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IRAQ: Kurdistan's 'Shakira' causes shock waves in her homeland

October 17, 2009 |  7:18 am

Dashni Mura

A sultry Kurdish singer who models herself on the Colombian superstar Shakira is causing a sensation in her socially conservative homeland of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Dashni Murad, 23, wears figure-hugging bodices, skimpy skirts and plunging necklines as she writhes to the rhythm of songs fusing Kurdish and Western beats -- in the way that Shakira has drawn inspiration from her Middle Eastern heritage.

Mosque preachers have railed against Murad and some TV channels have refused to broadcast her clips because they consider her gyrating dances and revealing clothing to be an offense to Kurdish morals.

But Murad refuses to be deterred, and says she will press ahead with her mission to transform Kurdish culture.

“I want to change Kurdish style," she said in an interview in Irbil, the Kurdish regional capital. "I want the youth to see my dance. I want to present something distinctive, far from the half-dead old style.”

The northern region of Kurdistan is the safest part of Iraq, and Kurds pride themselves on the development and investment that have distinguished it from the rest of the country. But the mostly Muslim enclave is also deeply conservative, and social traditions such as honor killings and in some places female circumcision still persist.

Murad moved with her parents to Holland when she was 9, and grew up exposed to Western influences. She first came to attention as the presenter of a TV show broadcast from Europe in Kurdish called "No Control," in which she made surprise visits to ordinary families and interviewed them.

Recently she returned to Kurdistan, and she now divides her time between Europe and her homeland.

"Dashni plays with fire in closed society," said Karazan Ali, 30, who is one of her fans. "I admire her courage."

-- Asso Ahmad in Irbil

Photo: Dashni Murad during an interview in Irbil. Credit: Asso Ahmad / For The Times

Watch a video of her here: