Senegalese-American hip-hop artist Akon is scheduled to perform in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region this March, according to a video message released by the star on Thursday. The concert in the city of Irbil is being held in part to raise funds for the families of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces currently waging an offensive against fighters for the Islamic State group -- or ISIS -- in Iraq, reported Kurdish news agency BasNews.
“I am so excited to be there to visit that 8,000 year old city to perform live at the Hariri Stadium,” said Akon in the video announcing his concert. The announcement is significant because it marks the first time that a “famous” American musician has performed in the ancient city, according to a concert organizer quoted by BasNews.
Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, has come under threat in recent months from ISIS following its capture of vast swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria last year. The Kurdish region’s Peshmerga forces have played a vital role in preventing further advances by the militant group and have made steady progress against ISIS over the past two months, retaking 1,160 square miles of territory in the besieged Sinjar area as well as choking off access to the group’s main resupply routes, according to CNN.
Nearly 1,000 Peshmerga forces have been killed battling ISIS since the fighting began in June, according to the latest casualty figures provided by the Peshmerga Ministry, Kurdish news site Rudaw reported on Wednesday. More than 4,500 forces have also been wounded in the fighting, according to the ministry, which added that it was doing all that it could to help the families of the dead or wounded Peshmerga.
Akon has previously lent his voice to other Middle Eastern fundraising efforts, including his participation in a 2011 charity single with two dozen Arab pop singers to raise funds for educational programs for children across the region. The charity single went viral around the Arab world and its video was watched more than two million times in its first month of release, said CNN. The collaboration helped to raise over $3 million in donations.