Human Rights Foundation president Thor Halvorssen issued a statement tearing into the actor Wednesday, accusing the “Leaving Las Vegas” star of boosting a dictatorship’s image.
According to the Foundation, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev “has systematically oppressed the civil liberties of Kazakh citizens.” The foundation cited a 2011 massacre of dozens of peaceful protesters, and a government crack-down on independent news outlets, including the arrests of editors and reporters on “overbroad and vague charges.”
“Cage should be mortified that he participated in a whitewashing stunt for a murderous tyrant,” Halvorssen said of Cage’s visit. “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.”
Human Rights Foundation chief strategy officer Alex Gladstein noted that the actor, who was in Kazakhstan for the Eurasia International Film Festival in Astana, could easily have made himself aware of the dictatorship before deciding to attend.
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“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?” Gladstein said. “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.”
The Human Rights Foundation’s response stood in stark contrast to the comments made on social media earlier this week, when the photo first made the rounds. The image of Cage wearing a traditional Kazakh hat and robe prompted Twitter users to crack wise, with one joker asking, “Why does it feel like Nicolas Cage is about to become a part of this whole Russia scandal?”