There are good books and there are good books which disturb you – ‘The Girl Who Escaped ISIS’ falls in the latter category. It is a story of a caged bird’s will to fly away from captors. Successful story, it has a happy ending, in that the captive escaped, but a terrible (read accurate and truthful) story of human violence, lust, greed and power.
I went to the library where this book almost begged me to be picked up. Why I pick up a certain type of books, one after another, almost on an instinct, is a question to which I have not found any answer.
On my earlier visit to Wimbledon Library, I picked up ‘Stolen Lives’ authored by Louise Hulland. It is also a book on slavery. I became acutely aware of slavery when I went to Fiji and Trinidad where Indians were taken as Indentured labour. That’s another synonym of slavery. When I watched ‘Rotten’ which documents it well, I wrote about it.
Slavery comes in various forms. And the worst of them all is the sex slavery. Louise Hulland covers the story of Elena who was cheated by her lover and was sold to a brothel making her a sex slave. A pregnant Elena escaped and landed in London, thanks to a Samaritan Truck Driver, and then the problem was getting a citizenship.
Louise Hulland covers the story interspersed with factual details of the slavery problem. In India and Bangladesh, schemes like ‘Sumangali Scheme’ have been launched by employers which enslaves girls of marriageable age. I have captured some details in ‘Captured by Corruption’. They are not sex slaves, but slaves surely.
However, what Farida experienced was sudden turn of fate. Nobody was prepared for it, much less Farida. ISIS attacked her village in north Iraq. They separated men from women, and the married women from young girls for their beastly desires. They killed the men, and sold women.
Farida was a Yazidi girl, she was nineteen years old when ISIS enslaved her, sold repeatedly and made her a sex slave. But Farida’s will was indomitable. She resisted every approach and she was often beaten ‘within an inch of her life’ for her bitter resistance to rapists. Two unsuccessful suicide attempts were part of her desire to escape. She did not die.
She was held captive, and she was raped regularly. In her prison camp she found a mobile phone with an active sim card, and managed to contact an uncle of her friend (and also a sex slave), Evin, in Germany. They finally took grave risk and fled the prison camp, asked help of an unknown family staking their lives, and the family helped them stay for a while.
With the help of the uncle in Germany they were rescued and brought to safe place at Dobuk. She applied to be taken to Germany, and later her family followed. An ordeal of nearly two years came to an end.
As a young student Farida dreamt of becoming Maths teacher because she was good at it. She can now hopefully, thanks to her migration to Germany.
ISIS men’s brutality which she describes in good detail is shocking evidence of how Satan can take over a man! Greed and lust grips men so easily, and funnily enough they do it in the name of religion! It is a story of how fanatics can damage the world, destroy lives of hundreds of people.
There were a few men, may be two or three who showed empathy to her and her enslaved friends. But they were helpless, nothing works when powerful men ruthlessly rule.
Finally, Farida ran away from the prison where she was held as a sex slave by ISIS, and when she reached safely across a camp in Dobuk, a bitter experience awaited her. An old lady told her that she was ‘defiled’ so no man would ever marry her! That was the custom among the Yazidis, the religion to which she belonged. The misbeliefs and damaging customs never loosen their grip, not even in the calamity. Men will probably never know the depth of hurt such customs cause.
Nelson Mandela set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. During one of its hearing a police officer had to demonstrate how he physically assaulted a hapless victim to the victim’s mother. She asked him, ‘How could you ever do it?’ He had no answer. George Floyd was pinned down and murdered in a shocking and unbelievable act of violence. Men have repeatedly demonstrated the devil in them, the holocaust is the worst example.
Andrea Hoffman contacted Farida in in Yazidi refugee camp near Dohuk which is in north Iraq. Her editor sent her there to ‘look for survivors of nightmare.’ This book is the result of their work together. Well written, not overly detailed, in it tells Farida her story, and it seems as objective as possible. Not written to get your sympathy, but telling facts as well as they can be told.
Will this book force us to examine what harm the men in power can do? And will this book inspire us to look at outdated customs and misbeliefs which destroys lives of women? Will this book help us abjure violence? Let us hope so.
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I quote Subhash Kak: “The Yazidis call themselves Daseni which is the same as Devayasni (Devayājñi). Yazidis and Hinduism share some common customs and practices. The word Yazidi is cognate with Sanskrit yajata (worthy of worship) which in Old Persian (and Kashmiri) is yazata.”. The Yazidis’ God bears some resemblance to Karthikeya. And Muslims think Yazidi’s are worshippers of Satan. That explains their bias. (Unquote.)
Subhash Kak says, ‘The Yazidis are a symbol of mankind’s indomitable will.’ Farida is an excellent example.
Vivek S Patwardhan
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”
Feature Pic Courtesy Pixabay