Nadia Murad has written an important and moving book, The Last Girl, and My Fight Against the Islamic State. Murad is a Yazidi. (Yazidis are a Kurdish religious minority in Iraq.) Yazidis were targeted by the Islamic State, which demolished Murad’s village and executed many of the people who lived there. Nadia Murad and other young women of her village were captured and brutally used as sex slaves. Murad managed to escape, worked to help victims and wrote this book. She is also the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize this year, although the lack of journalistic recognition of her achievements and the Peace Prize is a sad measure of the world’s concern about sex slavery.
This is an excellent book about an horrific subject. It is difficult to read, although I found that the book’s overall design helped. First, Murad tells us about her childhood and what it was like to grow up in a large family in a Yazidi village. The second part is the hardest to bear — the war comes, Murad’s family is decimated, she is captured and she becomes a sex slave. Murad details her multiple rapes and the viciousness of her captors. This happened, and the world needs to know the details. It’s not just another news story. She is bearing witness, and we should, too. Third and finally, there is the dramatic story of her escape and new life. She has survived, and she is strong.
Reading The Last Girl is important, because it forces us to confront exactly what sex slavery means to its victims and to focus on the men who elect to engage in it. These aren’t just a few perverts. In this book alone, scores of men actively and sadistically participated. The news assures us these are not isolated incidents. Whatever the so-called religious “justification,” these men hated women and enjoyed raping them. Compounding the venality were the men and women who knew exactly what was going on and had no problem with it. Then there were the people who just turned away and pretended it wasn’t happening. Murad is infuriated with the men and women who knew and failed to do anything about it. She acknowledges that they were likely afraid, but at some level they were willing to let this happen, and she doesn’t let them off the hook.
We need to remember that sex slavery happens because the world lets it happen. Sadly there will never be a shortage of men willing to abuse women in the most appalling ways. With each insult and cruelty that passes without comment, these men are empowered. And this isn’t just a problem in other countries. Men who bully and abuse women are part of the continuum, and we need to be vigilant, speak out and take action. We honor Nadia Murad and other victims by reading their stories and doing whatever we can to stop this horrific abuse.