Nadia Murad was born and raised in Kocho, a small village of farmers and shepherds in Iraq. A member of the Yazidi community, she and her eleven brothers and sisters lived a quiet life. Nadia was in high school and had dreams of becoming a history teacher and opening her own beauty salon.
On August 15th, 2014, when Nadia was just twenty-one years old, this life ended. ISIS militants massacred the people of her village, executing men old enough to fight and women too old to become sex slaves. Six of Nadia’s brothers were killed, and her mother soon after, their bodies swept into mass graves. Nadia and her two sisters were taken to Mosul, where they joined thousands of Yazidi girls in the ISIS slave trade.
Nadia would be sold three times, raped, beaten, and forced to convert to Islam in order to marry one of her captors. Finally, she managed a narrow escape through the streets of Mosul, finding shelter in the home of a Sunni Muslim family whose eldest son risked his life to smuggle her to the safety of a refugee camp. There, surrounded by bereaved and broken Yazidi families, Nadia decided to devote her life to bringing ISIS to justice.
As a farm girl in rural Iraq, Nadia could not have imagined she would one day address the United Nations or be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She had never been to Baghdad, or even seen an airplane. As a slave, she was told by her captors that Yazidis would be erased from the face of the earth, and there were times when she believed them.
Today, Nadia's story—as a witness to ISIS, a survivor of rape, a refugee, a Yazidi—has forced the world to pay attention to the ongoing genocide in Iraq. It is a call to action, a testament to the human will to survive, and a love letter to a lost country, a fragile community, and a family torn apart by war.
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About the Author
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Excerpted from "The Last Girl"
Copyright © 2017 Nadia Murad.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group.
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Reading Group Guide
Elias (oldest brother)
Massoud (brother and Saoud’s twin)
Saoud (brother and Massoud’s twin)
Shireen (Saoud’s wife)
Jenan (Jalo’s wife)
Hezni (brother) Policeman in Sinjar
Kathrine (niece and daughter of Elias)
Ahmed Jasso (The Mukhtar of Kocho)
Naif Jasso (Ahmed Jasso’s brother)
Masoud Barzani (President of the Kurdistan Regional Government)
Mukhtar-A village leader
Qawwals-Yazidi traveling religious teachers
Jevat-Meeting house used by the Mukhtar and other men to make decisions for the village
Kochek-A Yazidi mystic that confirms if a deceased person made it into the afterlife.
Lalish-A valley in northern Iraq where the Yazidi’s holiest temples are located.
PKK-(Kurdish Workers Party) Kurdish guerrilla army based in Turkey
KDP-President Barzani’s Kurdish Party
Sabaya-ISIS’ human spoils of war bought and sold as sex slaves
Discussion guide written by Keith Long
1. How would you describe Nadia’s life in Kocho before ISIS invades?
2. How would you characterize relations between Yazidis and their Sunni neighbors before ISIS invades?
3. What do the Yazidi people believe? What is the importance of religion to the community and how is it demonstrated throughout the book?
4. What was the nature of Saddam Hussein’s Arabization policy and how did it effect Iraq’s Yazidi population?
5. What changes and challenges did modernization present to Nadia’s community? In your opinion, is it important for ethnic minorities and religious groups to maintain their unique identity or should they assimilate into more globalized notions of culture? Explain.
6. On page 31, Nadia states, “We had been taught about violence since our very first day of school.” What does Nadia mean by this and specifically how does it explain Iraq’s modern history?
7. How did economic sanctions impact Yazidis and other Iraqis during Saddam Hussein’s rule? To what extent do you believe economic sanctions are an effective tool for nations to use against other nations?
8. What changes occurred in Iraq after the U.S. invasion in 2003?
· Yazidi reaction?
· Sunni Arabs?
9. Discuss the incident of Du’a Khalil Aswad and how it influenced Yazidi/Sunni relations.
10. On page 52 Nadia writes, “I still think that being forced to leave your home out of fear is one of the worst injustices a human being can face.” Do you agree or disagree with the author? Why or why not?
11. On August 3, 2014 ISIS arrived at the outskirts of Kocho. What was the response of Kocho’s Sunni Arab neighbors? What was the response of the Kurds?
12. How did ISIS treat other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq compared to Yazidis? Pay particular attention to how Iraqi Christians were treated. What similarities and differences do you see in the way ISIS treated these groups and what were the reasons?
13. Investigate a media outlet such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or Washington Post and look for coverage about the situation on and around Mount Sinjar in August 2014. How did the U.S. media cover the events? How does U.S. media coverage compare to Nadia’s account of what happened?
14. Holocaust scholar Lawrence Langer coined the phrase “choiceless choices” to advance the notion that Holocaust victims were faced with a reality that presented different dimensions of moral choice compared to normal circumstances. Holocaust victims were frequently forced into situations where any choice made would have undesirable outcomes. Locate examples of “choiceless choices” in The Last Girl and discuss the thought process involved in these decisions. Note, the object here is not to judge the choices that victims made but rather understand on a deeper level the circumstances that victims of mass atrocity are faced with.
15. Often victims of mass atrocity are depicted as going passively to their deaths like sheep to the slaughter. How would you define resistance? Consider actions that go beyond armed resistance in your response. In what ways did Nadia and other Yazidis resist ISIS atrocities throughout the book?
16. How did ISIS members use the Quran and Islamic Law to designate women Sabaya and how did they justify their immoral actions and sexual abuse of Yazidi women?
17. On page 143, Nadia writes a brief meditation about justice. How would you define justice and what would it look like in the context of mass atrocities? Read pages 143–148 carefully and make a list of all of the people that you believe are guilty on a scale of 1–4 with 4 being the highest degree of guilt.
18. On page 148 Nadia writes that ISIS is “a terrorist group run on greed.” Why does she say this and what evidence is presented in the book up to and including this point? What other motivations for joining and supporting ISIS are given? Which one do you believe is the most compelling and why?
19. How did ISIS destroy Yazidi women without killing them?
20. What is the role of women in the ISIS organization? Pay particular attention to Morteja’s mother. Why is Nadia so conflicted over the issue of women perpetrators and justice?
21. In what way is rape considered a weapon of war?
22. Why do you believe Nasser’s family stayed in Mosul under ISIS, and how could their lives and values have changed by their experiences with Nadia?
23. In addition to ISIS perpetrators, who does Nadia seem most angry with and why? What are the implications about the choices these people make?
24. On page 239 Nadia describes crossing a bridge over the Tigris River and the reeds below. Interpret what she means about the reeds. What do the reeds symbolize? Explain.
25. After Nadia’s escape she lives in a half built house with her brothers and other survivors. Why does she refer to the house as “a house of misery”? Are you surprised that she is not more jubilant given her escape from ISIS?
26. What is the nature of the disagreement about the genocide between Nadia and the Kurdish farmer she works for?
27. On page 301 Nadia writes, “Longing for a lost place makes you feel like you have also disappeared.” What does she mean by this statement?
28. Why was it important for Nadia to tell her story?
29. If you could ask the author one question what would it be?
30. Why do genocides and mass atrocities occur?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Nadia tells of how ISIS emptied out her village, dividing the men from the women, the older people from the younger. They killed all the mature women, the older mothers, and made their daughters sex slaves. They killed the men , keeping the boys to indoctrinate. Nadia describes her life before ISIS as full of family love. The books shows the unbelievable stripping away of multilayered families and the fierce resolve the writer forms to tell her story and help end cycles of violence. The title means she envisions being The Last Girl who has to suffer such violations.
"I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine." The LEAST we can do is bear witness to genocide. But when we read and listen and attempt to absorb what is happening around us, we take one step closer to bringing the darkness into the light. This book is hard to read, frightening to imagine and it is a wake up call for all of us. In spite of having the unspeakable happen to her, Nadia has been brave enough to use her voice in the hope that the world will be a better place for it. Will you have enough courage to read her story?
Very repetitive in describing surroundings, traditions etc. Almost boring.
This book is a powerful and compelling account of a young Yazidi woman’s horrific experience after her village in Iraq is invaded by ISIS insurgents. Ms. Nadia Murad shares her story of captivity, abuse, and torture at the hands of ISIS. Her story is emotional and heartbreaking, but this reality of genocide and sex slavery of the Yazidi people at the hands of ISIS must be told. Ms. Murad is a brave, resilient, and courageous woman. Her commitment to advocate for the thousands of Yazidi people who have been targeted and to fight for her tormentors to be held accountable is remarkable. The documentary made in conjunction with this writing is equally intense. This book is a “must read” and the film is a “must see.”
very young women's story to survive. Her resolve to find justice for her people is so inspiring. I really don't understand how the US can allow this to happen to the Yazidi people! They stood with the US when we invaded Iraq. Thousands of their young men worked side by side with us as translators. The US has treated them awful. The translators get a special immigration visa, but thousands of Yazidi family members a still starving in refugee camps since this most recent ISIS genocide started 8/2014. Their families & community have been destroyed & the Trump administration is not allowing refugees from Iraq. The ugly America raises again.