Book review: The Last Girl by Nadia Murad

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The Last Girl by Nadia Murad (first published in 2017 by Tim Duggan Books)

Nadia Murad lived a simple life in a house of mud bricks, but on the 3rd of August 2014 that was about to change when ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) attacked the Yazidis in Sinjar.

Three thousand men, elderly people, children and disabled people were massacred by the terrorist group.

Her six (of nine) brothers, all married, and mother were executed in one day and the women and girls captured to be sabiyyas (sex slaves).

On the 15th of August, then 21, Nadia, along with her three nieces and the other 100-something girls – some as young as 10 years – knew something bad was about to happen to them, but they had no way out. 

Read more: 5 non-fiction books we can’t wait to read in 2018

No help arrived and the remaining men, women and children were eventually given two choices – convert to Islam or be prepared to face their death.

They separated the men, took them to the edge of the village and shot them. 

Traded, taunted, sold, beaten and raped by ISIS militants for months before she finally escaped, her memoir reveals how she had begged for death since her capture, but it never came.

She had tried to forget who she was because her identity as a sabiyya was who she had become.

She was forced to put on makeup and to cook and clean the house in which her captive held her.

At one point, she describes a loss of fear of Daesh (the Arabic term for ISIS) and rape, so much so that all she felt was numb.

She didn't fight or think about the world outside. Being sold or passed on to a different captor every week for three months came with the feeling of acceptance; that this was now her life.

When she got traded from terrorist to terrorist, her hopelessness became like a cloak, she says – heavy, dark and more obscuring than any abaya (a full-length garment worn by Muslim women). 

But she escaped. Now she is fighting for justice. She wants those men to go to court, to face justice and to be prosecuted in an international court.

This is not a book for your enjoyment. You will be horrified and disgusted at the inhumanity of the Islamic State, but you need to read this memoir of survival for its raw truth – not just the truth of the heinous acts and war crimes carried out by ISIS, but by the failure of the UN to do anything about it.

Although she continues to face death threats from ISIS, Murad continues to fight and found a powerful advocate in human rights lawyer, Amal Clooney.

Not only has Clooney written the foreword of Murad's book, but she has been at the forefront of commanding the UN to hold ISIS accountable.

In her talk addressed to the UN, Murad says:

"If beheadings, sexual enslavement, the rape of children and the displacement of millions do not force you to act, when will you act?

"Life was not create solely for you and your families. We also want life and deserve to live it."

Read more: 5 ways to get reluctant readers to pick up a book

Clooney rightfully makes the point that ISIS has confessed to their crimes against humanity and their war crimes online, hence why her speech at the UN drew attention to the paralysis of the intergovernmental organisation to do anything about it besides label it a genocide.

In an interview for BBC HARDtalk, Murad has one message to young men and women who wish to join Daesh:

"Before you join Daesh... you should know you will either be killed – or you will lose your humanity."

Purchase a copy from Raru.co.za.

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WATCH: Amal Clooney criticises world response to Yazidi genocide


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