Jennifer Lopez comes under fire after performing at a party to celebrate the 56th birthday of Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the President of Turkmenistan who has been widely criticized for human rights violations. At the lavish party on Saturday night, June 29, Lopez wore sequinned leggings and a long-sleeved white jacket when performing some of her hits.
She then changed her dress into a traditional Turkmen dress when taking the stage with some people to sing "Happy Birthday Mr. President". "It was our pleasure. And we wish you the very happiest birthday," Lopez told the President before exiting the stage.
Human rights activists then heavily criticized Lopez's appearance at the celebration. "Lopez obviously has the right to earn a living performing for the dictator of her choice and his circle of cronies," said Human Rights Foundation president Thor Halvorssen in a statement.
"But her actions utterly destroy the carefully crafted message she has cultivated with her prior involvement with Amnesty International's programs in Mexico aimed at curbing violence against women," he continued.
"What is the next stop on her tour, Syria? The dictator of Kazakhstan's birthday is July 6, maybe she will also pay him a visit?" Halvorssen cynically added.
Lopez's representative has responded to the criticism. The rep said in a statement that Lopez wouldn't have performed at the event if she had known about the human rights issue. The rep explained the party was arranged by China National Petroleum Corp., a company which does business with Turkmenistan, and it wasn't a political event.
The rep added that the birthday song was a last-minute request made by the company to Lopez and she "graciously obliged."
Turkmenistan, a former Soviet Bloc country, has been cited for human rights abuses and authoritarian rule. "Turkmenistan remains one of the world's most repressive countries," wrote the advocacy organization Human Rights Watch in a January 2012 report. "Turkmenistan continues to expand relations with foreign governments and international organizations, but without meaningful outcomes for human rights."