In the early 2000s, the Kurdistan Regional Government hired a US-based firm to begin a public relations campaign called “The Other Iraq.” Since that time, it has worked with a number of PR and lobbying firms to build a cultural, political, and financial apparatus that I refer to as Brand Kurdistan. This apparatus aims to prove to Western audiencesthat the Kurds are a liberal exception in an illiberal Middle East, and to build prospects of KRG’s eventual national independence. This article explores the connections between Brand Kurdistan and the gendering of Kurdish nationalism, focusing particularly on Kurdish pop diva Helly Luv. In her music, Luv underscores the trope of the “badass” Kurdish woman in the service of Brand Kurdistan’s political and economic projects. Thus, Brand Kurdistan and Helly Luv mutually reproducethe binary world discourse of the war on terror, a discourse aligned with neoconservative American war making and exertions of US empire.
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