Jennifer Lopez said sorry on Sunday for singing “Happy Birthday” to the leader of Turkmenistan after learning of his dense record of human rights violations.
The Human Rights Watch lists Turkmenistan’s government among “the most repressive in the world” on its website, noting its crackdown on freedom of expression, use of torture in the criminal justice system, and interference with residents’ right to leave and return to the country.
Turkmenistan authorities failed to heed recommendations made in previous Human Rights Council reviews, in December 2008.
In a statement to the AP, Lopez’s publicist said the Latin pop princess had no idea.
“Had there been knowledge of human rights issues any kind, Jennifer would not have attended,” the publicist said.
Concert organisers, employees of the China National Petroleum Corporation, made a last-minute request before Lopez took the stage that she serenade the country’s leader, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow. Lopez “graciously obliged,” according to the publicist’s statement.
The AP acknowledges that Jenny From The Block isn’t the first artist to receive backlash for performing in countries or for leaders with human rights violations.
Beyonce, Nelly Furtado, 50 Cent, Mariah Carey, and Usher performed at parties linked to the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, later promising to donate their hefty performance fees to charity.
Watch Lopez’s performance below. ‘Happy Birthday’ begins at the 50 second mark.
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