Iraq: Kurdish singer receives death threats over music video

31 July 2014


Kurdish singer Helly Luv, 25, allegedly received death threats from ISIS Islamist militants since release of her first music video in February 2014.

Helly Luv’s music video combines traditional Middle Eastern pop imagery with materials of the Kurdish nationalist and revolutionary movement. The music video was viewed over three million times in its first five months.

In a documentary on NBC News, Helly Luv (real name: Helen Abdulla) explained how she went into hiding after receiving the death threats. Even relatives turned their backs on her. She was being heavily critisised for what some saw as provocative or revolutionary imagery in the music video, which included exploding petrol bombs, backing dancers with AK-47 rifles, and Helly Luv dancing in a mid-thigh silver dress atop a citadel.

Helly Luv was born in Urmia, Iran, in 1988. During the Saddam Hussein regime and the Iran-Iraq war, her family fled Iraq and moved to Finland where she grew up. Today, she is working in Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital Arbilissa and in the United States.

“Young musicians shaping a new nation”

Film maker Cyrus Moussavi has produced a 14-minute documentary for NBC News about the music of northern Iraq. In an article he explains about his meeting with Helly Luv and the music in northern Iraq:

“Singers traveled on foot and kept the Kurdish language and culture alive despite the best efforts of Saddam Hussein. During that regime, the very act of singing in Kurdish was political, and many musicians caught doing it were punished with death.

But in the Kurdistan of 2014, I found a musical void. The old musicians were gone. They were dead, or living abroad, or they had simply taken other jobs and forgotten how to play. The ouster of the old dictator came with the side benefit of new oil money. Those who once sang sad songs of the Kurdish past now found themselves preoccupied with more capitalist pursuits. The Kurds may be ignoring the music of the past, because for the first time in recent history, they can afford to imagine a future.

Through Raw Music International, I traveled mountain villages and dusty cities and found almost no one who could play an instrument. In Kalar, a conservative, religious desert town, 18 year-old Mohammad described his situation to me: “I crave art, but my family says make money. My mother burned my books. They don’t understand.”

Or perhaps they do. The Kurds are so accustomed to suffering that for many I spoke with, this moment of prosperity feels like it must be temporary. Everyone is trying to make as much money as quickly as possible before history crushes the Kurds like it always has. And yet — there’s always music. In my time there, I met Helly Luv and Iraj, two amazing artists from opposite ends of the socio-economic scale, trying desperately to make it in the new Kurdistan.

Two months after I left, Iraq plunged into chaos yet again, and Kurdistan is on the verge of independence. The frenzy and anticipation of change has reached a new level. I may have arrived too late to meet the legendary singers of old. But I was just in time to meet the young musicians shaping a new nation.”


» – 17 July 2014:
Kurdish pop star defies ISIS death threats to help push for independence
Famous Kurdish pop star says she will not be put off by death threats from ISIS Islamist militants since release of her first music video but, drawing on its title, insists she will ‘Risk It All’ to help a push for an independent Kurdistan. Article by Mirwais Jalalzai

» Helly Luv’s Facebook page: – ‘liked’ by over 750,000 people

» Helly Luv’s home page:

Helly Luv: ‘Risk it all’

Published on on 3 February 2014.

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