Jennifer Lopez clearly made a huge error of judgement, though she's not the first pop star to play for a tyrant.
Jennifer Lopez has apologized for serenading the controversial Turkmenistan leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov at his 56th birthday celebration. A concert put together on behalf of China National Petroleum Corp for entertainment executives working in Turkmenistan, according to a statement from Lopez's representative obtained by E! Online.
Jennifer Lopez Made A Huge Error Of Judgement
The issue here, of course, is that Mr Berdymukhamedov has an atrocious human rights record and has ruled the country with an iron fist for years - living in luxury while the vast majority of Turkemenistan's inhabitants have nothing. According to a statement by the Human Rights Foundation, he is ranked as one of the nine "worst of the worst" dictators on the planet, while Transparcency International ranks the country as a bottom-seven country in their Corruption Perception Index. Reporters Without Borders label Berdymukhamedov as a "predator of press freedom" and ranks Turkmenistan as the world's third-worst place for journalist, sitting uncomfortably between Syria, North Korea and Eritrea. The leader's 97% landslide in the recent election was apparently so fraudulent that the OSCE declined to even send observers to look over it.
"The event was vetted by her representatives, had there been knowledge of human rights issues of any kind, Jennifer would not have attended," a statement from Lopez read. The global star even sang 'Happy Birthday To You' to the President.
Jennifer Lopez Was Forced To Apologize For Her Concert On Saturday
"Lopez obviously has the right to earn a living performing for the dictator of her choice and his circle of cronies, but her actions utterly destroy the carefully-crafted message she has cultivated with her prior involvement with Amnesty International's programs in Mexico aimed at curbing violence against women," said the Human Rights foundation's president, Thor Halvorssen. "What is the next stop on her tour, Syria? The dictator of Kazakhstan's birthday is July 6, maybe she will also pay him a visit?"
Though Lopez and her people made a huge error judgement in playing on Saturday evening, the American star is by no means the first popular singer to play for a despot. In 2010, Beyonce was paid a reported $1 million to play for Mutassum Gaddafi, the son and national security advisor of Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi. The R&B superstar belted out just five numbers on-stage in St Barts, before Usher took over until midnight. Other celebrities in attendance on that night, according to the Daily Telegraph, included Russell Simmons, Beyonce's husband Jay-Z, Jon Bon Jovi and Lindsay Lohan.
Beyonce Played For Gaddafi In St Barts, Watched By Lindsay Lohan and on Bon Jovi
Twelve months earlier, Gaddafi had paid Mariah Carey a similar sum of money to provide New Year's entertainment as the same flashy report. A leaked US diplomatic cable observed how Mutassim, "...kicked off 2010 in the same way he spent 2009-with a New Year's Eve trip to St. Barts-reportedly featuring copious amounts of alcohol and a million-dollar personal concert".
The popular Canadian singer Nelly Furtado - who sang for Gaddafi family members at an Italian hotel in 2007 - was the first to go public with her remorse, telling Twitter followers that she would donate her fee to charity. Beyonce followed suit, though it was Mariah who offered the most gushing regret. "I was naive and unaware of who I was booked to perform for," she said in a statement on her website. "I feel horrible and embarrassed to have participated in this mess. Going forward, this is a lesson for all artists to learn from. We need to be more aware and take more responsibility regardless of who books our shows. Ultimately we as artists are to be held accountable."
Mariah Carey Showed Remorse For Playing A Concert For Gaddafi
There are other examples - most notably, everyone who played at the Sun City casino in South Africa during South Africa's apartheid era. These include Frank Sinatra, Black Sabbath, Rod Stewart, Boney M, Dionne Warwick and Tina Turner. Though they weren't paid $1 million, Welsh rockers Manic Street Preachers performed at the Karl Marx Theatre in Havana in 2001, chatting to the guest of honor Fidel Castro before the show despite his well-publicized human rights abuses, according to the same Telegraph piece.
Sting? You know the guy. Here's a guy with wide ranging political awareness and presumably a decent grasp of international relations. It didn't stop him acceptingmore than PDS 1 million to perform at an arts festival in Tashkent, staged by Gulnara Karimova, in 2009. Gulnara's father, the Uzbek president Islam Karimov, has frequently been denounced for his human rights abuses, including massacring protestors. "I am well aware of the Uzbek president's appalling reputation in the field of human rights as well as the environment," he said afterwards, "I made the decision to play there in spite of that. I have come to believe that cultural boycotts are not only pointless gestures, they are counter-productive, where proscribed states are further robbed of the open commerce of ideas and art and as a result become even more closed, paranoid and insular."
Nelly Furtado Playing In Italy, Where She Performed For Gaddafi in 2007
Uzbek emocracy activist and journalist Umida Niyazova, who fled the country in 2008 after spending four months in jail, was having none of Sting's argument. "This is blood money, mafia money," she said. "He might as well have performed in Burma or North Korea."
So there you have it Jennifer. Don't feel too bad. Everyone's performing for tyrants nowadays.
The Manic Street Preachers Played In Havana, With Fidel Castro The Guest of Honor