Nadia Murad, a Yazidi woman, comes from a small town called Kocho in Northern Iraq. She has an extended family of brothers and sisters and stepbrothers. Her family is poor, Kocho is poor but proud and Nadia was happy living there. She adored her family, especially her mother. Her father remarries and although life is a little harder, Nadia takes solace in being able to attend school and hopes to one day become a teacher or open her own beauty salon. She is happy.
The Last Girl is Nadia’s account of her life as ISIS takes over her village, as well as many many others in Iraq. When she was just 21 years old, her hopes and dreams were ripped away from her by militants. It was 2014 and Islamic State militants entered Kocho and murdered men who would not convert and also executed older women. If the women were young enough to become sex slaves they were spared. Nadia and her family were separated and taken to different locations. Nadia, like some of her sisters and cousins, would soon be sold as a sex slave, but she would first be forced to convert to Islam.
Hajji Salman, an Islamic State militant buys Nadia and takes her to his home. He forces her into a marriage ceremony and then over the next days uses her to cook and clean but more horrifically for his sexual pleasure. She is repeatedly raped and soon decides she must try to escape. She is caught and Hajji punishes her by allowing others to rape her continually all night. Nadia is beaten and demoralised and the fight leaves her body. Hajji Salman decides it is time to move her on and sells her to someone else.
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While in transit, the rape of this young woman continues and she becomes ill. A mistake made by a guard when he decides to get medicine for Nadia, finds her escaping through an open door and fleeing. She moves with caution through the streets of Mosul and finds refuge with a Sunni Muslim family. They arrange a new identity for Nadia and put together a plan for her escape. The eldest son Nasser, is entrusted with her safety and together they cross dangerous borders, but manage to find safety.
Nadia tells the story of the unspeakable conditions at the refugee camp. She tells how she finds some of her family and returns eventually to Kocho. She speaks of the heartache when she learns of the death of six of her brothers, of the disappearance of her mother. Nadia Murad discovers there are mass graves covering the land and a genocide has taken place. Her family is broken, their freedom was taken from them.
Nadia is recruited by the United Nations to tell her story. They give her three minutes to explain the murders and the atrocities, but she keeps talking. She now talks through Yazda, an organisation which helps Yazidi people to get justice and to recognise that a genocide took place. She fights for perpetrator accountability of ISIS fighters.
It is hard for Nadia Murad to tell her story, again and again, reliving it each time but in her words, “my story, told honestly and matter-of-factly, is the best weapon I have against terrorism, and I plan on using it till those terrorists are put on trial” is a testament to the strength and courage of this woman and all those who stand with her.
The Last Girl is an account of the horrific things still happening in the world today. It is a book full of sadness, of fear and terror. Mostly it is a book filled with courage and hope.
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The Last Girl, by Nadia Murad, Jenna Krajeski, is available in hardback, paperback and digital formats from the publisher, Hachette Australia, click here for details.