Jennifer Lopez is taking back her musical birthday wishes for Turkmenistan leader Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow. The superstar, 43, was in the former Soviet bloc country on Saturday June 29, and sang "Happy Birthday" to dictator Berdimuhamedow during an event hosted by the China National Petroleum Corp. -- but Lopez says she was unaware of Berdimuhamedow's egregious human rights violations, and has apologized through her rep. Mistake or not, a source confirms to Us Weekly that Lopez was paid $1.5 million for the gig.
Turkmenestan is described by Human Rights Watch as "among the most repressive [countries] in the world," with a United Nations rep noting just last month that "a lot more work is needed" the nation to reach "international standards."
UPDATE: Lopez's team explains to Us in a revised statement of the incident: "Jennifer Lopez and several other artists were invited and performed at a private corporate event for the China National Petroleum Corporation that was presented to their local executives in Turkmenistan. This was not a government sponsored event or political in nature. The event was vetted by her representatives, had there been knowledge of human right issues of any kind, Jennifer would not have attended. The China National Petroleum Corporation made a last minute 'birthday greeting' request prior to Jennifer taking the stage. This was not stipulated in her contract but she graciously obliged the China National Petroleum Corporation request."
Thor Halvorssen of the Human Rights Foundation told the Hollywood Reporter: "Lopez obviously has the right to earn a living performing for the dictator of her choice and his circle of cronies. But her actions utterly destroy the carefully crafted message she has cultivated with her prior involvement with Amnesty International's programs in Mexico aimed at curbing violence against women."