Human Rights Foundation says it amounted to an endorsement of the country's 'authoritarian' regime

By Christian Holub
July 26, 2017 at 02:05 PM EDT
Venturelli/Getty Images for Celebrity Fight Night

Nicolas Cage’s recent visit to Kazakhstan made the internet laugh, but some human-rights advocates are less pleased. Days after a photo of Cage posing in traditional Kazakh garb went viral, the Human Rights Foundation issued a statement blasting Cage for endorsing the Kazakhstan government, which they describe as an authoritarian dictatorship.

“Nicolas Cage is a world-famous actor, and his endorsement carries great influence. His glowing review gave Kazakhstan’s dictatorship much-needed PR, and his photos boosted the regime’s visibility on the international stage, even as it persecutes journalists, monitors and arrests social media users, crushes opposition voices, and strangles the electoral process,” Human Rights Foundation president Thor Halvorssen said in a statement. “Cage should be mortified that he participated in a whitewashing stunt for a murderous tyrant. If he aims to live up to his previous comments about artistic freedom and freedom of expression, he should donate the hefty payment he received from the dictatorship to independent Kazakh artists and journalists.”

President Nursultan Nazarbayev has ruled Kazakhstan since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. In its statement, HRF criticized his government for, among other things, killing more than a dozen peaceful protestors during the 2011 Zhanaozen massacre and cracking down on independent news outlets. The organization reserved their main ire for Cage for endorsing such a regime.

“Cage and his publicity team could have determined from a quick online search that Kazakhstan is ruled by a brutal dictator. Cage was obviously aware of this. Did he not care?” HRF chief strategy officer Alex Gladstein said in the statement. “Celebrities could play a key role in the struggle for human rights, especially in places like Kazakhstan where artistic freedom is most under threat. To see role models like Nicolas Cage instead take the side of dictators is profoundly disappointing and a sign that human rights aren’t a consideration for Hollywood stars.”