A few months back I noted here that Sting has traveled to Uzbekistan and played a concert at the invitation of Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of dictator Islam Karimov. Now the British press has asked Sting to explain why he accepted the invitation from Karimova, whom he escorted to a fashion show while in Uzbekistan.
According to Sting:
The concert was organized by the president’s daughter and I believe sponsored by Unicef. I supported wholeheartedly the cultural boycott of South Africa under the apartheid regime because it was a special case and specifically targeted the younger demographic of the ruling white middle class.
I am well aware of the Uzbek president’s appalling reputation in the field of human rights as well as the environment. I made the decision to play there in spite of that. I have come to believe that cultural boycotts are not only pointless gestures, they are counter-productive, where proscribed states are further robbed of the open commerce of ideas and art and as a result become even more closed, paranoid and insular.
A few comments here. First, Sting himself appears to have greatly benefited from open commerce. According to the Daily Mail story, he “accepted up to £2million to sing for Gulnara Karimova, the despot’s glamorous daughter and anointed heir…Tickets went for £1,400 – 45 times the average local monthly salary.”
Second, UNICEF claims to be “quite surprised” to hear about the concert and denies sponsoring it.
“It appears Sting is a hypocrite,” said Britain’s ex-ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray. “His human rights and environmental activism seem to have flown out the window.”