“Men tell stories. Women get on with it. For us it was a shadow war. There were no parades for us when it was over, no medals or mentions in history books. We did what we had to during the war, and when it was over, we picked up the pieces and started our lives over.”
The Last Girl is a haunting memoir of Nadia Murad who witnessed the atrocities that no one wishes even upon their worst enemies. Nadia was born and raised in a small village called Kocho in the North of Iraq. Like her’s, Kocho was home to many Yazidi families who lived a quiet life and earned their sustenance as farmers and Shepherds until August 2014.
Islamic State militants, also known as Daesh took over Kocho on August 15th, 2014. The men of the village were made to stand in ditches in a line and were shot to death. In one summer, at the age of 21, Nadia lost her mother, her 6 brothers and found herself being sold as sex slave, beaten and gang-raped.
This is the story of Nadia Murad and many Yazidi girls. This is also the story of innumerable women who have borne and continue to bear the brunt of mindless wars. It is appalling to say the least, and history stands witness, that it is women who suddenly find themselves stripped of rights and dignity when men decide to go to war. And go to war they do.
Anna Della shared her views on The Last Girl in a TheNew York Times article “When Rape Becomes a Weapon of War”. There in that heading, in those 7 words lies the gist of the suffering of an entire generation of women who live not far from us.
Nadia’s anger in the book is palpable, her descriptions of atrocities are unflinching but most importantly, her grit and desire to live and to bring about change is what makes her a Hero to me. Ever since escaping her captivity, Nadia has become the strong, unwavering voice demanding justice and freedom for all the women kidnapped, trafficked, and enslaved by ISIS.
But as Murad says in her book,“Sometimes it can feel like all that anyone is interested in when it comes to the genocide [of Yazidis] is the sexual abuse of Yazidi girls…”, there is more to the problem than just the victimisation of women.
Every time they talk about war crimes on News channels, it seems we are so far away from it when in fact it is the sad reality of many many people right now. This book brings it closer and makes it more personal by not just naming names, but also sharing the simpler, easier life from a time that is now just a memory.
Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Ukraine – what is the common thread? What have we done in the name of “World Leadership”, in the name of oil and power? Are we going to continue to militarise the land, sea and air (maybe expand to Space as Donald Trump says)? Are we going to stand on the bylines and thank our respective Gods for our wellbeing while we trash somebody else’s God?
What are we going to do?
Nadia Murad is a 24-year-old Yazidi woman who advocates on behalf of her community and survivors of genocide. She was among the thousands of Yazidi women who were abducted and enslaved by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS). She was repeatedly raped and spent approximately one month in captivity. Nadia is a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, the recipient of the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, the Sakharov Prize, and the UN’s first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. She also received the Clinton Global Citizen Award and the Peace Prize from the United Nations Association of Spain.