Jennifer Lopez is apologizing for performing at a birthday event for the president of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. According to the Global Human Rights Watch, the president is described as “one of the world’s most repressive countries.” He severely restricts the internet that’s available to the country, along with all electronic and television communications. Also, according to the GHRW, Turkmenistan does not allow freedom of thought or religion, and homosexuality is punishable by law.
Jennifer received $1.4 million to perform at the president’s birthday party, and of course now she’s saying he would never have done it – had she known all this about the country. I’m not sure if I’m buying that. I did a basic Google search and was able to come up with the info for this post.
The US pop star Jennifer Lopez has added to her long history of performing for unsavoury characters with a birthday concert for the president of Turkmenistan — a man accused of committing widespread human rights abuses while ruling over the hermit nation.
Human rights activists criticised the star, also known as JLo, for singing at the flashy southern resort of Avaza on Saturday night to mark the 56th birthday of Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, attended by a select group of officials, diplomats and executives.
With a shout of “Turkmenistan!”, Lopez took to the stage to sing and dance her way through her biggest hits. At the end, she changed from a skimpy white dress into a long, traditional Turkmen outfit to sing Happy Birthday, Mr President. “It was our pleasure,” Lopez said from the stage. “And we wish you the very happiest birthday.”
Berdymukhamedov presides over a personality cult in the oil and gas-rich central Asian nation and brooks no dissent. Human Rights Watch calls Turkmenistan “one of the world’s most repressive countries.” Lopez is believed to be the first major star to visit and perform in Turkmenistan, a nation whose people live in poverty and are allowed little contact with the outside world.
Lopez’s entourage appeared unaware they were heading to a country where the internet is tightly controlled. Access to social media and websites run by independent media and human rights groups is banned. “I wonder where all my Turkmenistan followers are!? Hit me up!” tweeted her choreographer JR Taylor. The tweet was later deleted as reports of Lopez’s controversial performance began to spread.
Lopez’s publicist released a statement on Sunday saying that had the singer been aware of the country’s human rights issues, she would not have performed there. The statement said she was invited to perform for CNPC and “graciously obliged” their last-minute request to sing a birthday tune for Berdymukhamedov.
Lopez has also performed at the wedding of an Uzbek businessman in Ukraine, reportedly for $1m, as well as for the Azeri oligarch Telman Ismailov, reportedly for $1.4m.
Before two performances in Russia last year, Lopez declined to discuss the country’s human rights situation with fans during a phone-in. In response to a question about the jailed punk band Pussy Riot, she said: “I don’t like to talk politics, to be quite honest.”
What do you think, should Jennifer claim some responsibility for performing in the country? Here’s video of her performance.