Guest House for Young Widows Summary and Reviews

Guest House for Young Widows

Among the Women of ISIS

by Azadeh Moaveni

Guest House for Young Widows by Azadeh Moaveni X
Guest House for Young Widows by Azadeh Moaveni
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2019
    352 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

A gripping account of thirteen women who joined, endured, and, in some cases, escaped life in the Islamic State—based on years of immersive reporting by a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

Among the many books trying to understand the terrifying rise of ISIS, none has given voice to the women in the organization; but women were essential to the establishment of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's caliphate.

Responding to promises of female empowerment and social justice, and calls to aid the plight of fellow Muslims in Syria, thousands of women emigrated from the United States and Europe, Russia and Central Asia, from across North Africa and the rest of the Middle East to join the Islamic State. These were the educated daughters of diplomats, trainee doctors, teenagers with straight-A averages, as well as working-class drifters and desolate housewives, and they set up makeshift clinics and schools for the Islamic homeland they envisioned. Guest House for Young Widows charts the different ways women were recruited, inspired, or compelled to join the militants. Emma from Hamburg, Sharmeena and three high school friends from London, Nour, a religious dropout from Tunis: all found rebellion or community in political Islam and fell prey to sophisticated propaganda that promised them a cosmopolitan adventure and a chance to forge an ideal Islamic community where they could live devoutly without fear of stigma or repression.

It wasn't long before the militants exposed themselves as little more than violent criminals, more obsessed with power than the tenets of Islam, and the women of ISIS were stripped of any agency, perpetually widowed and remarried, and ultimately trapped in a brutal, lawless society. The fall of the caliphate only brought new challenges to women no state wanted to reclaim.

Moaveni's exquisite sensitivity and rigorous reporting makes these forgotten women indelible and illuminates the turbulent politics that set them on their paths.

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Media Reviews

"In concise, visceral vignettes, Moaveni immerses her readers in a milieu saturated with the romantic appeal of violence. The result is a journalistic tour de force that lays bare the inner lives, motivations, and aspirations of her subjects." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A compelling read that imparts important lessons about religious extremism. Recommended for readers interested in women's issues and current affairs. - Rebekah Kati, Library Journal

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Author Information

Azadeh Moaveni Author Biography

Azadeh Moaveni is a journalist, writer, and academic who has been covering the Middle East for nearly two decades. She started reporting in Cairo in 1998, while on a Fulbright fellowship to the American University in Cairo. It was from there that she travelled to Iran in 1999, to cover the students riots at the University of Tehran, the worst disturbance the country, her family's homeland, had experienced since its 1979 revolution. For the next several years she reported from throughout the region as Middle East correspondent for Time magazine, based in Tehran, but covering Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, and Iraq. In 2003 when the United States invaded Iraq, she travelled across land from Tehran to Najaf on the convoy of Ayatollah Baqer Hakim.

In 2005, amidst the rise of ...

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