‘The Last Girl — My Story of Captivity and My Fight Against the Islamic State’ review: A struggle for peace

It is not often that I am equally eager and reluctant to turn the pages of a book. The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity and My Fight Against the Islamic State details the working of the hermit kingdom of the Islamic State, but through the story of a young girl who has endured unspeakable brutality at the hands of monster men. It is not only Nadia Murad’s tale, it is also a primer on Yazidis. It is a disquieting peek into a world of extreme depravity, a test of resilience in the face of the worst adversities, and a call for peace.

Nadia lives in a large family of Yazidis in Kocho village, Sinjar, Iraq. Her community has been persecuted for centuries, but it is faith that keeps her strong throughout her ordeal. For as long as Nadia can remember, Iraq has always been in a state of war: with the Americans in 2003, with itself, and then with the Islamic State.

Through these conflicts, “old prejudices harden easily into hatred”.

The year is 2014. Extremists who denounce non-Sunni Muslims, Christians and Yazidis are provided shelter in parts of Iraq. The military forces, or peshmerga, abandon the Yazidis after promising to protect them, and Kocho falls into the hands of the militants. The jihadists slaughter men and older women and sell young women as sex slaves.

Nadia is sold in Mosul to a skinny judge. She is converted to Islam, repeatedly raped, beaten, humiliated, tortured, and passed on from one militant to another. After weeks of suffering, she manages to flee into Kurdistan posing as the wife of a Sunni man, Naseer, an embodiment of all good things in the world. The two of them embark on a heart-stopping journey filled with the prospect of death, but finally enter into safe territory.

Yet Nadia’s test is far from over: her personal story becomes a tool for politics. Naseer and Nadia are detained by Kurdish officials, their stories are recorded on camera on the promise of confidentiality, but leaked almost immediately to the press.

These are officials who are eager to take down their rivals who had failed to protect the Yazidis before the siege of Kocho.

The Last Girl is a book of staccato and plain writing, but it is an important and devastating read. Nadia, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2018, says, “I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine.” The burden falls on us to ensure that the evil that men do does not live after them.

The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity and My Fight Against the Islamic State; Nadia Murad, Hachette India, ₹499.

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Printable version | Jul 22, 2021 10:56:22 AM |

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