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Guest House for Young Widows Reviews

Guest House for Young Widows by Azadeh Moaveni (Senior Gender Analyst, International Crisis Group and Lecturer in Journalism, NYU in London)

Guest House for Young Widows: among the women of ISIS

Azadeh Moaveni (Senior Gender Analyst, International Crisis Group and Lecturer in Journalism, NYU in London)

4.00 out of 5

4 reviews

Imprint: Scribe Publications
Publisher: Scribe Publications
Publication date: 10 Oct 2019
ISBN: 9781912854608

LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NON FICTION An intimate, deeply reported account of the women who made a shocking decision: to leave their comfortable lives behind and join the Islamic State.

4 stars out of 5
1 Dec 2019

"Moaveni has a difficult balancing act to pull off...in this, she succeeds"

Moaveni has a difficult balancing act to pull off. She wants to understand the choices made by these women in an attempt to elicit our sympathy without excusing their behaviour. In this, she succeeds. She is also rightly caustic about the responses of the British press towards Sharmeena, Kadiza, Amira and Shamima. Writing in The Sun, Katie Hopkins blamed the girls’ parents for failing to stop their children from scurrying off ‘to be the brides of jihad, sporting nothing more than a burka and industrial lubricant’. Hopkins self-righteously declared, ‘as parenting goes, knowing the whereabouts of one’s children is pretty fundamental’. The fact is that Sharmeena, Kadiza, Amira and Shamima are very much ‘our children’. Looking at that grainy picture of these naive adolescents at Gatwick airport should still terrify us.


4 stars out of 5
15 Nov 2019

"a fascinating dive into the lives of women who aided or flocked to Isis"

Detailed reporting in Tunisia and the UK backs up her most effective portrayals of the west’s role in perpetuating violent jihad. Her account of the three girls from east London who ran away to join Isis is one of the most incisive I have read: an indictment of UK intelligence and counter-terrorism, from the missed opportunities to stop teenagers headed abroad to join Isis, to social workers with laughable strategies such as asking: “What sort of Islamic thoughts do you carry in your head right now?”

4 stars out of 5
12 Oct 2019

"For those interested in understanding them, this book is essential reading."

As she puts it in her book: “To swirl in a morass of suppositions and half-truths seemed safer, in London of 2015, than to hear what a youth theatre group born and raised alongside those girls had to say.”

By the end the reader is inclined to agree with her. It was fear of a public outcry that led Sajid Javid, as home secretary, to prevent Begum from returning to Britain. A mistake: she should come back to face trial, the better to understand how girls like her become radicalised in the first place. Most of these Isis brides still languish in camps across the Middle East, waiting for their home countries to decide on their fates. For those interested in understanding them, this book is essential reading.

4 stars out of 5
4 Oct 2019

"A skilful, sensitive report on the women who left their homes to join Islamic State – and found misery"

When Greene, FBI agent turned Isis wife, returns home, she receives a short two-year sentence to atone for her terrorist romance. But Begum, found pregnant and languishing in a camp aged 19, is stripped of her UK citizenship. Dalliances with terror, like everything else, have different consequences for different women; the mastery of Guest House for Young Widows is to show us just how distinct and devastating each can be.