In northern Iraq, where soldiers are battling ISIS, Helly Luv, the red-headed tornado of a singer is on a mission to stir up patriotic sentiment so Iraqis don’t lose hope in trying to overcome the terror group.
Helly Luv has a recording contract in the U.S., but didn’t shoot her video in Hollywood. She insisted on taking it to her homeland, where her music and videos play regularly on television. She wanted to glorify the people bravely fighting against Isis.
Her track (see the video above), called “Revolution,” is a tribute to the ethnically Kurdish soldiers known as peshmerga who are fighting against ISIS. So she shot the video at the front-line village, even though there was heavy fighting in the area.
The video features a heavily made up, bejeweled Helly Luv in gold shoes dancing and in a tank firing a shell.
“Rise up, ’cause we’re so much stronger as one,” she sings. “Breaking the silence as loud as a gun. Brothers and sisters, we all come from one. Different religions, we share the same blood.”
Helly Luv’s real name is Helan Abdulla. She is a Kurdish Iraqi but was born in 1988 in Iran after her family escaped Saddam Hussein’s attacks on Kurds in Iraq. Growing up, her dream was to save her money and move to Los Angeles to become a star. And so she did. She has even landed a role in a movie by a Kurdish director, Batin Ghobadi, which brought her to northern Iraq in March 2013. She played a character named Leila, searching for a missing loved one in the midst of the war-torn setting.
“I wanted to create a song that would represent my life as well, but also the Kurdish people fighting so long and risking everything for a dream,” she says.
For her video outfits in the video above, Helly Luv took inspiration from her mom, who was a peshmerga soldier when she was young. But Helly Luv’s clothes and dancing were deemed un-Islamic by some extremists. She still faces threats on social media.
“People would say, ‘She should be stoned and killed,’ and this and that,” she told NPR. Most of the threats were in Arabic, from ISIS supporters.
The threats and criticism haven’t stopped Helly Luv, but she does fear for her safety. Despite that, she still keeps singing and wearing whatever she wants whenever she wants.