Monday 23 August 2021

The Last Girl,by Nadia Murad: Book Note


The Last Girl by Nadia Murad: Book Note

A couple of weeks ago (July 2021) I read The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight against the Islamic State

Nadia Murad 
(New York: Tim Duggan Books, 2017).

Nadia Murad is a Yazidi, a member of a small religious group of about one million members in Northwest Iraq, bordering on what is now (unofficially) Kurdistan.  As readers might remember, the world because aware of this minority religious group in 2014, when ISIS conquered this region of Iraq. ISIS did not consider the Yazidi to be “People of the Book “(Jews and Christians) rather, it considered the Yazidi to be heretics, whom it was free to murder and enslave.  Thus, before the world had a chance to even know who the Yazidi were, ISIS began a genocide, killing all military-age men and boys and kidnapping marriageable girls and women, along with small children whom it could indoctrinate into it fundamentalist Islamist belief system. ISIS claimed that because they were heretics, Yazidi women could be used as sex slaves

Nadia grew up in a very large extended family in a village called Kocho. Yazidi speak Kurdish, and practice a religion which sees to combine elements of pre-Abrahamic Zoroastrianism with elements of Abrahamic religions, Nearby there were other villages inhabited by Sunni Muslims or by Christians. Despite this religious segregation of residential arrangements, everyone interacted at periodic markets, and her family’s doctor was a Sunni. Nadia’s father had abandoned her mother and his eleven children with her, to live with his younger second wife and their four children. Nadia had some education and worked hard on the family farm as well, Despite this relatively hard life, she describes her family and village with much love and nostalgia.

At 19, Nadia was one of the young women ISIS kidnapped. She was taken to Mosul where she was sold in a sex slave market. Her buyer was a high-status ISIS commanded who took her to a notary where she was forced to convert to Islam.  This apparently gave him license to rape her. When she tried to escape his clutches, he ordered six of his guards to rape her as well, then sold her to someone else. Eventually, after about three months, she managed to escape when her most recent buyer left the door to his house open. She threw herself on the mercy of complete strangers, a Sunni Muslim family, who at great risk to themselves decided to help her escape by sending one of their adult sons to escort her to Kurdistan, pretending she was his wife. Her oldest brother, who was already in Kurdistan, helped arrange her escape using a network of Yazidi activists and paid smugglers.

Unfortunately, factionalism among the Kurds resulted in information about Nadia and her rescuer – pseudonymously named Nasser- being circulated quite widely, endangering him. At the time of writing her book, Nadia still did not know if his family had been found out and punished for assisting her.

ISIS knew that the Yazidis prized the virginity of unmarried girls and women, thus they especially enjoyed defiling these virgins. To their credit, according to Murad, the surviving Yazidi elders got together and decided that girls and women who escaped ISIS would be welcomed back into the Yazidi community, as they obviously had neither converted to Islam nor engaged in sexual activities of their own free will. However, it seems that despite this, a fairly large percentage of former sex slaves felt rejected by their communities when they returned.

As I write this book note, the Taliban have conquered all of Afghanistan. There are now reports that they have begun to kidnap young girls to become their “wives”: that is, their sex slaves. Nadia Murad herself won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018, and is now the UN Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking.

Meantime, as of 2018 Nadia’s rescuer, whose real name is Jabar, was living in poverty as a refugee in Germany, separated from his wife and two children still in Iraq. ISIS had come knocking on his door the day after he returned from taking Nadia to Kurdistan. He escaped by jumping out a window and joined the long trek of Middle Eastern refugees seeking sanctuary in Europe. His family managed to convince ISIS that he had acted alone. But despite his heroism, Jabar was just one of many refugees in Germany.









No comments:

Post a Comment