The politically outspoken elites in the entertainment industry are always quick to speak out against injustice anywhere in the world. That is, of course, unless that injustice gives them VIP access (i.e. Jay-Z and Beyonce vacationing in apartheid Cuba) or, in the case of Kanye West, a repressive dictator is paying him millions in blood money to perform.
Kazakhstani Dictatorship Pays Millions to Kanye West; He Joins J.Lo and Hilary Swank in Legitimizing Human Rights Violators in Central Asia
Kanye West performs in Kazakhstan on August 31
NEW YORK (September 3, 2013)—American musician and entertainer Kanye West performed at the wedding of President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s grandson last Saturday night in Kazakhstan. He reportedly received $3 million for the private engagement in the oil-rich former Soviet state, which has been autocratically ruled by Nazarbayev since 1991.
“Kazakhstan is a human rights wasteland,” said HRF President Thor Halvorssen. “The regime crushes freedom of speech and association; someone like Kanye, who makes a living expressing his views, would find himself in a prison under Nazarbayev’s rule. This particular dictator’s ruthless behavior includes kidnapping the families of dissidents to his rule and abusing judicial systems across the world in persecuting his opponents.”
West’s lucrative private performance comes on the heels of a similar concert given by Jennifer Lopez for the dictator of neighboring Turkmenistan earlier this summer, which sparked a worldwide media frenzy and calls for Lopez to donate the $10 million she has earned over the years for performing for other dictators and their cronies. At the time, Lopez claimed ignorance of Turkmenistan’s notorious human rights abuses.
Freedom House classifies Kazakhstan as “not free” for both freedom of political rights and freedom of press, while Transparency International ranks it 133 out of 174 on its Corruption Perceptions Index. In the most recent presidential election, Nazarbayev won with 95.5% of the vote. There has been a war on independent media following the Zhanaozen massacre of December 2011, where security forces killed 15 and injured more than 100 striking oil-workers. The government employs lobbyists and PR firms to burnish Kazakhstan’s international image and push reports of human progress and development; former U.K. PM Tony Blair is a noted champion of Nazarbayev after receiving more than $20 million in “consulting fees.”
West was personally invited by Nazarbayev to perform at the August 31 wedding reception in Almaty’s Grand Tulip Hotel. His show was documented by guests on Twitter and Instagram and a video of his performance was uploaded to YouTube. West is not the first global celebrity to be approached to play in Kazakhstan: in 2011, Sting refused to play a private concert there, citing concern over the repression of workers in the country.
“The millions of dollars paid to Kanye came from the loot stolen from the Kazakhstan treasury. He has supported numerous charities throughout his career, including a few specifically focused on international human rights work. Kanye has entertained a brutal killer and his entourage. Will he follow J.Lo’s lead and simply remain hypocritically oblivious to the plight of some of the world’s most oppressed people? It’s up to the public to hold them accountable,” said Garry Kasparov, chairman of the Human Rights Foundation.