Monday, October 10, 2016

Review: A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State by Meredith Tax

Synopsis: In war-torn northern Syria, a democratic society—based on secularism, ethnic inclusiveness, and gender equality—has won significant victories against the Islamic State, or Daesh, with women on the front lines as fierce warriors and leaders. A Road Unforeseen recounts the dramatic, underreported history of the Rojava Kurds, whose all-women militia was instrumental in the perilous mountaintop rescue of tens of thousands of civilians besieged in Iraq. Up to that point, the Islamic State had seemed invincible. Yet these women helped vanquish them, bringing the first half of the refugees to safety within twenty-four hours. Who are the revolutionary women of Rojava and what lessons can we learn from their heroic story? How does their political philosophy differ from that of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Islamic State, and Turkey? And will the politics of the twenty-first century be shaped by the opposition between these political models? (from the online description)

Review: I originally learned of the Kurdish female military from a BBC special. They fascinated me. So when this book presented itself, I eagerly requested to read it.
I was disappointed. But I’ll get to why in a moment. First, the parts of Tax’s writing that are excellent. This is a thoroughly researched history of the Kurds, starting with their origins and ending with the events that took place in the summer of 2016. With exquisite detail, she takes the reader through the intricate and delicate tides of the Middle East, the constant betrayals, the shifting alliances, the war, the death, and the meddling by outside forces. Tax clearly has an analytical mind and a passion to see the story of the Kurds told to the world.  
Here is why it was disappointing: for a book about women fighting the Islamic State, there is so little about these brave women. Tax includes minute vignettes about women who resisted, women who engaged in the politics, and women in the military hierarchy and political counsels, and pays particular attention to the Rojava, a governmental system created and run by an egalitarian mix of men and women. But large tracts of the book deal nothing with them, but rattle on about the men and nations surrounding them. The book includes limited information about how they function in the military, their life, journeys, training, and families – but no details.  Perhaps because there is so little out there – plausible because there is little about women’s experience in general  but even less about women in the Middle East, and of Middle Eastern women, the Kurds are some of the least represented and least contacted group in the region. But to have so little about women in a book dedicated to that subject is misleading.
One of the main complaints about history books is how the leave out the female contribution. While Tax’s book is not a history of the Kurdish female military, it is a complete history of the Kurds, because it includes the female experience.  This is a complete experience. This book should not advertise itself as a book about women in the Kurdish military – but as a current history on the plight of the Kurds. If I were going to teach a class on the condition of the Kurdish people, this is text I would choose. But not for a class on women in the Kurdish nation – it simple doesn’t focus on them enough to qualify. 

Note: I received this book free through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer Program in exchange for my fair and honest opinion.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-942658-10-8
Year Published: 2016
Date Finished: 10-4-2016
Pages: 321

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