Kurdish singer Helly Luv ready to 'Risk it All' for independence

Tue Jul 15, 2014 5:04am EDT
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By David Sheppard

ARBIL Iraq (Reuters) - Kurdish pop singer Helly Luv says she will not be put off by death threats from Iraqi 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.

Iraqi-born Luv, 25, has seen her video rack up more than 2.5 million views on YouTube since its release in February; but she has faced criticism for what some see as provocative imagery in the clip accompanying the modern mix of dance, hip-hop and traditional Middle Eastern music.

Luv said the video, which includes exploding petrol bombs, backing dancers with AK-47 rifles, and the singer dancing in a mid-thigh silver dress atop a citadel, represents the Kurdish spirit and struggle for an independent state.

"There were death threats from many Islamic groups... it was a really hard time for me," Luv said in an interview in Arbil, the autonomous Kurdistan region's capital. "(But) my whole message is that, Kurdish people, we need to risk everything for our dreams and fight for our country."

Iraqi Kurdistan's population of roughly 5 million people has enjoyed a degree of independence from Baghdad since the end of the first Gulf War in the early 1990s.

But the Kurds are now closer than ever to leaving Iraq altogether, with Massoud Barzani, leader of their autonomous region, calling on his parliament to ready a referendum on independence after the latest violence in the country.

Critics argue that Kurdish leaders' actions could lead to broader chaos in Iraq and beyond its borders, promoting rebellions in Kurdish areas of neighboring states.

Luv's mother was a Kurdish 'peshmerga' fighter before the family emigrated during the Iran-Iraq War.   Continued...

Kurdish pop star Helly Luv poses in front of Kurdish Peshmerga troops at a base in Dohuk in this July 5, 2014 picture provided by Kawin Cihad Tahlavi and made available to Reuters on July 8, 2014. REUTERS/Kawin Cihad Tahlavi/Handout via Reuters