Women’s Empowerment: Striking a Chord in Saudi Arabia

In the vibrant realm of women’s rights advocacy, Alicia Keys, a renowned performer and advocate, has been a prominent figure, hosting regular Women to Women summits and sharing empowering messages on platforms like Instagram. However, her latest venture into Saudi Arabia for the third edition of the summit has sparked both admiration and criticism.

Unveiling the Summit’s Agenda

Keys, along with acclaimed artist Pharrell Williams, is set to explore “how women are pushing the culture forward in Saudi Arabia and around the world.” The summit, scheduled in the coastal city of Jeddah, aims to delve into cultural, creative, and boundary-pushing narratives led by women. Keys expressed her excitement about connecting meaningfully with the inspiring women there, especially in the context of International Women’s Day.

The Backlash: Advocates Urge a Boycott

Amidst the anticipation, human rights activists, including the outspoken Peter Tatchell, have called on Keys to boycott Saudi Arabia. Tatchell emphasizes the oppressive environment for women in the country, citing restrictions on their activities and the persecution of various minority groups. He insists that artists should not perform in Saudi Arabia unless they publicly demand women’s freedom and an end to human rights abuses, including the release of political prisoners.

Responding to the Backlash

In response to the criticism, Keys defended her decision, emphasizing the importance of discussing crucial issues, particularly on International Women’s Day. She expressed her enthusiasm for performing in Jeddah and engaging with women to address cultural and creative narratives. However, the controversy raises questions about the ethical implications of participating in events hosted by a country with a questionable human rights record.

Hypocrisy or Progress?

Tatchell deems it hypocritical for Saudi Arabia to host an International Women’s Day event, given its alleged suppression of women’s rights advocates. The collaboration with the Formula One Grand Prix adds another layer of complexity to the situation, raising concerns about the ethical alignment of such partnerships with the values of women’s empowerment.


As Alicia Keys prepares to take the stage in Saudi Arabia, the controversy surrounding her summit unfolds. While some see it as an opportunity to push cultural boundaries, others view it as colluding with the alleged whitewashing of Saudi misogyny. The intersection of music, activism, and geopolitics prompts reflection on the role of artists in advocating for human rights, especially in countries with contested records. The dialogue sparked by this event serves as a testament to the ongoing struggle for women’s rights worldwide.

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