LOS ANGELES – Senegalese-American hip-hop star Akon is using his performance skills to help defeat the threat of ISIS.
According to a video message issued on Thursday by the performer, he plans to visit the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq in March and headline a free concert in the capital city of Erbil.
“I am so excited to be there to visit that 8,000 year-old city to perform live at the Hariri Stadium,” he said.
The concert will reportedly raise money for the families of the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters currently fighting the Islamic State threat at its borders. The Peshmerga – whose name literally translates to “those who face death” – began as something of a mountain militia in the 1920s when the push for Kurdish independence began. In recent decades, they have faced unrelenting persecution from the Ba’ath loyalists of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and are viewed by many as a crucial safeguard against further Islamic State advances.
The Peshmerga Ministry claims that 999 of its fighters have been killed in combat since the offensive against ISIS went full-scale last June, with a further 4,596 injured. Speaking at a news conference this week, Jabar Yawar, spokesman for the Ministry, said the organization will “do what it can” to assist families of the dead or wounded Peshmerga, and praised the high morale of Kurdish forces.
“Our brave Peshmerga forces have shown respect for human rights and dignity,” he said, as reported by Kurdish news outlet Rudaw. “Even in the battlefields, and respected international conventions of warfare.”
The concert would mark the first time a prominent American musician has performed on a large scale in the ancient city. However, it is not the first time Akon – born Aliaune Damala Akon Thiam – has lent his voice to other conflict-related efforts in the Middle East and North Africa region. In 2011, he joined forces with several other Arab singers to record the charity single “Tomorrow-Bokra,” which raised more than $3 million for children’s educational programs in music, arts and culture.