Jennifer Lopez has apologized after singing “Happy Birthday” to the leader of Turkmenistan, who is known to be one of the worst offenders of human rights on the planet.
According to Lopez’s publicist, the private event was vetted by her staff and, apparently, they missed the fact that the country’s citizens live in constant fear of persecution. Human rights organizations have labeled Turkmenistan’s leader Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow as responsible for one of the most repressive regimes in the world.
"The country is virtually closed to independent scrutiny," says the country's profile on Human Rights Watch's website. "Media and religious freedoms are subject to draconian restrictions, and human rights defenders and other activists face the constant threat of government reprisal. The authorities continue to use imprisonment as a tool for political retaliation and to restrict peoples' right to travel freely.”
Lopez performed Saturday for Berdimuhamedow and his top political advisors at a $2 billion resort on the Caspian Sea that the leader had opened the day before the concert.
According to Lopez’s publicist, she would not have performed if she had known about the human rights issues.
"Had there been knowledge of human rights issues any kind, Jennifer would not have attended,” her publicist announced in a statement. The birthday song was not initially on the schedule, according to the statement, but the 43-year-old singer “graciously obliged” after she was asked by the corporation hosting the event, China National Petroleum Corp., which has invested a significant amount of money in Turkmenistan’s oil industry.
The greater offense, of course, is that the world-famous singer with her likely very well-paid staff had no idea about the human rights violations.
Her choreographer J.R. Taylor even tweeted out, “The Turkmenistan Breeze feels amazing at night Kidz! I wonder were [sic] all my Turkmenistan followers are!? Hit me up!” Luckily, human rights watchers informed the high-profile choreographer that he was entertaining a leader who has blocked social media in the country.
Ronan Farrow, a celebrity human rights lawyer, also tweeted out to the singer, “Singing happy birthday to dictators while dissidents and journalists die in their torture chambers? Still Jenny from the block, @JLo?”