In this intimate memoir of survival, a former captive of ISIS tells her harrowing and ultimately inspiring story.
Nadia Murad was born and raised in Kocho, a small village of farmers and shepherds in Iraq. A member of the Yazidi community, she and her eleven brothers and sisters lived a quiet life. Nadia was in high school and had dreams of becoming a history teacher and opening her own beauty salon.
On August 15th, 2014, when Nadia was just twenty-one years old, this life ended. ISIS militants massacred the people of her village, executing men old enough to fight and women too old to become sex slaves. Six of Nadia’s brothers were killed, and her mother soon after, their bodies swept into mass graves. Nadia and her two sisters were taken to Mosul, where they joined thousands of Yazidi girls in the ISIS slave trade.
Nadia would be sold three times, raped, beaten, and forced to convert to Islam in order to marry one of her captors. Finally, she managed a narrow escape through the streets of Mosul, finding shelter in the home of a Sunni Muslim family whose eldest son risked his life to smuggle her to the safety of a refugee camp. There, surrounded by bereaved and broken Yazidi families, Nadia decided to devote her life to bringing ISIS to justice.
As a farm girl in rural Iraq, Nadia could not have imagined she would one day address the United Nations or be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She had never been to Baghdad, or even seen an airplane. As a slave, she was told by her captors that Yazidis would be erased from the face of the earth, and there were times when she believed them.
Today, Nadia’s story–as a witness to ISIS, a survivor of rape, a refugee, a Yazidi–has forced the world to pay attention to the ongoing genocide in Iraq. It is a call to action, a testament to the human will to survive, and a love letter to a lost country, a fragile community, and a family torn apart by war.
After 9/11, Iraqis became America’s enemy. They were scorned by the media, as if the whole country needed to burn in hell. A decade and a half later, “Iraqi” to many Americans simply means “Terrorist.” In reality, there are many different ethnic groups and cultures in Iraq, and “terrorist” is not an ethnic group. We are causing so much more harm by prejudicing all Iraqis by that one awful label, because so many were just trying to get away–those terrorists were hurting people in their own country too!
As Nadia writes in her book:
“I still think that being forced to leave your home out of fear is one of the worst injustices a human being can face. Everything you love is stolen, and you risk your life to live in a place that means nothing to you and where, because you come from a country now known for war and terrorism, you are not really wanted. So you spend the rest of your years longing for what you left behind while praying not to be deported.”
Nadia’s story is heartbreaking from beginning to…well to be honest I didn’t make it to the end. I really want to finish it, but I have to take my own advice here and Read When Safe, and right now, I am not safe. However, I do really believe this is a story that needs to be told, especially now, especially in America, when prejudices are SO high. Nadia’s people need us to understand that YES what happened to us was horrific–but we were not getting the full story of what was happening in Iraq. We tend to see this war as totally America-centric, and that is not the whole picture. TERRIBLE things are happening in the Middle East, and their people are being tortured. I will come back to this, and when I do, I will update this review.
Tim Duggan Books and Blogging for Books provided a copy of this book for unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.