Iraq's 'Shakira' shakes conservative
Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — Blending
traditional folk music with pop beats, sultry
gyrations and plunging necklines, the musical
phenomenon that is Dashni Murad is shaking Iraq's
conservative northern Kurdistan region.
In a part of the world where many women are expected
to be demure, the lithe and long-haired 23-year-old
has been dubbed the "Shakira of Kurdistan" for her
suggestive dance moves modelled on the
Colombian-Lebanese star Shakira.
With one album under her belt and another in the
pipeline, Murad has become a household name across
Kurdistan, which has enjoyed autonomy from the rest
of Iraq, as well as relative peace, since the early
"I admire Shakira a lot, I consider her my ideal.
I've been following her and her songs since I was a
kid," said Murad, a fluent English and Dutch speaker
who grew up in the Netherlands after her family left
Kurdistan when she was eight,www.ekurd.net
but now lives in the
Dashni Murad, a Kurdish artist from Sulaimaniyah,
"Even though I've
benefited from Shakira artistically, I'm trying to
make these moves my own," she told AFP in the
regional capital Arbil.
And it is "these moves" that are causing such a
Many Kurds are secular, with a homeland stretching
across parts of Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria but
also having a vast global diaspora. But much of the
region is deeply conservative, and so-called honour
killings of women who overstep the tight boundaries
set by their menfolk remain commonplace.
Just like the original Shakira -- whose moves draw
inspiration from Middle Eastern belly dancing --
Murad's dancing is nothing if not forthright.
Her film clips, mixed in Kurdistan and popular on
local satellite television and on video sharing
website YouTube, show the scantily clad singer
gyrating everywhere from beaches and nightclubs to
stacks of hay.
The young need a new style
Many young Kurds love it, but others see her
performances as an affront to the culture of
predominantly Muslim Kurdistan.
"I think it's a strange way of performing. It's not
suitable for our community," 34-year-old civil
servant Rasul Faqii said.
"Maybe it's because she grew up in the West. It's
okay for Europeans, but not for us. This will
destroy the basis of the community. We don't want
our young people growing up like this," he added.
Susan Aref, the head of Kurdistan's Women's
Empowerment Organisation, said Murad's suggestive
moves were a step backwards for the status of local
"We are against these sexy movements and using
women's bodies to attract attention. It goes against
our policy to defend the rights and liberation of
women," Aref said.
"We don't want to free women in order to free their
But Murad insists she is helping to move Kurdish
culture forward, drawing on the region's language
and the words of its great master poets for lyrical
"I choose to do this because I think the people,
especially the young, need a new, positive artistic
style to break the chains," she said.
Murad is not an entirely new face in Kurdistan. She
already made a name for herself between 2005 and
2007 as the bold and outspoken presenter of a
popular Kurdish television show called "No Control,"
beamed from Europe,www.ekurd.net
in which she interviewed
Although Kurdistan is seen as socially conservative,
it receives a plethora of international television
channels via satellite. There are, however, only a
few local channels in the Kurdish language.
On top of recording and concert performances, Murad
also keeps up the interviews on her own programme,
"The Dashni Show."
And her bold approach is proving popular,
particularly among women who make up most of her
"Dashni's performances take a lot of courage. No
Kurdish artists have done this before. It's a
revolution for Kurdish songs," 36-year-old
journalist Hawzin Hama said.
"Before, no woman in our community could talk about
her love for a boy or talk frankly about love, but
Dashni says it with courage."
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