J-Lo’s ‘Blessing’ of Dictatorship in Turkmenistan

That didn’t work out so well.

Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to the leader of Turkmenistan during a show, but her representative said she wouldn’t have performed there at all if she had known there were human rights issues in the country.

The singer and actress performed in the former Soviet bloc country on Saturday night. A statement released Sunday by her publicist to The Associated Press said the event was hosted by the China National Petroleum Corp. and wasn’t a political event.

However, the country’s leader, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, did attend. Berdimuhamedow has been criticized for oppressive rule by human rights organizations. Human Rights Watch describes Turkmenistan as “among the most repressive in the world.”

Lopez has subsequently apologized — more than is reasonably expected — but expect her to take a few more hits over this.

In her defense, to a lot of Westerners, one -stan is the same as another, and Lopez cannot be expected to keep track of which -stans are merely kleptocracies, which are falling into civil war, and which are vile curse-words at Freedom House. This is instead a reminder that so many of the terrible things, the very Soviet things, that are done in the broken empire’s wreckage remain out of the world’s view save when a spotlight is briefly shone on them.

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