This week’s big news is Jennifer Lopez performing Happy Birthday to President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow Turkmenistan’s dictator. The Western media, especially the tabloids are ablaze with this hot new gossip, how? and Why? Would an American icon so well known for her charity work, sing to Turkmenistan’s president who has been condemned for his human rights abuses, oh the horror. Human rights Watch wrote “Celebrity and dictatorship have jumped into bed together once more, with American pop singer Jennifer Lopez singing “Happy Birthday” to Turkmenistan’s authoritarian ruler this past weekend.”
But wait the plot thickens, China’s National Petroleum Corporation, the state-owned oil enterprise tasked with improving relations between China and Turkmenistan paid for the performance. The Wall Street Journal truly outraged by this horrific alliance between Chinese business, the Turkmen dictatorship and America’s loved pop icon wrote “A human-rights debate involving singer Jennifer Lopez has provided a rare window into the efforts of China’s largest oil company to boost access to abundant gas supplies in Turkmenistan.”
However, beyond the glossy headlines and national outcry, what every media outlet and human rights organizations alike fails to mention is the US government and corporations have been doing business with those horrific abusers of human rights since the collapse of the USSR. Since 1995 the US government has been working on the development of theTrans-Afghanistan Pipeline, which would transport Caspian Sea natural gas from Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan, into Pakistan and then to India, allowing Caspian gas to bypass Iran. Clearly the Afghan civil war and then the War on Terror hampered construction efforts, but as of 2013 it still in the works.
Back in May the Neutral Turkmenistan newspaper reported that US businesses, held several meetings with representatives from the Turkmen ministries and departments in the oil and gas industry, mineral resources and agriculture. The meetings were aimed at negotiations for the development of Turkmen hydrocarbon fields in Turkmenistan. Ashgabat conducted deals with US companies including Chevron, ExxonMobil, Conoco Phillips, Honeywell, along with other to develop the Turkmen shelf of the Caspian Sea. As of 2013 there are fifty US corporations conducting business with Turkmenistan including Coca-cola, American Airlines and Caterpillar, the full list can be found here. US companies even went as far as promoting the dictators holy book the Ruhnama, if you don’t believe watch this wonderful Finish documentary. All this money that has flowed into Turkmenistan through the help of US companies was put to good use, helping former dictator Niyazov and current dictator Berdimuhamedow build their city of gold.
Jennifer Lopez’s performance which managed to invoke a storm of outrage has resulted in calls from both the press and human rights organization, to donate her earning to charity. But, let’s face it Jennifer Lopez, like many fellow entertainers are capitalists at heart, employed to entertain, willing to profit from charitable causes and a little naïve to international politics, so why should she have to donate her earnings? There is no doubt that due to a mixture of poor taste, hypocrisy and stupidity, Jennifer Lopez should donate her earning. Less so due to the actual performance, and more so due to her pure stupidity not to actual investigate the country before signing a contract.
However, the real shame rests with the US government and corporations, who should also have to donate all their profits for conducting business with a country, that their own state department classes as a dictatorship. Even more so the press should be ashamed of themselves, especially well-respected business newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal, who failed, or intentionally avoided mentioning this corporate partnership. It seems like Jennifer Lopez needs some better PR, the same as the 50 corporations currently conducting business with Turkmenistan’s dictatorship who avoid media attention.