They’re the unexpected players in the battle for Mosul; two remarkable women making a difference in the war against Islamic State.

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The battle for Mosul


VIDEO The battle for Mosul. Source: Sunday Night The battle for Mosul

As Islamic State makes a final stand in Iraq, a glamorous Kurdish pop star, Helly Luv, and child trauma specialist from Melbourne, Erin Joyce, have taken on very different roles in the fight against the barbaric regime.

Photo gallery: Behind the scenes in Mosul

In an exclusive Sunday Night investigation, reporter Denham Hitchcock ventured into the war-torn city of Mosul, where almost every building is damaged by explosives or riddled with bullet holes and residents live in constant fear of attack.

Helly Luv is using her voice to make a stand against Islamic State.

Using her voice as her weapon, Helly Luv is inspiring troops fighting Islamic State with her songs of freedom.

Helly’s patriotic anthems and stirring music videos encourage the fight against Islamic State. The tracks “Risk It All” and ‘Revolution” have become so popular that Islamic State has made Helly a prime target for assassination.

“It’s a privilege to be on their death list because it means that my message, that my song, is as strong as their weapons," she said.

A scene from one of Helly's music videos.

“I think also because I showed who they are, who they truly are, the monsters that they are,” Helly said.

Helly received death threats from IS on her social media accounts, including images of dead women accompanied by a message that she would be next.

She said Islamic State was targeting her not only for what she was saying but also because of her gender.

Behind reporter Denham Hitchcock, three dead bodies lie on the street. It's a common sight in Mosul.
The refugee camp where Erin Joyce is helping traumatised children.

“I think because I’m a woman… and I’m not afraid to stand up and fight for my people,” Helly said.

The war with Islamic State has forced more the three million people from their home and the fortunate ones are finding shelter in refugee camps.

World Vision’s Erin Joyce from Melbourne is on her fourth trip to the war zone. At the Hassan-Sham refugee camp, she is helping traumatised children from families who have fled Mosul.

Erin Joyce works for World Vision as a trauma specialist.

An important part of Erin’s job is to encourage children to be kids again.

“Kids here have forgotten how to play,” she said.

Often they draw war scenes with tanks rolling down streets and stick figures holding guns, Erin explained.

“You’ll see a lot of kids draw things like this because this is the environment they’ve come from, this is what they know.”

Part of Erin's job is helping children remember how to play.

Erin said the drawings reveal the children had grown up in a dangerous and frightening world and it was important that they now felt safe and out of harms way.

“If children feel safe, they can thrive,” she said.

“Kids are amazingly resilient, probably more resilient than adults I sometimes think.”

To donate or learn more about World Vision's work in Iraq, visit

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