On Saturday (June 29), Jennifer Lopez performed a show in Turkmenistan, an oil-rich former Soviet Bloc country that borders Iran and Afghanistan, during the course of which she sang “Happy Birthday” to the country’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. The problem? Berdimuhamedov has been widely criticized for his oppressive rule by human rights organizations and the country of Turkmenistan is considered by Human Rights Watch to be “one of the world’s most repressive countries.”
Lopez’s representatives issued a statement saying that the event was vetted but, “had there been knowledge of human rights issues any kind, Jennifer would not have attended.” The representative went on to say that the request for the birthday song was made at the last minute by China National Petroleum Corp., which paid for and put on the event. Lopez, in the words of her representative, “graciously obliged.”
Lopez is among the few who will engage with Turkmenistan. She is thought to be the first pop star to visit the oppressed country. As Gawker pointed out, Lopez’s choreographer tweeted, and has since deleted, their arrival on June 28 to no reply. The Internet and social media are heavily controlled and Twitter is actually banned in the country.
No word yet if Lopez will follow the same path chosen by Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Nelly Furtado and 50 Cent, who previously performed for late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and donated the fee to charity.