Turkmenistan is a country that does not readily appears on one’s radar let alone viewed as a venue for an American top performing pop star.
It is formerly known as Turkmenia and is one of the Turkic states in Central Asia. It is bordered by a number of countries that includes, Afghanistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. It is also bordered by the Caspian Sea which is the largest enclosed inland body of water on earth.
Its capital is Ashgabat, the largest city. The population is estimated to be over five million and the ethnic make up comprises, 85% Turkmenia, 5% Uzbek, 4% Russian and others 6%.
The country was a constituent of the Soviet Union from 1924 until it became independent after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. It was governed by a single party until 2013 when a member of the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs was elected to the Parliament.
Saparmurat Niyazov, a former bureaucrat of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, ruled the country from 1985 as President for life until his sudden death in December 2006 thus opening the way in February 2007 for the election of the current president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow.
According to Human Rights Watch, the country is one of the most repressive countries in the world. It imposes severe restriction on travel for its citizens, uses draconian measures to restrict media and religious freedom, practice discrimination against ethnic minorities, and also uses imprisonment as a tool for political retaliation.
It is against this background that Human rights groups and activists strongly voiced their objection and criticism of Jennifer Lopez for her performance and serenading of president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, a man accused of human rights violation.
According to an Associated Press report, Lopez’s publicist stated that the event was not one that was political and further added that “Had there been knowledge of human rights issues of any kind, Jennifer would not have attended.”
In 2007, Lopez was honored by the human rights group Amnesty International for the film, Bordertown. She produced and starred in the film, set in Ciudad Juarez, the Mexican town at the centre of a decade of unsolved rapes and murders of young women.
This latest incident has certainly not only soiled Lopez’s image but also shows insensitivity and lack of political awareness on the part of her publicist.