According to RadarOnline, Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, has expressed strong criticism against A-list celebrities who attended the recent Red Sea International Film Festival in Saudi Arabia like Will Smith and Halle Berry. The festival attracted Hollywood stars like Gwyneth Paltrow, Will Smith, Sharon Stone, Halle Berry, and Johnny Depp. Cengiz, who was set to marry Khashoggi before his brutal murder, finds the celebrities’ participation unacceptable and shameful. The journalist’s fiancée is engaged in a battle against the leaders of Saudi Arabia, accusing them of paying millions to attract top Hollywood figures to improve their international image.
Sevag Kechichian, a senior researcher for Khashoggi’s non-profit Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), also criticized the celebrities, stating that it is deeply disappointing for figures like Gwyneth Paltrow, Johnny Depp, and Sharon Stone to actively participate in Saudi Arabia’s image laundering by attending the Red Sea Film Festival. The festival’s official website claims it is organized by a non-profit, the Red Sea Film Foundation, which supports the film industry in Saudi Arabia, including film production, distribution, and education on cinema.
Kechichian expressed disappointment that instead of using their influence to advocate for the release of Saudi human rights defenders and the end of abuses, these celebrities seem content with accepting money from the Saudi government to “arts-wash” its abhorrent human rights record. The report highlights that celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow, were rumored to have received up to $1 million for their appearances at the festival.
The criticism comes amid ongoing controversies related to Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018. The Saudi government’s association with major events, such as the PGA European Tour and LIV Golf, has also drawn attention and criticism.