Nadia Murad: A Former ISIS Sex Slave Speaks Out

Last week I watched the moving PBS documentary On Her Shoulders. It is essential that anyone concerned about human rights watches it in order to be aware of the brutality committed by ISIS terrorists. Their massacres and dismantling of Yadizi communities in the Middle East must be stopped.

On Her Shoulders relates the story of Nadia Murad, a young Yazidi woman who was living peacefully with her family in the Iraqi town of Kojo. The Yazidis are a people that live in northern Iraq, northern Syria, southeastern Turkey, the Caucasus area and sections of Iran. They incorporate many different religions in their beliefs, including Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.  Observing their own distinctive religion has created tension with their Muslim neighbors.

Nadia’s life and the lives of her fellow villagers were shattered on the fateful day of August 3, 2014. Islamic State terrorists attacked her village and massacred 700 people who were simply going about their daily lives. At 19 years old, Nadia, many members of her family, and thousands of other women were taken as sex slaves, continually beaten and raped.

Nadia escaped but has since devoted her life to traveling around the world and speaking about that day, pleading with world leaders to stop the ISIS genocide of the Yazidi people and free the 3,200 women still in captivity, including her own sisters. The documentary showed her telling her story again and again in Germany, Canada, and Greece. Nadia testified before the United Nations Security Council in 2015 and the following year became the first survivor of human trafficking to become the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. In 2018 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Despite Nadia Murad’s efforts to inform the world of ISIS’s killings and holding women as sex slaves, it is still taking place. Thousands of Yazidis live in refugee camps in various countries as ISIS terrorists continue committing atrocities in countries like Iraq and Syria.

On Her Shoulders can be viewed online at http://www.onhershouldersfilm.com/. Anyone concerned about genocide and sex trafficking needs to watch this documentary.

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Book Review: Dreyer’s English

I was an unusual kid in school – I loved English grammar. I still remember diagramming sentences to demonstrate my understanding of the different parts of speech. Reading Dreyer’s English brought me back to the days of my high school English classes.

Of course, reading an entire book about straight grammar, style, and punctuation would be dry and boring, even for me. But this book is anything but. Benjamin Dreyer, the copy chief at Random House, gives entertaining and often humorous explanations and comments while writing about proper English usage and style. Dryer writes about words and rules in which people often make mistakes. Some examples include similarly-spelled words like aid and aide, which titles need quotation marks and which require italics, and the frequent mistake of using two words when one is sufficient (For example, the term “free gift” is a redundancy). Dreyer uses famous people, books, TV shows, and songs as examples. Together with his wit, Dreyer’s English a pleasure. While I was reading, I started wishing I became a copy editor myself because he made the rules so fascinating – I would love to work with words on an everyday basis. My only complaint is the footnote symbols are so tiny that I often missed them, so by the time I got to the bottom of the page, I didn’t know which section each footnote was referring to. Overall, it is a handy reference book for everyone.

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Book Review: The Will to Live On by Herman Wouk

The Will to Live On by Herman Wouk is an engaging read. Growing up, I had read This is My God, the first book about Judaism he wrote in 1959. The Will to Live On is the companion volume he published in 2000. Even though it is not a recent publication, the issues he discussed are still relevant today in 2019. Herman Wouk, who passed away at age 103 this year, was a bestselling author of numerous novels, including two that were made into television miniseries, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance.

Similar to his first book, Wouk explains why religion is an integral component of his life. Back in 1959, his first book was well-received despite the prevailing lack of interest in Orthodox Judaism among the Jewish mainstream and the media. The nation of Israel was strong and unafraid of its belligerent neighbors. Wouk expounded on his steadfast traditional observance even though his lifestyle was going against the tide of American Jewish life. By the time he wrote The Will to Live On, Israel had already gone through wars that endangered its very existence and it is now subject to much controversy on the world stage. He shares his thoughts on the public’s renewed interest in traditional Judaism even though only a small percentage of Jews are still observant. Wouk expresses doubts whether Jews would continue on as a people or fade away due to dwindling observance. He concludes his work by stating that he instinctually believes the Jewish people will continue to survive as a distinct people, perhaps in innovative ways.

Wouk had a life most writers would envy. He was able to write full-time, travel the world for background material for his writing, and meet famous people and world leaders. He briefly summarizes the history of the Jewish religion and ends by discussing the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform camps and the views of individual Jews on religion, Israel’s future, and their thoughts on the future of the Jewish people

As much as I enjoyed reading the book, I felt Wouk missed one important component–even in America, the land of the free, many employers require their employees to work on Friday after Shabbat begins and even on Saturday. The Jewish holidays throughout the year, always occurring on different dates due to the Hebrew lunar calendar, make it difficult for those considering a more observant lifestyle to take so many days off of work. Added to that, Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods are often located in expensive neighborhoods. To walk to a synagogue and observe with other Jews, a person or family must make a very sizable income. What’s more, the cost of Jewish day schools is soaring and many simply cannot afford the tuition, forcing them to send their children to public schools. I wish Wouk would have addressed these issues rather than just focusing on the allure of the secular lifestyle. These are very real obstacles to living an observant lifestyle. 
Otherwise, a good recap of Jewish history and Jewish life today. 

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Updates on Human Trafficking Crisis

I recently read about the grim report by the State Department concerning human trafficking (https://www.foxnews.com/us/human-trafficking-in-america-among-worst-in-world-report). It is not only is on the rise in the United States, but this country is ranked as one of the worst countries for human trafficking. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo presented the Trafficking in Persons Report, which documents human trafficking numbers from the previous year. He noted that despite the substantial increase in funding and services for trafficking survivors, a growing number of children are being trafficked as sex slaves. The following are some shocking statistics:

  • 85% are born in the United States
  • 50% to 60% are from foster care
  • Others are homeless young people, undocumented immigrant youth, and young people suffering from substance abuse
  • Over 300,000 of the country’s youth are at risk.  (According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
  • The average victim began getting raped at three years old

I believe the government is redoubling its efforts in fighting this growing problem, but the sad truth is sex trafficking is thriving because of the great demand. How can it be stopped?

Keith Raniere: Finally, Justice for the Sex Cult Founder

I know this qualifies as good news, but after reading the trial of NXIUM founder Keith Raniere,  I feel sickened he was allowed to operate his sex cult business for even one day. Raniere is an example of a monstrously evil individual. He faces life in prison. For those interested in reading about his horrific cult, please go to https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-48401061. In the article, you will find that Raniere had notable people working and financing him. I found the crimes too gruesome to read.

More Good News: Former MLB Kevin Malone Works to End Human Trafficking

Kevin Malone was a general manager in professional baseball for 17 years. Now he works hard to rescue children from sex trafficking. Five years ago he co-founded the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking. Based on research Malone estimates that there are over 100,000 children being trafficked for sex in the United States.  The U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking’s website (https://usiaht.org/about-us/) states their goals as follows:

  • Creating financially stable and replicable Safe Homes for survivor restoration across the country
  • Partnering with local law enforcement, governments, businesses, schools and community-based organizations to create TraffickingFree Zones
  • Educating federal, state and local government officials about the problem and what more they can do to stop it
  • Eliminating the “demand” by promoting legislative and law enforcement focus on the sex buyers instead of those being sold

The human trafficking crisis has affected all levels of our society and it can no longer be ignored. People must come together to end it.

If you are a trafficking victim or suspect someone you know is a victim, contact The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST or CYBERTIPLINE.ORG.

Idelle Kursman is the author of True Mercy, a thriller designed to bring awareness to two issues: families with a loved one with autism and the human trafficking crisis.

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