The non-profit group Reporters Without Borders claimed as recently as May that the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan “continues to have one of the world’s most authoritarian and ruthless regimes” under President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, and the country’s 2012 Human Rights Report described a widespread problem of government and police officials torturing and beating citizens who have been critical of the current regime. But hey, that’s not gonna stop a president from throwing one hell of a 56th birthday party, am I right?
Berdymukhamedov, who we’ll just call Gurby for convenience, threw a lavish party for his big day yesterday, as he was not only celebrating turning 56 (which is like 70 in a country that is known for making people vanish) but also showing off the foundation of his new $1.9 billion resort on the Caspian sea that is really going to make the kids consider Turkmenistan as a hot Spring Break spot. And what better way to tie that all together than by having Jennifer Lopez sing “Happy Birthday” to him?
Dressed in sequinned leggings and a long-sleeved white jacket, the 43-year-old performed for a crowd of politicians and energy executives – Turkmenistan has the world’s fourth highest gas reserves, and substantial quantities of oil.
She then changed into traditional Turkmen dress to sing “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, ruler of the repressive former Soviet country. (Via the Telegraph)
Now, I know that the Internet has a little bit of a knee-jerk attitude when it comes to things like our biggest pop stars performing for eccentric rulers of impoverished nations, so let’s hear what Lopez’s people have to say about it first.
Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to the leader of Turkmenistan during a performance, but her representative says had she known there were human rights issues in the country, she wouldn’t have performed there at all.
Lopez performed in the former Soviet bloc country on Saturday night. A statement released by her publicist says it was for the China National Petroleum Corp. and wasn’t a political event. (Via 680 News)
Ah, she was there to perform for China’s oil company, and Gurby just happened to be there on his birthday in his own country, so she was like, “Well, I might as well give the birthday boy a shoutout, right?” But if she had known that people around the world consider Turkmenistan second only to North Korea for the heinous way its citizens are treated for practicing free speech, then she totally wouldn’t have accepted that unknown amount of money to be there.
The statement says the event was vetted by Lopez’s representatives, but she wouldn’t have attended if she had known about the accusations.
According to the statement, the birthday song was a last-minute request made by the company to Lopez and she “graciously obliged.”
See? Her people vetted it. Besides, it’s not like you can just type “Turkmenistan” into Google and immediately see a bunch of things about human rights violations like I did just to get the information for the first paragraph of this blog post. In all seriousness, though, I do believe the part about “graciously obliged” being in quotes, because had she not, we’d probably never hear from Lopez again.
Her entourage was also treated like royalty while in Turkmenistan, as the Telegraph dropped this little nugget of irony on us:
Lopez’s choreographer, J. R. Taylor, tweeted: “The Turkmenistan breeze feels amazing at night, kidz! I wonder were all my Turkmenistan followers are!? Hit me up!”
To which many replied that he was unlikely to receive a response within the country, as Twitter is banned.
After all, Gurby is the same guy who shut down the country’s Internet, because someone posted this video of him falling off his horse.