The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity and My Fight Against the Islamic State by Nadia Murad
Published November 7th, 2017 by Penguin Random House
Genres Nonfiction, Memoir
Nadia Murad was born and raised in Kocho, a small village of farmers and shepherds in northern Iraq. A member of the Yazidi community, she and her brothers and sisters lived a quiet life. Nadia had dreams of becoming a history teacher or opening her own beauty salon. On August 15th, 2014, when Nadia was just twenty-one years old, this life ended. Islamic State militants massacred the people of her village, executing men who refused to convert to Islam and women too old to become sex slaves. Six of Nadia’s brothers were killed, and her mother soon after, their bodies swept into mass graves. Nadia was taken to Mosul and forced, along with thousands of other Yazidi girls, into the ISIS slave trade.
Nadia would be held captive by several militants and repeatedly raped and beaten. Finally, she managed a narrow escape through the streets of Mosul, finding shelter in the home of a Sunni Muslim family whose eldest son risked his life to smuggle her to safety.
Today, Nadia’s story–as a witness to the Islamic State’s brutality, a survivor of rape, a refugee, a Yazidi–has forced the world to pay attention to the ongoing genocide in Iraq. It is a call to action, a testament to the human will to survive, and a love letter to a lost country, a fragile community, and a family torn apart by war.
This was most certainly a book that deals with some very serious and sensitive topics. And to be honest with you, I like to think that I am fairly current with world events; I read the news everyday, I read a lot of nonfiction books, blog posts, etc. Prior to reading this book, I had heard very little about the ISIS slave trade or the genocide against the Yazidi people. In fact, beyond knowing that the Yazidi people were a ethno-religous group in Iraq, I really know knowing about them. I feel like a lot of what I learned while reading this book was never really widely reported in the news, like it simply slipped through the cracks.
This book is broken down into 3 parts; the first part Nadia tells us about her family, her home and what life in Kocho was like until ISIS took over the city. She also explains her culture and religion to readers, which was also very interesting to read about. The second part of the book describes what happened when ISIS finally took over her city, executing the men and kidnapping the women. The elderly and men were all killed, while the women were taken to various cities in Iraq and Syria where they were sold as sex slaves to ISIS members. She describes her horrible experiences with the multiple men she was sold to, along with what happened to some of her family members during this time. The third part of the book describes how she finally manages to escape while being held in Mosul, the family that helps her escape ISIS controlled Iraq and how she eventually finds her way back to her remaining family. This last section also goes on to describe how she relocates to Germany with a sister and her cousins and becomes involved with the UN and being working as a human rights advocate, particularly relating to the Yazidi genocide, as well as human trafficking.
I can say that this is by far the most important book that I have read this year and I really wonder how I never heard very much about the Yazidi people and the genocide that occurred. After finishing this book, I did some research, wondering why I had heard so little about this and came to find out that many still believe that the genocide is still ongoing and their are still thousands of Yazidi who are still being held in captivity or are missing. Even though I studies anthropology and religion in my undergrad, I have always found that Iraq is a very diverse and confusing place with so many different ethno-religious groups within the country. Certain groups and names have become familiar in the news, while others, like the Yazidi people have not. To think that there is such a huge network of human trafficking and the ongoing sex slave in Iraq is almost unbelievable in this day and age. To hear Nadia talk about how people around the centers where they were first brought after being kidnapped could hear the screaming and knew what was going on, yet went on with their daily lives is astounding. I understand that living in an ISIS held city gives you very few options in this kind of situation.
It is sometimes hard to rate and review a book that deals with these types of issues but I certainly give The Last Girl 5/5 stars. Not only did I learn a great deal while reading this book, but Nadia is extremely brave for escaping ISIS and then telling her story to so many people while she now works to help the Yazidi community and help stop human trafficking. I highly suggest adding this book to your non-fiction TBR list and hopefully these events will finally get the attention they deserve.
Thank you to the publisher, Penguin Random House, for sending me a review copy of this book.