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Kanye West Criticized for Kazakhstan Performance

Rights group says rapper's visit legitimized a 'human rights wasteland'

Kanye West performs in New York City.
Taylor Hill/WireImage
September 4, 2013 11:40 AM ET

Kanye West drew a rebuke from the Human Rights Foundation for his performance at the wedding of the grandson of Kazakhstan's president Nursultan Nazarbayev, The Associated Press reports. The HRF and others have said West's private performance on Saturday legitimized the Nazarbayev and the country's various human rights violations.

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In a statement, HRF President Thor Halvorssen called Kazakhstan a "human rights wasteland" and the kind of place where an artist like West would be imprisoned for expressing his views. According to the HRF, Nazarbayev has been known to suppress the rights of citizens and the country's press, and has reportedly kidnapped family members of political dissidents to keep his hold on power.

In 2011, Sting canceled a concert in the Kazakh capital of Astana after a crackdown on striking oil workers in the city of Zhanaozen left more than a dozen people dead.

West is not the only artist to come under fire for such a performance: Earlier this summer, Jennifer Lopez sang at a private concert for President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov of Turkeminstan, though her publicist later claimed they were unaware of the country's record of human rights violations.

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