Your IP access to will expire on June 15

To ensure uninterrupted reading, please contact Rachel Mines, sales director, at


Can Music Be an Effective Weapon?

2015 Global Thinkers Sonita Alizadeh and Helly Luv discuss how they’ve both used music to fight — against the Islamic State and against the institution of marriage.


Helly Luv is a 2015 Global Thinker and Kurdish pop star whose videos have millions of views on YouTube. The video for her song “Revolution” — in which she sings and stares down an Islamic State tank while holding a sign decrying the violence — has more than 3 million views. It was shot only a few miles from where the Islamic State was fighting actual Iraqi Kurdish forces, known as Peshmerga, which have been crucial in slowing the Islamic State’s advance. The young singer has received death threats for her work. Follow her on Twitter: @HellyLuv.

Sonita Alizadeh is a 2015 Global Thinker and an Afghan rapper whose song “Brides for Sale” protests forced marriage — including her own. When she was 16, her mother estimated she was worth $9,000. But before her mother could finalize a deal, Alizadeh secretly recorded a video for her song, in which she stamped her forehead with a bar code. After its release on YouTube in October 2014, the video has been played more than 250,000 times; her mother, who actually liked the video, agreed to drop the effort. Since then, Sonita has earned a scholarship to a boarding school in Utah, where she now lives. Follow her on Twitter: @SonitaAlizadeh.

Jake Scobey-Thal is the assistant managing editor for print at Foreign Policy. Follow him on Twitter: @JakeScobey.

This podcast was recorded at FP’s annual Global Thinkers celebration in Washington, D.C.

Subscribe to the Global Thinkers podcast and other FP podcasts on iTunes here.

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola