The Last Girl (memoir)

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The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State
AuthorNadia Murad, Jenna Krajeski
CountryUnited States
PublishedNovember 7, 2017
PublisherPenguin Books

The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State is a autobiographical book by Nadia Murad in which she tells how she was captured and enslaved by the Islamic State during the Second Iraqi Civil War. Murad won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for this book.

Synopsis[change | change source]

In the first part of the book, Murad writes about growing up in the Yazidi village of Kocho, Sinjar District. She lived there with her mother, two older sisters and eight older brothers. Murad writes about several disputes with nearby Sunni villages and terrorist attacks that she remembered. She then talks about the August 2014 occupation of Kocho by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. During the occupation, ISIS people killed many people in Kocho in a massacre. Some of the people of Kocho ran away to the Sinjar Mountains, and the rest were kidnapped by ISIS. The ISIS agents told the men still in Kocho that they had to change religions. The men of Kocho said no, and the ISIS agents killed them. Young women were kidnapped as sexual slaves. Murad criticized Peshmerga troops for running away from Kocho one day before the massacre.

In the second part of the book, Murad tells the readers about what happened to her during the Second Iraqi Civil War. ISIS agents took her and other women to an place in Solagh. She was then taken to Mosul, which had been captured by ISIS in June 2014. Yazidi women who weren't enslaved were attacked by anyone who wanted to hurt them. A high-ranking militant wanted to buy Murad, but she convinced a skinnier judge to buy her instead. When Murad was in Al-Hamdaniya District, she tried attempted to escape through a window. The guards who caught her raped her and sent her away to an ISIS checkpoint. She was imprisoned there and raped by people passing. Then she was bought by someone in Mosul again. There, she successfully and easily escaped that man, who had left the front door unlocked. She said that was miraculous.

In the third part of the book, Murad talks about how she escaped from ISIS-held territory. First, she walked around Mosul for almost two hours. Then she saw a family and asked them for help. They agreed to help her run away. Murad used fake identities to escaped with the family's younger son. The family sent him away with Murad so he would not join ISIS. Murad and the sun entered Iraqi Kurdistan, but they kept their fake identities so that no one would use Murad's status as a former slave for political reasons. Murad found she could not leave Sulaymaniyah, so she Murad decided to tell her story to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. The PUK gave the interview to the media, even though they had said they wouldn't. This meant that the family who had helped Murad in Mosul were in danger. Murad found some people from her family, and she waited to learn about the rest. Her mother had been killed in Solagh, and Nadia's niece Kathrine, who had tried to escape six times, had been killed in the same explosion blast that injured Lamiya Aji Bashar. Six of Murad's brothers had been killed, and one of her nephews had become an ISIS soldier.

Release[change | change source]

Murad's attorney is Amal Clooney, a Lebanese-British barrister. Clooney wrote the foreword to The Last Girl.[1]

The Last Girl was released for sale in the UK, Germany and Netherlands at the same time: on October 31, 2017. Rights to print the book were sold in twenty other territories.[2] According to the Associated Press, Murad noted in a statement "that she had lost numerous friends and family members to ISIS and hoped her story would 'influence world leaders to act'".[3] The book was released right after the October 2017 Iraqi–Kurdish conflict.[4]

Critical reception[change | change source]

Writing for The Washington Post, Alia Malek said that Murad "writes with understandable anger but also with love, flashes of humor and dignity".[5] Ian Birrell wrote for The Times that Jenna Krajeski, the American journalist who wrote the book with Murad, "captures Murad's tremulous voice well".[6]

Anna Della Subin of The New York Times said the book was good to read because people could learn about Yazidi religious beliefs.[7] Ashutosh Bhardwaj wrote for the Indian newspaper The Financial Express that Murad's book "vividly details the customs and life of Yazidism" and that she "cites instances how the Yazidi stories were misinterpreted by the Sunnis who termed them 'devil worshippers'".[8]

Critics focused on the fact that the Iraq conflict was still happening when the book was published. Subin wrote that the book is "difficult to process", that it has "open wounds and painful lessons", and that almost anyone with almost any political ideas could pretend that Murad agreed with them. Subin also wrote that "it places Murad's tragedy in the larger narrative of Iraqi history and American intervention". According to Subin, the book is "intricate in historical context". Murad wrote it that way to avoid sensationalism and Islamophobia.[7] Malek had "[no] doubt [that] controlling her story was part of [Murad's] motivation to tell it in this book". However, Malek also said that Murad harshly criticized Sunni Arabs for not standing up to ISIS even though some of them did. Murad called them exceptions.[5]

The Evening Standard's Arifa Akbar wrote that the book "initially defers its shock", being "a history lesson" about the time ISIL killed many Yazidis and about her family's life. Akbar said that later parts of the book "deliver true horror, and a surreal sense of Murad's parallel existence as a sex slave in a city filled with ordinary Sunni Muslim families".[9] Malek wrote: "She takes the time to introduce Kocho and its people before the arrival of the Islamic State. [...] So when the Islamic State strikes, we know that these are real people — and we know that the stakes are high and the devastation is visceral."[5] Bhardwaj wrote that something Murad's said, that the rest of the world is more interested in the sexual abuse aspect of the genocide than in the rest of it, was "[perhaps] her most damning comment" and that "[her] account [reflects] the collective guilt of civilisation".[8]

Malek ended her review with: "Nonetheless, Murad gives us a window on the atrocities that destroyed her family and nearly wiped out her vulnerable community. This is a courageous memoir that serves as an important step toward holding to account those who committed horrific crimes."[5] Birrell wrote that the last part of the book was "slightly rushed". He finished his review with: "It is not always easy to turn the pages as Murad descends into hell. But this is an important book by a brave woman, fresh testament to humankind’s potential for chilling and inexplicable evil. Perhaps the ultimate tragedy is that this joins a packed library of similar tomes from the past."[6]

References[change | change source]