Western pop sensation Jennifer Lopez performed a birthday concert last week for the president of Turkmenistan – a man said to be a dictator with a history of human rights abuses. The backlash continues for Lopez, with some calling for her to refund or donate to charity the fee she was paid for the event.
Lopez performed at the flashy southern resort of Avaza on June 30 to mark the 56th birthday of Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who hosted a select group of officials, diplomats and executives. Human Rights Watch calls Turkmenistan “one of the world’s most repressive countries”, the Guardian reported.
At the conclusion of the concert, Lopez donned a traditional Turkmen outfit to sing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President.”
“It was our pleasure,” Lopez said from the stage, according to the Guardian. “And we wish you the very happiest birthday.”
When human-rights activists immediately criticized her appearance, Lopez’s publicist released a statement saying she not aware of the country’s human rights issues.
“The event was vetted by her representatives,” Lopez’s publicist, Mark Young, said. “Had there been knowledge of human-rights issues of any kind, Jennifer would not have attended.”
Despite the uproar, Lopez has issued no formal apology, nor has she publicly confirmed that she’s kept an estimated $1.5 million fee for the performance, the New York Post reported.
Other entertainers have made similar mistakes. Beyonce, Nelly Furtado, 50 Cent, Mariah Carey and Usher were paid generous fees to perform at parties linked to the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, according to the Huffington Post. But once the performances were made public and Gadhafi was linked to terrorism, all announced they would donate their fees to charity.
Here’s a clip of Lopez’s concert, including the birthday song, via the Guardian.
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