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Jennifer Lopez Apologizes for Celebrating Resource-Rich Dictator

Jennifer Lopez sang 'Happy Birthday' to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan, described by Human Rights Watch as one of the world's most repressive' regimes. June 29, 2013.
Igor Sasin | AFP | Getty Images
Jennifer Lopez sang 'Happy Birthday' to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan, described by Human Rights Watch as one of the world's most repressive' regimes. June 29, 2013.

Jennifer Lopez performed in Turkmenistan over the weekend at the request of a major Chinese state-owned oil company, only to be dismayed when she—or her handlers—discovered Turkmenistan's less-than-stellar human rights record.

China National Petroleum Corporation—parent of listed subsidiary Petro China—reportedly requested Lopez sing "Happy Birthday" to Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov during a concert in the former Soviet Republic.

Turkmenistan is one of the world's largest natural gas reserve holders and a major supplier of pipeline gas to China, delivering more than 21 billion cubic meters in 2012. The country also supplies European markets via pipeline through Russia, and to Iran in smaller volumes.

The country also has a poor human rights record. According to Transparency International, only 6 countries in the world are more corrupt than Turkmenistan. The country scored second-to-last of all the countries on Revenue Watch Institute's most recent Resource Governance Index, with a 5/100.

"Turkmenistan is one of the most closed countries in the world and has a record of arresting and harassing journalists," said Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, in response to an incident that occurred this past May.

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According to the USA Today: "Lopez's publicist says the event was vetted by Lopez's staff: "Had there been knowledge of human rights issues any kind, Jennifer would not have attended."

Apparently Lopez's staff did not do much vetting. If they had, they might have found the Ruhnama, the spiritual and moral "guidelines" of former Turkmen dictator Saparmurat Niyazov— or Turkmenbashi—which is mandatory subject matter in the country's education system. One of its more bizarre claims:

"The ox-cart with two wooden wheels, which was invented by the leader of the tribe of Kanly, was the second important contribution of Turkmens to world civilization."

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