ISLAMIC STATE CAMPAIGN
BOOK REVIEW: Survivor tells of Iraq’s rape and abuse horrors
Yazidi Nadia Murad never stopped fighting for her life against Islamic State barbarity, writes Diane de Beer
THE LAST GIRL: My Story of Captivity and My Fight Against the Islamic State
Nadia Murad and Jenna Krajeski
There have been more headlines about men leaving the UK and Europe to join Islamic State (IS) in its bid to establish a caliphate than about the civilians living in the countries they devastated, such as Syria and Iraq.
Nadia Murad was born and raised in Kocho, a small village of farmers and shepherds in northern Iraq. She is a member of the Yazidi community and lived a quiet and fairly isolated life with her family.
On August 15 2014, when she was 21 years old, the life she knew ended abruptly. Even though her community had been waiting for the IS militants, none of them predicted what was about to happen. Although regarded as a fringe community in Iraq, the Yazidis believed their Arab and Iraqi neighbours would come to their aid when needed. But they were left on their own.
When the fighters arrived, people were shot if they resisted orders. Murad was raped, which was not only a violation of her body but also of her personhood as she was told her family would reject her because she was no longer a virgin.
In these dire circumstances, Murad never stopped fighting for her life. She wanted to live to tell the world what happened to the tiny community that was almost obliterated. She compares what happened to her people with the genocide in Rwanda, particularly the rape and abuse of women.
Her book, The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State, with a foreword by human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, teaches about the Yazidi people, how fractured Iraq was after the fall of Saddam Hussein, and
how IS occupied the regions they controlled. This is a story of a country that splintered into pieces with everyone fighting and mistrusting one another.
Murad is the recipient of the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize and the Sakharov Prize, and is the UN’s first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking.
A Yazidi human rights organisation is working to bring the IS before the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Murad is also the founder of Nadia’s Initiative, a programme that is dedicated to helping survivors of genocide and human trafficking to heal
and rebuild their communities. Every time she tells her story she relives the horror of the rape and the loss of every member of her family and friends.
She recalls how her villagers hoped, above all, that their neighbours would be there for them. This led to huge levels of anger and mistrust.
"More than anything else," Murad concludes in her astonishing book, "I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine."