John Legend was under fire recently for agreeing to perform in Bahrain for the country’s Spring of Culture festival in Arad Fort.
After all that talk at the Oscars about human rights and African-American rights being trampled on in his own country, many say John Legend shouldn’t perform in a country that is widely known for its human rights violations.
In his acceptance speech for the song “Glory”, John Legend lamented, “We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850.”
John Legend also stated that the problems of Selma are the problems of now, including socio-economic gaps and general racism.
However, in the country he will be performing in, the Sunni-dominated regime has been accused of widespread human rights abuses. They have been known to use excessive force against protesters. They have also been accused of atrocities like extra judicial killings, arbitrary detention, and torture.
Dr. Ala’a al-Shehabi, a prominent human rights activist from Bahrain Watch, is hoping that John Legend will reconsider. She said, “Bahrainis have been enduring a civil rights struggle for decades. Having John Legend sing in Bahrain should be in honor of the people who have lost life and limb in this struggle. Not in honor of the regime that wants to use him to burnish its bloodied reputation.”
She continued, “Bahrain is facing a human rights calamity given its small size and small population… Scores of ageing and peaceful political leaders are behind bars. If Martin Luther King was Bahraini today, he’d be serving a long prison sentence, for all of the island’s leaders are in prison, on trial or in exile.”
Sounds like the issues that the people of Bahrain bemoan may be out of John Legend’s realm of understanding.
Sayed Yousif Almuhafdah, the vice president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, held a similar sentiment.
He said, “I’d like to tell John Legend that my people, the people of Bahrain, are fighting the same injustice and discrimination African-Americans suffered in the United States. They’re living under a dictatorship that has stripped them from their most basic human rights, democracy, justice, and freedom of speech.”
He added, “Bahrainis’ democracy campaigners are being attacked on daily basis, arrested, tortured, and unjustly detained. The people of Bahrain are paying their lives as a price for their freedom.”
However, John Legend is going through with it anyway. He said, “The solution to every human rights concern is not always to boycott. Often, the best way to drive progress is to show up and participate in the conversation.”
He added, “Part of my mission in life is to spread love and joy to people all over the world. I intend to do just that in Bahrain, regardless of my disagreements with some of their governments’ policies and actions.”
What do you think? Is John Legend’s decision to go on with his appearance, despite pleas from Bahrain’s human rights leaders, hypocritical?