Helly Luv isn’t your traditional pop star. The 26-year-old, dubbed the “Kurdish Shakira,” is using her music to take on ISIS and promote independence for her native Kurdistan. In her latest video, “Revolution,” the fire-haired singer is shown rallying men and women in a war zone, going toe-to-toe with battle tanks, and dancing atop a burned out vehicle with the words “END WAR” emblazoned along its side. “People all around the world, round the world don’t be scared. Come together let ‘em know, let ‘em know, we’re right here,” she sings throughout the video that features real people facing the day-to-day threats of Islamic militants. To date, it’s racked up more than 1.2 million views on YouTube.
The video was shot about two miles from the front lines of battle between ISIS militants and Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers, according to Vice. In an interview with i24News, the singer talked about what it was like filming so close to militant territory. “I don’t want to do nothing fake. I want to show the real struggle of the people, even the people in the video,” Luv said during the interview. “In the beginning, you see the people escaping from ISIS, even they are the real people from Kobani and Shingal and they’re also Yazidis,” she said.
Luv learned the value of peace early in life as a young refugee born in Iran in 1988. In an interview with Vice, Luv recounted fleeing Iran and escaping to Turkey with her mother. “We were in Urmia, and the day after I was born, they wrapped me in blankets and put my mom on a horse and we traveled for months in the mountains, to go all the way to the Turkish border,” she said. Months later, the singer and her family moved to Finland, where she spent the rest of her childhood. At 18, she moved to Los Angeles and was eventually discovered by music producers who saw her singing and dancing in videos on MySpace.
Luv is garnering support for her music in Europe and the U.S., but Islamic groups in the Middle East have responded much differently to the Kurdish singer’s provocative songs. Luv says she’s received multiple death threats from militants. But Luv says she is OK with anything that might happen to her. “This is who I am, this is what my country goes through, and there’s (sic) millions of people who are suffering, so if my life is at risk then I’m OK with that,” Luv told Channel 4 News during an interview.
It took the star three months to film the video for “Revolution,” according to Refinery29. The singer is currently living in Erbil, Iraq, to spread awareness following the video’s debut. “Now, there are so many journalists coming here doing reports, I’m staying here to make sure that the message gets out into other countries,” she told the website.