Before ISIS overtook her northwest Iraqi village in August 2014, Yazidi kidnap victim Nadia Murad dreamed of owning a beauty salon one day. Captured, enslaved, sold, raped and tortured, Murad suffered alongside thousands of her people as Islamic state militants attempted to decimate their religion.
In a brilliant illustration of human resiliency, Murad, 24, has penned a new book recalling the details of how she managed to escape ISIS to become a Nobel Peace Prize nominee as she fights for freedom and justice for her people.
“The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity and My Fight Against the Islamic State” (Tim Duggan Books) is now in bookstores. In it, Murad tells how she and her family were living peacefully in the farming community of Kocho, near the Syrian border, when ISIS first rose to power.
She eloquently describes her way of life before it was shattered three years ago, on Aug. 14, after a two-week siege. Her book goes on to recall how ISIS ordered everyone in Kocho to a schoolyard, where they asked the local leader if the villagers would convert to Islam. When he replied no, what happened next was beyond horrible.
The men of the village were all executed in one afternoon within earshot of the women. Then the older women and children were separated from the younger women. Murad would never see her mother again after that.
According to a report in the NY Post, Yazidism dates back 6,000 years and has elements in common with many religions of the Middle East: Zoroastrianism, Islam, Judaism. “Adherents don’t believe in hell or Satan and pray to a fallen angel, whom they call Tawusi Melek, who came down to Earth and challenged God, only to be forgiven and returned to heaven. This belief has given the Yazidi people a reputation among radical Muslims as devil worshipers. As a result, followers, who have no formal holy book of their own, have often been the target of genocidal impulses.”
Murad, who was 21 at the time, was told, “You are an infidel, a sabiyya [sex slave] and you belong to the Islamic State now, so get used to it.” Many of the other women tried to kill themselves rather than be sold as slaves, but Murad managed to miraculously survive the ordeal.
She also writes about the fact that ISIS had been planning to take over her village without anyone’s knowledge.
“Attacking Kocho and taking girls to use as sex slaves wasn’t a spontaneous decision,” she writes. “ISIS planned it all: how they would come into our homes, what made a girl more or less valuable, which militants deserved a sabiyya as incentive and which should pay.”
After being raped by multiple men, Murad suddenly saw an opportunity to escape, but her story didn’t end there.
Now, Murad is hoping her book will reach an even wider audience than a speech she made before the UN. All proceeds from the book’s sales will go toward supporting survivors and bringing ISIS to justice.
“I think there was a reason God helped me escape . . . and I don’t take my freedom for granted,” she writes. “The terrorists didn’t think that Yazidi girls would have the courage to tell the world every detail of what they did to us. We defy them by not letting their crimes go unanswered. Every time I tell my story, I feel that I am taking some power away from the terrorists.”
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