culture and food in one single venue.” The event included a line-up of artists including David Guetta, Steve Aoki, Black Coffee and Martin Garrix with celebrity guests such as supermodels Joan Smalls and Alessandro Ambrosio.There has also been a large entourage of social media “influencers” marketing the event to their followers.

However the festival, along with the celebrities and influencers associated with it, has faced a growing backlash on social media against a perceived whitewashing or “influence-washing” of Saudi Arabia’s deplorable domestic human rights record, controversy over the Jamal Khashoggi murder – and two days before sentences were issued against some of the hit men in the case – to the kingdom’s failing war effort in neighbouring Yemen which has led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The entertainment events are part of a wider strategic plan of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman’s so-called Vision 2030 involving economic and social reform.

Adding a further negative spin on MDL Beast, has been several allegations of sexual assault experienced by female attendees which has surfaced on multiple social media platforms. One website which features K-Pop news (Korean boy-band Monsta X were also among the performers), described the event as a “Mass Sexual Assault Festival”.

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