Mitch Ellmauer, Intern, International Labor Rights Forum
Sting, the British pop icon, cancelled a concert in Kazakhstan recently over human rights abuses committed against striking oil workers. Workers from Kazakhstan’s state oil company went on strike in early May after their wages had been cut. Many of the strike’s leaders have been imprisoned, and many workers have been assaulted by police and company thugs. According to Sting and Amnesty International, playing in Kazakhstan would have been interpreted as an endorsement of President’s Nazarbayev’s administration.
“Hunger strikes, imprisoned workers, and tens of thousands on strike represent a virtual picket line which I have no intention of crossing,” Sting wrote in a recent press release.
However, Sting has not always been so concerned with human rights violations in Central Asia. Maybe the Kazakh government just wasn’t paying him enough. Last year, Sting was paid two million pounds to play at a music festival in Uzbekistan. The concert was organized by Gulnara Karimova, daughter of the country’s ironfisted dictator.