Two of the best-known names in popular culture, Kanye West and Beyoncé Knowles, are in trouble for displaying an astonishing insensitivity to victims of human rights abuses.
Both music superstars recently performed at a wedding that took place in Kazakhstan, for the grandson of the country’s brutal dictatorial leader.
In Kanye’s case, media reports indicate that he took home a whopping $3 million dollar paycheck. A Kazakh billionaire and co-owner of one of the country’s largest banks reportedly paid the rapper. The amount Beyoncé was charging has not been reported.
Kanye has been selling his latest album, “Yeezus,” by invoking race and class issues with singles like “New Slaves” and “Black Skinhead.” He apparently is no friend of the oppressed people of Kazakhstan.
Beyoncé has already become embroiled in a human rights-related controversy in the spring of 2013, when she and husband Jay-Z took a vacation to Cuba and allowed a repressive communist regime to use their celebrity for propaganda purposes.
Now together with Kanye West, Beyoncé disregarded international protests by human rights groups and gave performances at the wedding of Aysultan Nazarbayev, the youngest son of President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s eldest daughter.
Aysultan works for the country’s ministry of defense. His new wife is Alima Boranbayeva, daughter of Kayrat Boranbayev, chairman of the joint Kazakh-Russian state oil venture KazRosGas.
President Nazarbayev, who is reportedly worth billions, has been accused of repeated human rights violations and corruption.
British pop icon Sting pulled out from what would have been a performance for Nazarbayev in 2011, because of human rights violations that allegedly took place against striking oil workers.
“The Kazakh gas and oil workers and their families need our support and the spotlight of the international media on their situation in the hope of bringing about positive change,” Sting said at the time.
Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest country in the world. It has a 4,000-mile border with Russia and 1,100-mile border with China. The energy-rich nation is the world's largest producer of uranium.
Kazakhstan was a part of the former Soviet republic but after the collapse of
The Soviet Union, the country maintained the ruling clique headed by Nazarbayev, who is now president for life.
Kanye and Beyoncé had to disregard many unpleasant facts to take this gig.
Nazarbayev runs a repressive one-party state that does not tolerate dissent. He routinely jails and fines leaders of opposition groups, shuts down their offices, and closes down newspapers and media. International human rights groups that have denounced Nazarbayev’s actions include Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Freedom House, and Reporters Without Borders.
David Mepham, director of Human Rights Watch was quoted by the U.K. Daily Mail saying that Kazakhstan's human rights record includes “credible allegations of torture, the imprisonment of government critics, tight controls over the media and freedom of expression and association, limits in religious freedom, and continuing violation of workers' rights.”
Other celebrities have received criticism from human rights groups for performing or appearing at events given by dictators with deplorable human rights records.
In July 2013, human rights activists condemned Jennifer Lopez for singing Happy Birthday to the president of Turkmenistan. According to Lopez’s publicist, the singer would not have performed in Turkmenistan if she had been aware of the country’s abysmal human rights record.
In 2011, the Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank apologized and fired her manager after appearing at a birthday bash for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who had been accused of torture and killings.
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax.TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.
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