An amazing, but harrowing and distressing book.

by Richard Dawkins


This book is the ghost-written memoir of an almost superhumanly brave and heroic young woman, captured and sold into sexual slavery by ISIS. Farida Khalaf (not her real name, for obvious reasons) is a Yazidi teenager from the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq. A high-flying mathematical scholar, she dreamed of becoming a teacher and won a coveted scholarship to Germany. But her dream and her happy family life were shattered when jihadist scum invaded her home village. The men of the village were lined up and shot for the crime of not being Muslims (the Yazidis are monotheists but their God is evidently distinguishable enough from Allah to justify murder) and the women were taken away and sold as slaves: sex slaves in the case of the young women and children, virgins being especially prized. In the slave market, customers would come to inspect the merchandise before haggling over the price in full hearing of the goods themselves. One prospective buyer put his finger in Farida’s mouth to check her teeth, as one might when buying a horse. She bit him, and I’m sorry she failed to bite his finger right off. Farida and her dear friend Evin deliberately tried to make themselves as unattractive as possible, in the hope of postponing the moment of purchase, although the conditions in which they were kept while imprisoned and awaiting sale were beyond appalling.

Farida was bought, sold on, bought again, raped repeatedly by her “owners”, starved, and beaten to the point of serious injury. Mercifully, we are spared the details of the rapes, but one horrific scene sticks in the memory:

“I’ve waited long enough”, he said. “God is my witness that this is so. I have a right to you.”

His long “wait” had been while Farida was incapacitated by her attempted suicide after he bought her, cutting her wrists with a broken bottle, the only weapon she could procure. She had barely recovered from the massive loss of blood before this rape scene.

He rolled out his mat and got ready to kneel down and pray. I’d heard from my friends that the particularly religious ones commonly did this before taking a woman, thereby celebrating their rape as a form of worship.

Farida desperately tried to jump out of the window while he was distracted at prayer but he caught her.

I tried biting his arm. But nothing helped. I could not prevent Amjed from doing what he’d planned. When he finally got off me, I curled up into a ball and stayed on the bed, crying.

That night, Farida had an epileptic fit.

Evin was bought too and the two friends saw each other only intermittently after that, which added to their distress for they found great solace in each other, and their mutually supportive comradeship in unspeakable adversity is among the most moving features of the book. Farida pretended not to speak Arabic and Evin posed as her sister who had to stick with her to translate into Kurdish.

With nauseating regularity, the girls’ “owners” would explain that their conduct was sanctified by the Koran: infidel women taken in war are your property to do what you like with. Obviously, everyone knows that, just ask the nearest “scholar”! And of course, infidel men are to be killed unless they convert to Islam. It must be great to have such confidence in your religion that you find it necessary to kill people who don’t follow it. Their captors made repeated attempts to convert the girls to Islam, and made them learn the Koran by heart, on penalty of being caned if they failed.

After several brave but unsuccessful escape attempts, Farida and Evin eventually led a group of six girls in a hazardous break-out. Evin had an uncle living in Germany, whom she had managed to telephone with a mobile phone that they stole from their guards. He made contact with a Scarlet Pimpernel-style underground which, for a price, would smuggle them to safety if only they could escape. In a terrifying feat of daring, they managed it. The escaping party included twelve-year-old Besma (twelve is not too young to be raped, holy scripture sanctions it). Their epic trudge through hostile ISIS-held territory has the reader’s heart in mouth, the danger of recapture was ever present and the fear of what would happen to them if they were recaptured was inerasable. Their escape was worthy of a Colditz thriller, and Farida and Evin covered themselves with glory, shepherding the younger girls safely through, including little Besma who was so ill with starvation they feared for her life. Their odyssey ended with a boat crossing of the Euphrates where Farida’s uncle, and other relatives of the girls, had been briefed to meet them. Farida was later tearfully reunited with her mother, who had also managed to escape slavery but who was almost unrecognizable, so vicious had been her treatment. Farida’s younger brother was the only survivor when the males of the village were shot because they weren’t Muslims. He was wounded but feigned death and got away with it.

Even after her escape, a shadow hung over Farida. By the lights of the culture in which she was reared, the fact that she had been raped was seen as dishonouring her family, almost as though it was her fault. It was only once spoken out loud, but she and Evin and their comrades could sense it. She finally realised her ambition of going to Germany, where she now is. She is making good progress in learning German, and has revived her hopes of becoming a mathematics teacher. All credit to Germany. Would Britain have accepted her? Brexit Britain? Farage’s shameful Britain? I hate to say it but I think I know the answer.

What a wonderfully gallant young woman, what a shining example to all of us spoiled brats fretting about our first world problems. Read the book, although I must warn you it’s highly distressing. But also uplifting. Never to be forgotten.

46 COMMENTS

  1. Richard, yet another book I’ll have to add to my to-read list. I can’t keep up with all these books that I want to read! Is that a good thing or a bad thing? In any case, it looks like it’s a few weeks before it will be released in the US.

    I disagree with your assertion that she should have bitten that monster’s finger off. She should have taken a rusty, blunt knife and cut his penis off. That’s what this fucker deserves. Pardon my fucking French, but that’s what this fucker fucking deserves. I don’t understand these sexually frustrated monsters who think women are there to service their penises because of what their holy book says. Oh, wait. I just answered my own question. Fucking hell… Well, of course growing up in a religion where they’re taught that beating off is evil and that once you marry you have the right to rape… this shouldn’t be surprising. Brainwashing at its finest.

    I’m glad this woman got out alive and is recovering. Her story sounds so horrific. “It’s their culture”, my ass! “This has nothing to do with Islam”, my fat Aunt Fanny!

  2. BTW I’d like to recommend Saving Alex by Alex Cooper, another book about escaping religion. Hell, why not have a threadin this site for recommending and discussing such books? RDFRS Book Club, perhaps?

  3. Oh, whoops, I’m sorry I misread. I was getting ready for a run when I read your message, so I read it quickly. I somehow missed the word “club” in your post, and I wasn’t sure what you meant by “suggesting a book…” and that it was “under consideration”. Brain fart.

  4. In the article above, Richard says:

    What a wonderfully brave young woman, what a shining example to all of us spoiled brats fretting about our first world problems.

    Link to an article from the website Quillette That asks the question, “Why isn’t sexual slavery a feminist priority?”

    http://quillette.com/2016/07/13/why-isnt-sexual-slavery-a-feminist-priority/

    Sexual slavery isn’t a problem to spoiled brats because their short attention span is kept busy on micro aggressions that happen in their own personal space. They have become myopic. To open their eyes and raise them to the wide horizon long enough to perceive the horror that other women live with every day seems to be too much to ask of them. It’s so easy and convenient to search for micro aggressions and type out a fast attack on the perpetrator that will be passed around to others who feed off the drama. At the end of the day all we have is a bunch of sanctimonious virtue signalers who have accomplished nothing. Meanwhile women and children are raped every day as spoils of war.

  5. Oh, it looks like the book IS out in America, but under a slightly different title: The Girl Who Escaped ISIS: This is My Story. I’m going to have to pick it up at the library tomorrow!

  6. Who needs a war Laurie? Any opportunity will surely do. Something that surprised me ages ago, and that I still sometimes try to get my head around, is just how young girls on the street can be.

    Apparently slavery is such a problem here that billboards and other signage have gone up letting us know who to contact when we suspect it’s happening. Unfortunately the investigations are supposedly long and often unproductive. Still, they do occasionally make an arrest that gets into the news.

  7. Yes Sean, I realize that we don’t need a war to cause rape of women and children in sexual slavery. The secretive nature of this activity must make it difficult to eliminate. If there are signs out then someone must be working on it. I wonder if the signs are from the police force/government or from a human rights group.

    We have these insidious problems here in the West and it disgusts me and we have to do better, but what is happening to the Yazidis and other groups of women and children who have the bad luck to encounter IS is a hideous human rights violation on a massive scale. The Yazidis are being tortured and decimated.

  8. Sure, that was just a clumsy way to enter the conversation on my part. I looked into ways to help Yazidis specifically in order to atone and found a petition -yay! -not-

  9. Richard, What do you mean she wouldn’t be welcome in Nigel Farage’s Britain or Brexit Britain? Of course she would. She’s Yazidi! The whole non-Muslim world has been sympathetic to the Yazidis from the start of ISIS attacks. Even if she were Shia, or any type of Muslim that ISIS doesn’t approve of, the non-Muslim world would welcome her or any woman escaping the brutality of ISIS. It’s the hoards of single young male Muslim ‘refugees’ that everyone is most worried about letting in. You should remove the libelous remark about Farage.

  10. Lallorona, It is you that does not understand. You should refrain from reading on this site if you disagree with
    someone and call for removal of a post or article.
    You don’t belong here if you believe what you just posted.

  11. It’s the hoards of single young male Muslim ‘refugees’ that everyone is most worried about

    This does seem to be the group that contains the group that warrants the closest scrutiny. Don’t need to be a Brexiteer to see that. Strong efforts are needed on their education for integration into European culture, food and shelter are not enough.

    BTW is it libel to call Farage a dickhead? Just askin’.

  12. LalLorna. Sorry. I won’t discuss the issue with you. If you disagree, you will want my post censored if you don’t like it.
    That’s the problem. Not the content.

  13. I think I agree a bit with LALLORONA, despite the shouty name. I think the one part of the article by Richard that at first makes me uneasy is the comment on Farrage. I think from his 2013 anouncement that we should of course take refugees from Syria, to his rapid bollocking by his even scummier party, amending that to Christian refugees only and on through to THAT poster image, he seemed to start from a slightly better place and is reaping the whirlwind of his making.

    Richard’s observation in the end is fine because it is not directed at Farage, but Farage’s Britain. And whilst he may have a scintilla of decency his disgraceful political expediency on such moral matters is precisely to blame for a hateful party and mass movement.

  14. Alan4Discussion & Alf1200, There are many legitimate problems caused by mass immigration, especially Muslim mass immigration, as Farage has pointed out. But I believe Farage would react to Ms. Khalaf’s book with the same sympathy as Richard Dawkins & any other reasonable, decent person. People who would say otherwise – especially Farage’s political opponents — are unfairly, negatively caricaturing Farage & UKIP. Alf1200, I wouldn’t call for censorship or retraction of your ideas just because I disagreed with them. I called for Richard to retract because I believe he was misunderstanding, & therefore misrepresenting, Farage’s ideas. It’s fair to criticize a person’s actual ideas but it’s not fair to misrepresent a person’s ideas, then criticize based on a misrepresentation.

  15. Nope LALLORONA.

    He fairly criticised Farage’s Britain, the result’s of Farage’s political actions (and inactions!). Your point does not stand.

  16. phil rimmer, My name is in all caps not to be shouty, but because several fonts make the lower case letter “l” look like “i”. All caps solves that.

  17. LAL,

    The use of Syrian refugees in this poster

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/content/dam/news/2016/06/16/Farage_addresses_the_media_during_a_national_poste-large_trans++jJeHvIwLm2xPr27m7LF8mTWU-KwRaHvlaJXY1texVLQ.jpg

    as THE thing to be feared by UK voters, lands this sustained UK rise in global xenophobia as squarely at his door as anyone’s. Given his initial positive pronuncements on Syrian refugees in 2013, he has hypocritically presided over a bit of a moral catastrophe.

  18. LALLORONA #25
    Aug 6, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    Alan4Discussion & Alf1200, There are many legitimate problems caused by mass immigration, especially Muslim mass immigration, as Farage has pointed out.

    No! There are many legitimate problems with mass immigration, but Farage’s babblings have very little to do with these.

    But I believe Farage would react to Ms. Khalaf’s book with the same sympathy as Richard Dawkins & any other reasonable, decent person.

    It does seem that your “beliefs” are based on wishful thinking rather than objective observations of the sort some of us have displayed in earlier discussion of Farage’s pronouncements on this site! – Particularly on his Pseudo-science and brexit claims – bearing in mind that despite an assortment of “Emperor’s new Clothes” claims of “wonderful benefits from brexit”, the term is still undefined, no plans are in place to deliver any benefits, The UK has NO qualified trade negotiators to arrange the supposedly wonderful deals, and MP and Euro MP brexiteers who had actually sought ANY expert advice from trade negotiators, on “improved” trade agreements with the 50 non-EU countries currently sharing EU arrangements, might have noticed that the UK government has NO qualified trade negotiators, and will need around 200 of of them if it ceases using EU services!

    People who would say otherwise – especially Farage’s political opponents — are unfairly, negatively caricaturing Farage & UKIP.

    Really?? I think you would need to produce examples and evidence to support that claim.
    UKIP have difficulty coming to agreements with anyone – including their own members and each other!
    The evidence is that they could not negotiate their way out of a paper bag – let along negotiate a multitude of international trade agreements!

    Alf1200, I wouldn’t call for censorship or retraction of your ideas just because I disagreed with them. I called for Richard to retract because I believe he was misunderstanding, & therefore misrepresenting, Farage’s ideas.

    Still no examples?

    It’s fair to criticize a person’s actual ideas but it’s not fair to misrepresent a person’s ideas, then criticize based on a misrepresentation.

    That would strawmanning – something which is discouraged an called out on this site.

    The are numerous examples of Farage as an irresponsible buffoon, who just acts on impulse, and blabs whatever comes into his head without letting any facts get in the way of his fanciful claims.

  19. Moderator message

    We would ask users not to turn this into a discussion about UKIP, please. The topic is ISIS.

    Thank you.

    The mods

  20. LALLORONA:
    Farage asks ‘why aren’t rich Muslim countries taking these Muslim refugees?’

    That is not a moral argument and is politically loaded to further alienate the populace. Them. Their sort. They belong together.

    Stop digging.

    MODs I think this a fair topic given “Farage’s shameful Britain”. No?

  21. LALLORONA:
    Farage asks ‘why aren’t rich Muslim countries taking these Muslim refugees?’

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/07/who-yazidi-isis-iraq-religion-ethnicity-mountains
    A historically misunderstood group, the Yazidis are predominantly ethnically Kurdish, and have kept alive their syncretic religion for centuries, despite many years of oppression and threatened extermination.

    The ancient religion is rumoured to have been founded by an 11th century Ummayyad sheikh, and is derived from Zoroastrianism (an ancient Persian faith founded by a philosopher), Christianity and Islam. The religion has taken elements from each, ranging from baptism (Christianity) to circumcision (Islam) to reverence of fire as a manifestation from God (derived from Zoroastrianism) and yet remains distinctly non-Abrahamic. This derivative quality has often led the Yazidis to be referred to as a sect.

    At the core of the Yazidis’ marginalization is their worship of a fallen angel, Melek Tawwus, or Peacock Angel, one of the seven angels that take primacy in their beliefs. Unlike the fall from grace of Satan, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, Melek Tawwus was forgiven and returned to heaven by God. The importance of Melek Tawwus to the Yazidis has given them an undeserved reputation for being devil-worshippers – a notoriety that, in the climate of extremism gripping Iraq, has turned life-threatening.

    Under Ottoman rule in the 18th and 19th centuries alone, the Yazidis were subject to 72 genocidal massacres. More recently in 2007, hundreds of Yazidis were killed as a spate of car bombs ripped through their stronghold in northern Iraq. With numbers of dead as close to 800, according to the Iraqi Red Crescent, this was one of the single deadliest events to take place during the American-led invasion.

    The Yazidis had been denounced as infidels by Al-Qaida in Iraq, a predecessor of Isis, which sanctioned their indiscriminate killing.

    So the question really is: ” Would Yazidis want to live in somewhere like Saudi Arabia, where apostasy is a capital offense, and if they were to go there how would they be treated as followers of a “wrong” sect of Islam?”

    It should also be born in mind that Saudi Arabia is funding and arming Sunni rebel groups in Syria and Iraq, and is unsympathetic to any forms of Islam or indeed religion, other than Wahhabi and Sunni Muslim. !

  22. There seems to be some doubt (Comment #16) as to whether I was right to say Farida Khalaf is not her real name. Maybe the US edition says something different, but the Kindle edition that I bought from Amazon says the following at the beginning, under “AUTHOR’S NOTE”:

    Farida Khalif is not my real name, and I am not the girl pictured on the cover. I don’t want to show my face. The names of all the other people who appear in this book have been changed. The names of people in public life, however, are real.

  23. There seems to be some doubt (Comment #16) as to whether I was right
    to say Farida Khalaf is not her real name. Maybe the US edition says
    something different, but the Kindle edition that I bought from Amazon
    says the following at the beginning, under “AUTHOR’S NOTE”:

    Farida Khalif is not my real name, and I am not the girl pictured on
    the cover. I don’t want to show my face. The names of all the other
    people who appear in this book have been changed. The names of people
    in public life, however, are real.

    Odd. This is what it says in the American edition:

    Although Farida Khalaf is my real name, I am not the girl pictured on the cover. I don’t want to show my face. The names of all the other people who appear in this book have been changed. The names of people in public life, however, are real.

  24. IYFNY

    To answer your query about what happened to the first version of your comment, it had been set aside by the site’s spam detector for some reason. It doesn’t always get things right. We have now restored your comment and removed the duplicate of it.

    The mods

  25. Thanks. It’s weird, I kept editing it to try to get the first blockquote to look like the second (ie, not smashed together), and after a few tries it marked it as SPAM. Weird.

  26. Not “still”. Why would we be anything else? At any rate, we’re not too different from chimpanzees: We form groups, we travel in groups, and we kill other groups.

  27. His long “wait” had been while Farida was incapacitated by her
    attempted suicide after he bought her, cutting her wrists with a
    broken bottle, the only weapon she could procure.

    This disgusting scene, about 3/4 of the way through the book, was actually after she had been hospitalized when one of the men beat her horrendously after she had attempted to hang herself. She had to go to the hospital to get X-rays and an MRI. The broken-bottle scene was much earlier in the book. Either way, point taken. It’s beyond sickening.

    An MRI… They use 21st century technology amid bronze-age “culture”. Is the irony lost on these disgusting monsters????

  28. The women’s chess championships are being held in Iran for some reason, and all competitors are expected to wear hijab. Many, including the US champ, are not going in protest.
    One of the organisers, a retired competitor, was quoted as saying “she would not have an issue with wearing one out of respect for a country’s culture”, which nearly made me choke on my breakfast at the doublethink and hypocrisy.

    (If this seems off topic, just connect the dots between forced wearing of hijab/burka and sexual slavery, it’s not so hard.)

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