Bang and bling for Kur­dish pop diva Helly Luv’s anti-Is­lamic State an­them


High heels, fa­tigues and gold ri­fle-shaped rings — singer Helly Luv’s blend of bang and bling has made her the most popular cheer­leader for the Iraqi Kurds’ war against ji­hadists.

She vis­its pesh­merga forces fight­ing the Is­lamic State group, which over­ran a third of Iraq last year, and says she filmed her lat­est mu­sic video in Al-Khazr, not far from the ji­hadists’ lines.

“I want to give some­thing to the pesh­merga be­cause I con­sider my­self one of them,” the 26-yearold singer told AFP in the Kur­dish re­gional cap­i­tal Ar­bil.

“I wore pesh­merga clothes in the song to sup­port them.”

Her lat­est mu­sic video, for a song ti­tled “Revo­lu­tion,” opens with a pesh­merga fighter look­ing at a pic­ture of him­self with a young boy, pre­sum­ably his son, as shelling and gun­fire are heard in the back­ground.

He tucks the photo in­side his hel­met and goes to fight.

The video then moves to a quiet vil­lage where chil­dren play and peo­ple sit drink­ing tea, but it soon comes un­der fire from black-clad mil­i­tants driv­ing ar­mored ve­hi­cles like those cap­tured from Iraqi se­cu­rity forces, in­clud­ing a tank.

A child screams and res­i­dents flee, but Helly Luv — wear­ing golden high heels with a white and red scarf cov­er­ing her face — strides the other way to dra­matic mu­sic, un­furl­ing a ban­ner be­fore the tank that reads “STOP THE VI­O­LENCE.”

She sings and dances next to a car with “END WAR” spray painted on its side, but footage that in­cludes pesh­merga forces coun­ter­at­tack­ing and lyrics such as “We gon’ keep on fight­ing” make clear she means the vi­o­lence will stop once IS is de­feated.

The mu­sic video hits on many themes that the pesh­merga have sought to em­pha­size since the anti-IS con­flict be­gan last June, show­ing them as the brave, secular de­fend­ers of the in­no­cent threat­ened by ji­hadist bru­tal­ity.

To ham­mer home the co­ex­is­tence mes­sage, peo­ple march in the video car­ry­ing ban­ners with peace mes­sages in var­i­ous lan­guages and an ar­ray of re­li­gious sym­bols, in­clud­ing the Jewish star of David and the Bud­dhist wheel.

‘Kur­dish Shakira’

The video and English lyrics are over the top and some­times cringe-wor­thy, but also ap­par­ently popular, garner­ing 700,000 views on YouTube barely two weeks af­ter its re­lease.

“The song is called ‘Revo­lu­tion’ and I call in it for Kur­dis­tan and the coun­tries of the world to unite to fight ter­ror­ism and injustice,” Helly Luv said.

“I want to show the world who the pesh­merga forces are, and who Daesh is,” she said, us­ing an Ara­bic acro­nym that the ji­hadist group deems deroga­tory.

Pesh­merga of­fi­cer Nawzad Saleh, said that in the days when the pesh­merga were moun­tain­based rebel fighters, singers sang songs en­cour­ag­ing them to fight.

“Now the Kur­dish singers have be­gun singing for the pesh­merga in other lan­guages, and this is a beau­ti­ful step and will re­sult in the world know­ing more about who the pesh­merga are,” he said.

Pesh­merga fighter Ab­dul­rah­man Ahmed agreed, say­ing such songs will en­cour­age “the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to sym­pa­thize and co­op­er­ate with us more, and sup­port us with weapons to con­tinue fight­ing th­ese ter­ror­ists and elim­i­nate them once and for all.”

Ac­cord­ing to her on­line bi­og­ra­phy, Helly Luv was born He­lan Ab­dulla in Iran in 1988 and her grand­fa­ther fought for the pesh­merga.

Her fam­ily had fled Sad­dam Hus­sein’s rule and she grew up mainly in Fin­land be­fore fly­ing to Los An­ge­les when she turned 18 to pur­sue a ca­reer in mu­sic.

With plenty of hip- swing­ing and hair-swish­ing, the rock-chick style of the “Kur­dish Shakira” is in stark con­trast with the somber and pi­ous “nasheeds” — both for and against IS — that have blos­somed on so­cial me­dia over the past year.

When the ji­hadist group took over swathes of Iraq in June 2014 and sub­se­quently at­tacked the pesh­merga, many in the West held up the Kurds as the moral and mil­i­tary flag­ship of the world’s fight­back against IS.

Of film­ing in Al-Khazr, Helly Luv said: “There were some who warned me against go­ing there, but I in­sisted that film­ing be in real places af­fected by Daesh ter­ror­ism.”


Iraqi Kur­dish singer Helly Luv poses for a pic­ture dur­ing an in­ter­view with AFP in Ar­bil, the cap­i­tal of the au­ton­o­mous Kur­dish re­gion of north­ern Iraq, on Tues­day, June 9.

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