An upcoming concert of K-pop powerhouse BTS in Saudi Arabia has divided ARMYs and other netizens on Twitter this week.
For starters, the seven-member boy group is slated to perform at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh on Oct. 11, a late addition to its “Love Yourself: Speak Yourself” world tour.
BTS WORLD TOUR ‘LOVE YOURSELF: SPEAK YOURSELF’ 일정 추가 안내#BTS #방탄소년단 #LOVE_YOURSELF #SPEAK_YOURSELF pic.twitter.com/wzfaIEx8qA
— BigHit Entertainment (@BigHitEnt) July 14, 2019
The announcement then caused a storm on Twitter, where some netizens argued that it should not happen due to Saudi Arabia’s alleged human rights abuses toward women and the LGBTQIA+ community.
“I love BTS to bits and along with every army out there I’m incredibly proud of their immense success, especially over the past two years,” one commented. “But I have to say I’m incredibly disappointed with @BigHitEnt and the decision to have a concert in Saudi Arabia.”
I love BTS to bits and along with every army out there I’m incredibly proud of their immense success, especially over the past two years. But I have to say I’m incredibly disappointed with @BigHitEnt and the decision to have a concert in Saudi Arabia.
— Mariam Elba (@mariamaelba) July 14, 2019
Others pointed out that it is unthinkable for BTS, as UN ambassadors, to even consider Saudi Arabia as a stop.
“Imagine being talking at the UN about loving yourself, are openly pro LGBT and then performing in f***ing Saudi Arabia. BTS are the kings of K-Pop, but that’s not it guys.”
Imagine being talking at the UN about loving yourself, are openly pro LGBT and then performing in fucking Saudi Arabia. BTS are the kings of kpop, but thats not it guys.
— Domi (@CWL_IceT) July 14, 2019
In 2018, Saudi Arabia came under intense international scrutiny following the Oct. 2 murder of local journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside its consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
The government denied involvement in the matter for weeks, but it eventually admitted and announced the arrest of 18 individuals, as well as the firing of senior officials.
However, the statements “appeared to be designed to insulate Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman from further scrutiny,” according to Human Rights Watch.
Additionally, the government improved its arbitrary arrests, trials and convictions of peaceful dissidents and activists, including a “large-scale coordinated crackdown” against a women’s rights movement.
#Saudi feminist Loujain al-Hathloul, 29, was detained in May in unprecedented crackdown vs feminists. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman aide Saud al-Qahtani, personally oversaw her interrogation, which incl waterboarding & threatened to rape & kill her https://t.co/qFu2PblJmd pic.twitter.com/jQ2eXmDt5i
— Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) December 17, 2018
Earlier this year, 36 out of 47 nations in the UN Human Rights Council rebuked Saudi Arabia for its aggressive crackdown on free expression, including every member of the European Union.
“It sends a strong signal that Saudi Arabia is not untouchable, and that council members should be held to a higher level of scrutiny,” said Salma El Hosseiny, an advocate for the International Service for Human Rights in Geneva, according to The New York Times.
Interestingly, the announcement of BTS’s concert comes only days after Nicki Minaj canceled her own appearance in the country following public outcry.
“After careful reflection I have decided to no longer move forward with my scheduled concert at Jeddah World Fest,” Minaj told Billboard. “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.”
I’m tired of my fans sending me DM’s saying they want to commit suicide. You guys will never know the things my fans express to me privately. It would break me if even one of my fans were arrested, or BEATEN for expressing themselves. God is LOVE. NO disrespect to the Saudi govt
— MEGATRON (@NICKIMINAJ) July 9, 2019
While some condemned BTS’s decision to perform in the Islamic kingdom, others argued that their appearance is a step for the country forward.
“If Saudi Arabia opposes human rights, it’s their perspective but we can at least be good to BTS as they took a step forward to start spreading positivity there.”
If Saudi Arabia opposes human rights , it’s their perspective but we can at least be good to BTS as they took a step forward to start spreading positivity there. @BTS_twt is so sweet and nice to people and they don’t complain against anything , so can others stay quiet, pls?i beg
— Kangkana_tae_bts (@KangkonaB) July 16, 2019
Meanwhile, one Saudi Arabian started a thread on why ARMYs should not worry about BTS while they stay in the country.
“First, I heard ‘SAFETY’ … as much as y’all are concerned, this is a developed country, EXTRA SAFETY MEASURES can be taken IF NEEDED. I lived here my whole life, and the things people claim are so absurd. Many football matches were held here… HENCE why there are Stadiums… and nothing ever happened.
“Now CLOTHES… I don’t see why this is a concern, but it’s true we have traditions and religion that we follow here (Abaya, hijab, etc.). BUT YOU’RE NOT forced. You just do it out of respect…
“Now, I’m not even lying, but many many Arabs here know them and really love them. Just like any Army, we have merch, albums, etc., and ofc willing to go to their concert.”
THREAD On why you shouldn’t worry about BTS coming to Saudi Arabia… This thread is for people genuinely concerned for BTS and NOT antis, Islamophobes etc.
— Rawan 💜 (@Roseleitbts) July 14, 2019