The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State by Nadia Murad, Tim Duggan Books, US $27.00, Pp 320, November 2017, ISBN 978-1524760434
Nadia Murad was born and raised in Kocho, a small village in northern Iraq. The majority of the inhabitants of Kocho belonged to the non-Muslim community of Yazidis who lived in relevant peace even after the American invasion of Iraq. However, everything changed when the Islamic State rose and started occupying territory in Iraq and Syria, and established a caliphate in the conquered lands. The Islamic State unleashed a reign of terror on common people unknown in recent history. The Islamic State particularly targeted non-Muslim communities and their women who could only be their slave girls under the Islamic sharia. Most of these women died at the hands of the Islamic State but some survived and were able to move to the West. Twenty-one-year-old Nadia Murad was one such girl who lived to tell their collective story. In The Last Girl, Nadia Murad tells the story of these young women.
Nadia remembers the day in August 2014 when the Islamic State mujahideen came to her village and ordered all men and women to the local school where they pushed the women and girls to the second floor. Nadia writes, “The school where I had spent so many years learning and making friends now looked like a different place. Weeping filled the room, but if anyone screamed or asked what was happening, Islamic State militant would scream back to shut up, and the room would fall into a terrified quiet again.” Suddenly, a few militants began walking around the room holding large bags and demanding that women hand over their cellphones, jewelry, and money. Most women reached into the bags they had packed before leaving the house, dropping their things into the open bags, terrified. They hid what they could.
Hundreds of men were taken behind the school that day, and only a small number survived the firing squad. She writes, “My brother Saeed was shot in the leg and shoulder, and after he fell, he closed his eyes and stopped breathing so loudly. A body fell on top of him. It belonged to a big, heavy man who was even denser now that he was dead, and Saeed bit his tongue to keep from groaning under the crushing weight.” Beside him another man who was not yet dead groaned and cried from the pain, begging someone to help him. Saeed heard the footsteps of the militants as they walked back in his direction. One of the militants let go another deafening round of automatic fire.
After killing all men, Nadia writes that one of the militants came to the women and ordered them downstairs and they followed him. Militant Abu Batat continued walking up and down the aisle, pausing in front of the girls he liked best… Nadia writes, “Each time he passed me, he ran his hand along my shoulder and over my left breast, then walked away.” When ISIS took over Sinjar and began kidnapping Yazidis, they called their human spoils sabaya (sabiyya is singular), referring to the young women they would buy and sell as sex slaves. This was part of their plan for women, sourced from an interpretation of the Koran that had long been abandoned by the world’s Muslim communities. The Islamic State, like other jihadist movements, had written this into their fatwas and pamphlets. Yazidi girls were considered infidels, and according to their interpretation of the Koran, raping a slave is not a sin.
The Last Girl is a heart-wrenching story of three generations of men and women from Iraq and Syria who lost their lives to the rule of the born-again Muslims. Everybody who did not agree with the Islamic State’s interpretation of Islam suffered but the non-Muslims particularly non-Muslim women went through the most horrible experience. This beautifully written autobiography of a young woman who survived the Islamic State will melt even the cruelest heart but not those of the Islamists. The importance of Nadia Murad’s story lies in the fact that it depicts life under Islamists. The Last Girl should remove any misconception that the Islamic sharia will bring peace.