Rapper Tyga has been asked by the U.S.-based Human Rights Foundation to cancel his participation in a government-sponsored concert in Belarus.
According to the non-profit organization, Tyga — real name Michael Ray Stevenson — is scheduled to perform Aug. 8 at Hip Hop Fireworks in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, the night before the country’s high-stakes presidential election that could see the 26-year rule of its incumbent authoritarian strongman, Alexander Lukashenko, come to an end. The Human Rights Foundation claims the event is part of a “plan to distract protestors from gathering at opposition rallies.”
In a letter sent to the artist, the group says that the concert was “organized and funded by the Belarusian dictatorship, led by Alexander Lukashenko,” adding that, under this regime “there is no freedom of speech, no freedom of assembly, and no freedom of association.”
According to the HRF, Belarus is one of the most brutal countries in the world, where the police resort to violence to intimidate and control the population, and where there has been no free elections there since 1994.
“This performance, scheduled for the day before Belarus’ elections, is no coincidence. It is an excuse to cancel the opposition’s final electoral rally, and prevent ordinary Belarusians from showing their support for freedom and democracy,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen. “It is also a deliberate attempt to turn attention away from the massive electoral fraud that is already taking place across the country. Simply put: Your concert will serve as propaganda for Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime the day before the election.”
Sunday’s election has been marked by a crackdown on opposition candidates, according to news reports, with many barred from running.
“Protestors are grabbed off the street at random, and many are beaten bloody,” the HRF wrote in its letter to Tyga. “The two most popular candidates in the upcoming presidential election, Viktor Babryka and Sergei Tikhanouvsky, were both arrested on trumped-up charges. Many opposition activists have had to flee the country, along with their children after receiving threats from the government.”
The foundation considered Tyga’s “outspoken” advocacy of the Black Lives Matter movement, and his urging of his followers to vote in local elections and take part in street protests in the U.S.
“His support for Lukashenko’s regime will greatly undermine the activism he has encouraged in the United States, and provide the Belarusian dictator a useful propaganda stunt,” said Halvorssen. “We hope he will stand on the side of the people of Belarus as opposed to their oppressor. He must decline the invitation to perform for the dictator.”
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.