MOSCOW, September 6 (RIA Novosti) – A US human rights group has bristled at Kanye West for playing at the wedding of one of the grandchildren of Kazakhstan’s strongman leader last Saturday – and allegedly accepting millions of dollars in “stolen” money.
The dapper rapper was personally invited by President Nursultan Nazarbayev to the August 31 nuptial ceremony and received $3 million for his performance, the New York-based Human Rights Foundation (HRF) claimed.
Kazakh media and bloggers have written extensively about West’s appearance – next to half a dozen Russian pop stars and stand-up comedians – at Aisultan Nazarbayev’s wedding held at the luxurious Royal Tulip hotel in Kazakhstan’s financial capital, Almaty. The 23-year-old married Alima Boranbayeva, 20, daughter of the chairman of a major Kazakhstan gas company.
HRF criticized West, an outspoken champion of freedom of expression, for accepting the invitation from the leader of a country where such freedom has been suppressed for years.
“Kazakhstan is a human rights wasteland,” HRF’s head, Thor Halvorssen, said in an online statement Tuesday. “[Nazarbayev’s] 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.”
HRF reiterated earlier claims by international rights groups that accused the 73-year-old leader, who has ruled the oil-rich Central Asian nation since before the 1991 Soviet collapse, of a crackdown on political opponents, critics and independent media.
“The millions of dollars paid to Kanye came from the loot stolen from the Kazakhstan treasury,” said world chess champion Garry Kasparov, chairman of the HRF and a vocal opposition figure in Russia. “Kanye has entertained a brutal killer and his entourage.”
Freedom House has said Kazakhstan is “not free” when it comes to political and media freedoms. Transparency International ranked Kazakhstan 133 out of 174 in its 2012 Corruption Perception Index. Human Rights Watch has claimed that Kazakhstan's human rights record “seriously deteriorated” following violent clashes in December 2011 between police and demonstrators, including oil workers on strike.
West is by far not the first Western celebrity slammed for playing for iron-fisted leaders in the former Soviet Union.
Jennifer Lopez was criticized after she sang “Happy Birthday” to the president of Turkmenistan in July. Her publicist later claimed she would not have performed there if she had been aware of the Central Asian nation’s poor human rights record.
In October 2011, Hollywood actress Hilary Swank, Belgian actor Jean-Claude Van Damme and British violinist Vanessa Mae were criticized for attending a birthday party for Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed leader of the Russian republic of Chechnya, whom human rights groups have accused of torture, abductions and killings.
In February 2010, British media labeled pop star Sting a “hypocrite” for singing for Gulnara Karimova, daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, whose government has been ostracized by the West for a bloody crackdown on a 2005 protest in the eastern city of Andijan.