Review Blog

Nov 29 2017

The last girl by Nadia Murad and Jenna Krajeski

cover image

Virago, 2017. ISBN 9780349009759
(Age: Senior secondary - Adult) Highly recommended. The Yazidi people are a religious minority group living primarily in a northern province of Iraq. Because they worship a fallen angel, Melek Taus, the peacock angel, they have been branded devil worshippers by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syris (ISIS) who have selected verses of the Qur'an to justify treating the Yazidi as property not humans. Thus Yazidi may be traded as slaves or killed without any qualm of conscience.
Nadia Murad, a Yazidi, born and raised in the small village of Kocho, Iraq, has documented how ISIS lay siege to their village, killed the men and elderly women, took the young men for brainwashing as soldiers and suicide bombers, and forced the girls and young women into sexual slavery. Nadia was sold and traded on the slave market by ISIS extremists, and repeatedly subjected to torture and rape. She survived and eventually escaped, bravely assisted by a Kurdish Muslim family, and she lives on to reveal to the world the genocide of the Yazidi undertaken by ISIS, and to fight for the survivors of human trafficking. She is the 2016 recipient of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, along with friend Lamiya Aji Bashar who was seriously disfigured by a landmine in her bid for freedom.
The last girl is Nadia's story, beginning with the humble Yazidi village life, of extended family and close community, where her simple girlish dreams were to become a hairstylist or beautician. Then in 2014, her village was encircled by ISIS and the people massacred, the girls taken away on buses to Mosul to ISIS headquarters to become sex slaves. Some committed suicide, some like Nadia eventually escaped, others continue to suffer somewhere in Iraq or have been trafficked to Syria.
If you think this all sounds too horrible to read, Murad spares us the graphic details. Her way of coping at the worst times was to shut down her mind, and she does the same in the book, she shuts down on the details, and just tells us the events. It is nevertheless a very moving story, one that needs to be heard.
As Amal Clooney says in the foreward to the book, amazingly Nadia Murad's spirit has not been broken, and she continues to campaign for justice. 'She has become the voice of every Yazidi who is a victim of genocide, every woman who has been abused, every refugee who has been left behind'.
Students studying modern slavery or the refugee crisis could gain insight from reading this book. Other readers could gain a better understanding of how ISIS is an extremist group that is a threat to all people, Muslims and Westerners alike.
Helen Eddy

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