Sin­jar: 14 Days That Saved the Yazidis from Is­lamic State

Susan Shand

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Nonfiction -

Lyons Press (SEPTEM­BER) Hard­cover $27.95 (268pp) 978-1-4930-3365-2

Susan Shand was work­ing as a tele­vi­sion pro­ducer in the Kur­dish Ser­vice of Voice of Amer­ica in 2014. Un­be­knownst to her, she was about to wit­ness the first geno­cide of the twenty-first cen­tury. Sin­jar cov­ers the four­teen days when Is­lamic State in­vaded Iraq and per­pe­trated the Yazidi geno­cide.

Some­times re­ferred to as the orig­i­nal eth­nic Kurds, Yazidis are a re­li­gious group in Kur­dis­tan. Un­like their Mus­lim and Chris­tian neigh­bors, there’s no pros­e­ly­tiz­ing or con­ver­sion in their faith; Yazidis prac­tice a pri­vate, oral tra­di­tion that mem­bers are born into, mak­ing the events of Au­gust 2014 all the more dev­as­tat­ing.

Shand presents the geno­cide as the Yazidis them­selves see it: as a be­trayal. Es­ti­mates dif­fer on how many Yazidis were killed, in­jured, or kid­napped dur­ing the in­cur­sion, but they range from 3,100 to 10,800. Sto­ries of es­cape are rare be­cause Yazidis trusted in shared re­gional ties so com­pletely. Trac­ing in­dif­fer­ence, big­otry, in­com­pe­tence, and pos­si­ble con­spir­acy, Shand shows how his­tor­i­cal and mod­ern po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary ac­tions in­ter­sected and re­sulted in the dec­i­ma­tion of a peo­ple.

De­spite heroic in­ter­ven­tions, Yazidis paid a great cost for their sur­vival. Be­cause of Is­lamic State’s ac­tions dur­ing those four­teen days, not only have Yazidis lost their vil­lages and liveli­hoods, they’ve lost gen­er­a­tions to death and sex slave mar­kets. Their hor­ror and sense of be­trayal has re­sulted in flight far be­yond Mount Sin­jar. For the first time, Yazidis will no longer call them­selves Kurds. Now, they are sim­ply Yazidi, an iden­tity wholly its own.

If there’s such a thing as a good book about geno­cide, Sin­jar qual­i­fies. Shand’s re­port is as trou­bling, de­tailed, and grue­some as the topic de­serves. She lever­ages her skills on be­half of the Yazidis, en­sur­ing that the story of their geno­cide is recorded for history, not by the vic­tors but by those who were the tar­get. LETI­TIA MONTGOMERY-RODGERS

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