There are two ways this review of A Cave in the Clouds, a Young Women’s Escape from ISIS by Badeeah Hassan Ahmed with Susan Elizabeth McClelland ($18.95, Annick Press) can go, but much like Badeeah herself, I am going to focus on love.

Badeeah was 18 when ISIS invaded her Iraqi village and forced her and all the women in her village into a human trafficking network. She was eventually sold to a high-ranking ISIS general.

Belonging to the ancient Ezidi people, her faith, which focuses on love, forgiveness and return of balance between men and women, is what kept Badeeah going through unbelievably horrific times. Throughout her captivity, she was also able to keep her nephew alive.

I have never heard of the Ezidi people, which Badeeah described as an ancient religion. It was also a minority religion and as such underwent various genocides throughout the ages. What I found inspiring about this book was Badeeah herself and her faith passed down through the generations and heard through the voice of both her father and her mother, both of whom were killed during the genocide. It was her mother’s voice we hear:

“Dream again, Badeeah. Be wiser and fiercer than you ever were before. Love is the greatest weapon against hate.”

And Badeeah’s herself:

“But I was determined that I would live an enlightened life, letting love guide me out of any darkness and toward the light. That’s how we win. Love is how we defeat our enemies.”

The book, for those 16 plus, was a tough read. Badeeah and her family and friends went through things people shouldn’t go through and certainly shouldn’t go through in this day in age (have we learned nothing from our past?). But at the same time, it gave me more information about what happened when ISIS began taking over villages and communities, destroying people’s sense of security and forcing them to live in a new and dangerous time.

While many people turned a blind eye, friends and neighbours included to what was happening to the Ezidi people, others risked their own lives to help help Badeeah and the other women who were abused.

While I suggested this review would focus on love, I would be remiss not to mention the ISIS general who forced Badeeah to convert to Muslim, among other horrific things, was an American with an American wife, who knew what her husband was doing (Badeeah talked to her and their son online).

“While I told Sozan, Sara and Majida almost everything about my abduction, I had left out one important detail: that my captor was an American. I’d never used the term al-Amriki to describe him. I didn’t know why. Maybe I was still finding it too hard to reconcile how a nation I had looked to as one who grants freedoms could also take them away.”

A Cave in the Clouds was a powerful read and one I would recommend because while there was a lot of dark, and dark likely still exists, there is also love and resilience, and a story that needed to be told.

A copy of this book was provided by Annick Press for an honest review.
The opinions are my own.