Kurdish pop star Helly Luv tells reviewers of her new single, “Revolution,” that she refused to imitate or fabricate any of the suffering in the war against the Islamic State in Syria. Wanting to depict the realities of the battlefield for the Peshmerga and ISIS refugees, the golden-high-heel-clad artist filmed her music video less than two miles from the front lines with ISIS.
The Iranian-born Kurdish singer, whose family fled to Turkey and, eventually, Finland following the Persian Gulf War, has become a lightning rod for equal parts praise and death threats for her Western-style dance pop. Her songs both chronicle and encourage the Kurdish Peshmerga in their fight against the Islamic State, and this is her second music video, after “Risk It All,” to depict the suffering of ISIS refugees.
“I want to give something to the peshmerga because I consider myself one of them,” Luv tells the Agence France-Presse in a new interview, noting that her mother once served in the Peshmerga forces. “I want to show the world who the peshmerga forces are, and who Daesh is,” she adds, clad in a Peshmerga uniform for much of the video herself. The video was filmed in Al-Khazr, a town two kilometers from the front lines of battles between the Peshmerga and ISIS. “There were some who warned me against going there, but I insisted that filming be in real places affected by Daesh terrorism,” she explains, using a pejorative term for the terrorist group.
The video begins with a Peshmerga soldier looking at a photo of his son before running into battle, followed by the image of Luv herself, in high golden heels and her face covered, walking up to a tank and, Tiananmen Square-style, standing alone before it, holding up a sign that says “stop the violence.” The video also shows Kurdish refugee families running from the war, families Luv says are real people who have been moved to refugee camps after the Islamic State ravaged their hometowns.
The video has collected more than 700,000 views in two weeks.
Luv tells i24 news that filming on an active battlefield presented a number of challenges, for both her safety and that of her crew. “We had to just pray that it would all go well,” she explains, “A lot of times we just had to leave and cancel everything.” The refugees she filmed, she says, are “real people from Kobani and Shingal;” the soldiers, too, are real Peshmerga.
Luv notes that there can superficially appear to be some dissonance between calling for an end to violence and praising soldiers, but clarifies that, in her opinion, the Peshmerga are the only hope Kurds have for peace. The Kurdish people, she argues, “have never started a war,” but when confronted with a threat as vast as the Islamic State, “The only option you have is to protect yourself, your families, and your country.”
The singer is used to death threats since her first single, “Risk It All,” was first released. “There were death threats from many Islamic groups… it was a really hard time for me,” she said of her first single in a 2014 interview. She has never specified which groups have sent her death threats, citing a desire not to bring them publicity.
The Kurdish Peshmerga have managed to hold off a complete Islamic State takeover of many parts of Iraq, and have kept the Iraqi Kurdish capital, Erbil, safe from active violence. They have objected, however, to the fact that the United States refuses to provide assistance to them, instead sending aid to the Iraqi government’s army, which has deserted a large amount of their equipment and thus virtually handed it over to the Islamic State. “ISIS has equipment that is more effective because they take from the Iraqi government and Syrian government,” explained one Peshmerga officer in June.