Jennifer Lopez’s latest performance is stirring up controversy.
Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to the president of Turkmenistan during a show Saturday night, a country that Human Rights Watch calls one of the most repressive in the world. Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to president Gurbanguly Berdymukhaedov during the performance after a last-minute request before she took the stage from the hosts.
Her publicist told The Associated Press that the singer wouldn’t have performed there if she knew there were human rights issues in the country. According to the statement, the event was hosted by the China National Petroleum Corporation and was not a political event.
Berdimuhamedow has been criticized for oppressive rule by human rights organizations. A 2012 Human Rights Watch report describes the country as “among the most repressive in the world” under the Turkmenistan leader’s “authoritarian rule.”
Lopez’s publicist says the event was reviewed by her staff but “had there been knowledge of human rights issues of any kind, Jennifer would not have attended.”
The singer-actress-dancer, whose performance fee was not disclosed, does not have any other performances scheduled in Turkmenistan.