The Girl Who Beat ISIS

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 18 May 2017

Member Reviews

I remember It was a case of making myself read this book although it is three years since I did so not sur3 what happened to my feedback. Shocking and sad but ultimately Uplifting.
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What a brave and inspiring young woman to actually put into words the appalling things she witnessed and had to experience and endure for approximately 6 months when their peaceful Syrian Yazidi village was invaded and villagers taken prisoner by ISIS.  Many, mostly men, were murdered by mass execution, but what I found so deplorable is how the author and other young girls, some of whom were no more than children, were sex trafficked and others used as sex slaves for the ISIS fighters!  This is a descriptive distressing and emotional read that deserves to be recommended.
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I found this book amazingly well written and beautiful, but I found it too emotional to read at this time in my life and I couldn't bring myself to finish it and therefore don't feel I can review it fairly as I have not been able to finish it.
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The Girl Who Beat ISIS  details  the dramatic shift in Farida's life story when her  village in Northern Iraq is taken over by ISIS jihadists. She grapples of her new reality of losing her family, being captured and traded in a slave market, clinging to her Yazidi faith and struggle to escape.

Readers of this short but powerful  book will be moved by Farida's courage to maintain her honour and sanity in these difficult circumstances that no one would wish on their worst enemies. Her story makes you wonder what you would do in difficult situations especially when MacGyver-ing /Makmende-ing does not happen to be one of your strong suits. Going through it, I found myself pondering about the limits religious  tolerance and extremism in my own worldview. It is quite humbling to know that at this exact moment, someone is other part of this continent and world is suffering  because of the other people's megalomania.

Reading this book will give one  a glimpse into  life under ISIS to pick this book up and hopefully make him or her more sympathetic to the refugee crisis  and hopefully motivate them to action.
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In a way, we all know this story. It's the story of an eighteen year old Yazidi girl from Northern Iraq in a village called Kocho, captured by Islamic State and forced to do unspeakable things in the name of 'Islam.' Farida Khalaf's story is one of the survivors. We hear these stories on the news.

Except it's not a story.

I usually find biographies more difficult to review; one can't really comment on the 'plot,' as that's not what it is. This is Farida's life./ (Although she has actually changed her name and all names in the book to protect her dignity.) How can you talk about building dramatic tension when what she is doing is writing her experiences? And it's also hard to comment on writing style; I feel unable to criticise the way one writes about one's experience of the world, particularly when it is a subject as sensitive and devastating as this. Furthermore, Farida cowrite this with Andrea C Hoffman, a German journalist, and it has then been translated by Jamie Bulloch. So, what we are reading in English on the page (or in this case, screen) is not her words. So I won't critique this book as in a normal review: it would feel completely insensitive.

Instead, I will talk a little of the story. Farida is a feisty, passionate young woman, devoted to family life and the Yazidi religion. I knew very little about Yazidis, and learnt some from the book which inspired me to look up and learn more. You can always tell that a book has a hook into you when you go away and research something. Her village, the safe haven everyone always thought it was, is seized by ISIS soldiers in 2014. The young unmarried women are taken away to be sold as slaves to ISIS soldiers; the men are shot, and the older woman and children are taken somewhere else - it's unclear where. 

When Farida's father taught her how to shoot at an early age, she was proud that he thought her strong enough to defend their family, but she never dreamt this would become a reality. It was more of a game for her, part of the other parts of everyday life: time with friends Nura and Evin, making apricot jam, picking lilies from her mother's garden and showing up the teacher at school by how good her maths skills were. None of them dreamed that the horror of ISIS could reach them in their idyllic little village of Kocho.

But it did. As we all know, ISIS soldiers took girls from all over the Middle East and Farida and her friends were just some of them. Through enormous tenacity and bravery, Farida never loses the spark inside her that they could be freed. She was never passive. Ever-fighting, sometimes getting herself into more trouble for it, she constantly devised plans for their escape, and ways to circumvent the compulsory Islamic prayers.

The girls were sold as sexual slaves, but there are no details of that. For Yazidis, it is the very worst shame that can befall you - to have sex outside marriage. It's so striking that throughout the book all the young women are disgusted and ashamed of themselves, scared to go back to their families because they had been 'spoilt.' To a Westerner's eye, this screams 'wrong!'; we label it as rape and the perpetrator is the guilty one, but to these girls, the crime was theirs. They had 'let' their bodies be taken, and would forever be dirty under the eyes of their religion and families. It's painful to read Farida's telling of this because she does everything she can to prevent the inevitable, but still feels as though she has betrayed her god, her family, her whole community. 

It's a terrible story. And this is just one girl. It's happened (and is happening) to thousands. Okay, so Farida didn't 'beat' ISIS: they still exist. But she managed to beat them by never giving up, never letting her spirit be broken and staying true to her religion. She won in one way, but will be forever outcast in her own community.

As I said, I won't comment on style or texture of writing; this is a biography. But it's one that leaves you reeling. No one should believe that rape is their own fault. No one.

A humbling and eye-opening story to read. Not one to forget.

Thank you to NetGalley for the free copy.
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Frida was a normal young girl, a loving family, friends and getting a good education in Northern Iraq. When her father taught her how to use a gun, she never thought she'd need it. Little did she know ISIS were advancing and before long they would take her town as well as her and her friends. 

Books are starting to come through of that it is like being held by ISIS and Farida's story is both heartbreaking and an eye opener into what some of these young women go through. This is not an easy read at all, but it is an important one. There is so much that as a wider world we don't know, see or understand. It was an honour to read her story. 

The one thing that comes through, again and again, is the strength that Frida has throughout the horrors of being held by ISIS. She fights in every way that she can against the men that hold her physically, mentally and in her faith. It's incredible how despite everything that she goes through she keeps true to her faith no matter what. 

I'm not able to say that I enjoyed the book because that seemed wrong. I appreciated it. I felt glad to have to read Fatima's story and I have to recommend it to everyone. I would have liked to have heard more about her life after she escaped and how she's doing now, but I understand why she didn't. 

I gave this a well deserved 4 stars ****.
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I would like to thank Square Peg for providing me with an advanced reading copy of this book.

    "This is the story of what happened to Farida after she was captured: the beatings, the rapes, the markets where ISIS sold women like cattle, and Farida's realisation that the more resistant she became, the harder it was for her captors to continue their atrocities against her. So she struggled, she bit, she kicked, she accused her captors of going against their religion, until, one day, the door to her room was left unlocked. She took her chance and, with five younger girls in her charge, fled into the Syrian desert..."

I honestly don't know what to say about this book, or even where to start with reviewing it. It feels wrong to try and break it down and comment on writing style, star rating, etc.

This book really brings home how easily your life can change. One day you're enjoying the long hot summer days and the next you and your family are fleeing for your lives. Farada could be your daughter, your sister, your niece, she deserves to be safe, to live without fear just like everyone else. The suffering she endured was atrocious, yet she never gave up. Her story is a remarkable story of hope, faith, courage, and strength. It's not an easy read, but it is important that experiences like Farada's are told. It is important that the world is made aware of the atrocities that are occurring in order to better understand the horrors that refugees are running from.

The Girl Who Beat ISIS is a book that everyone should read.
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To be published in numerous magazines in June: ISIS kidnapped Farida Khalaf from her Northern Iraqi village in 2014. She was in her last year of school. Beaten, raped and sold as a slave, the teenage Farida refused to bow down to her captors or to convert to their religion. After numerous escape attempts, and nearly being beaten to death, Farida eventually escaped, along with five other young girls. Farida was granted asylum in Germany and is now back in school. This is her harrowing tale, as told to Andrea C.Hoffmann.
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A harrowing tale told by Farida who had been enjoying being with her family and friends over summer 2014 before ISIS invaded her village killing her father and brothers and taking the women prisoners. She fought against the regime and managed to escape with five other girls. Everyone should read her story.
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Wow. Just wow. I wanted to find Farida Khalef and just give her a massive hug for what she went through. She was so brave and stood up for herself, pushed through her fear and just stood up for what she believed in. And I admire her so much for that. If you want to learn more about Islamic culture and about a girl who showed the world that not all Muslims believe in ISIS, then this is the book for you. Brilliant read.
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The Girl Who Beat Isis is a factual retelling of Farida Khalaf's horrific story based on a series of interviews Andrea Hoffman conducted with her in a refugee camp in Iraq. It is one of the most difficult and upsetting books I have ever read. It is also one of the most important.
The book begins in 2014, Farida lives in a small village in northern Iraq with her parents and four brothers. As Kurdish Yazidis they maintain friendly and commercial relations with neighbouring Muslim Arabs but it's still an uneasy relationship, mostly due to a religious misunderstanding that has meant Yazidis are believed to be devil worshippers. However, life for Farida is good. Although her father has taught her how to use a Kalashnikov in case she ever needs to help defend her family, it seems that as she enters her final year of school, and with a gift for Mathematics, a bright future is assured. She hopes to train to become a Maths teacher but in 2014 the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Daesh, or more usually in western countries, Isis) were just beginning their reign of terror. As Isis soldiers pour into Iraq from neighbouring Syria, Farida and her family are at first convinced the Iraqi army and then the Peshmerga (Kurdish militia) will successfully push them back over the border. That swiftly proves to be a false hope and when Isis comes to Farida's village they are ruthlessly and terrifyingly efficient in gaining control. After refusing to convert to Islam, the men in the village are removed from the camp, the gunfire heard moments later an ominous suggestion as to their probable fate. Then all the older girls and young women - including Farida - are taken away from their families too. What follows is a horrific account of the abuse, both sexual and physical endured at the hands of Isis soldiers by young girls like Farida and her friend, Evin who is taken alongside her. They become sex slaves, sold alongside scores of other women and girls at brutal, dehumanising markets. Despite being bought and sold several times, being raped by her successive 'owners' and enduring vicious beatings, Farida continues to resist as best as she can, eventually managing to escape into the Syrian desert with a small group of other Yazidi girls.
The Girl Who Beat Isis is the book that makes the statistics become personal. Only recently human rights lawyer Amal Clooney spoke about the Yazidi genocide. Since 2014 over 5,000 Yazidis have been killed, 5,000-7,000 Yazidi women been abducted, and approximately 500,000 Yazidi civilians are now refugees. Farida's story is a graphic account of what these people are being subjected to, the violence and oppression are starkly described here. Her courage in resisting her captors and surviving despite the worst atrocities is remarkable. It reminds us that despite all the political discourse about refugees, at the heart of this war are ordinary people whose lives have been changed forever and who deserve our every assistance.
This will not be a book you enjoy, it will make you angry, it will make you cry, it will make you sick to your very core. And that is why you need to read it.
Many thanks to the publishers for my copy received through Netgalley in return for this review.
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