Nadia Murad grew up dreaming of owning a beauty salon. The youngest of 11 children in a Yazidi family in northwest Iraq, she took photographs of all the brides in her tiny village, studying their makeup and hair. Her favorite was of a brunette woman with curls piled high atop her head.
But after ISIS overtook her village in August 2014, that dream died. Murad was captured, enslaved, sold, raped and tortured alongside thousands of her people in an effort to decimate their religion.
ISIS didn’t entirely succeed, however. Murad, 24, managed a miraculous escape and is now a Nobel Peace Prize nominee fighting for freedom and justice for her people.
Her new book, “The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity and My Fight Against the Islamic State” (Little Brown), out now, tells the story of how she and her family were living peacefully in the farming community of Kocho, near the Syrian border, when ISIS first rose to power. Her clan came from a long line of sheepherders and wheat farmers, residing in a house made of mud-brick rooms “lined up like beads on a necklace and connected by doorways with no doors.”
In the summer her family, including Murad’s mother, eight brothers and two sisters, stretched out on mattresses on the roof of their house, whispering to one another until they fell asleep under the moon.
But three years ago, on Aug. 14, after a two-week siege, ISIS ordered the entire population of Kocho to a schoolyard, where they asked the local leader if the villagers would convert to Islam. Yazidism is one of the oldest faiths in Mesopotamia, dating back 6,000 years, and has elements in common with many religions of the Middle East: Zoroastrianism, Islam, Judaism. Adherents don’t believe in hell or Satan and pray to a fallen angel, whom they call Tawusi Melek, who came down to Earth and challenged God, only to be forgiven and returned to heaven. This belief has given the Yazidi people a reputation among radical Muslims as devil worshipers. As a result, followers, who have no formal holy book of their own, have often been the target of genocidal impulses. (Before ISIS, outside powers, including the Ottomans and other radical Islamic sects, had tried to destroy them 73 times, Murad writes in her book.)
The local leader told the ISIS commander that they would never convert, believing his people would then be evacuated to a nearby town. Instead, the men of the village were loaded onto trucks, ordered to dig a shallow grave and executed in one…