On Nadia Murad’s The Last Girl, and Why Memoirs of Trauma Are Vital

Jennie Yabroff in Signature:

ScreenHunter_2885 Nov. 09 20.22In 2014, men and livestock began disappearing from Kocho, a small village in Northern Iraqi occupied by members of the religious minority Yazidi. The culprits only took a few animals at a time – a hen and some of her chicks; a ram; a lamb. In August that same year, the Islamic State invaded the region. They killed most of the Yazidi men, and sold the young women as sex slaves, or sabaya. While rounding up the Yazidi to send them to their deaths or torture, one militant told a village woman she shouldn’t be surprised; they had been warned. “When we took the hens and chicks, it was to tell you we would be taking your women and children. When we took the ram, it was like taking your tribal leaders, and when we killed the ram, it meant we planned on killing those leaders. And the young lamb, she was your girls.”

One of those girls symbolized by the young lamb, survived the ordeal. Nadia Murad was twenty-one when Islamic State invaded her village. She watched her brothers be murdered, and lost her mother to the genocide. She was sold as sex slave and was raped repeatedly by the man who bought her, and, when she tried to run away, by his guards as well. She finally escaped, and went on to testify about her experience, and the experience of all the Yazidis who suffered under the Islamic State. In her new memoir, The Last Girl, she writes that her hope is to be the “last girl in the world with a story like mine.”

Murad begins her memoir with gentle, evocative scenes of life in her sweet, quiet village with her family and beloved mother. It is only when her town is rounded up and forced into a school that she realizes how tiny her village really is; when Islamic State takes her and the rest of the young women to Mosul, it is the first time many of them have left their village.

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