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A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic…
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A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State (2016)

by Meredith Tax

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
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. ( )
  empress8411 | Oct 7, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The Kurds have always been stuck between four rocked a hard place. What makes this book good is the story it tells. It is inspirational. While world leaders discussed strategy options, a small group of people (primarily women) faced off against a savage enemy and won. A lot of feminist background that kind of bogged down and not much about the actual battle of Kobane. All in all an interesting, worthwhile read. ( )
  LamSon | Sep 15, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I felt excitement as I read this book. There's plenty of things going wrong in this part of the world. But it's exciting to hear about people, especially women, who are trying taking control of their lives. This is not only an interesting topic, but one that deserves more attention. It's a great 'teachable moment' for the whole world. I'm glad that their story is being made available for Westerners to learn about. ( )
1 vote ladonna37 | Sep 7, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
FTC NOTICE: Free Review Copy from Library Thing Early Reviewers Program (in exchange for an honest review)

REVIEW: "The year 1989 is notable for a great worldwide upsurge of fundamentalism" (25). “A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State,” by Meredith Tax, details an internationally-political and economically-driven set of events, that have culminated in a religious, cultural, gender-based situation allowing for the formation of "the patriarchal belt" (24). Activities increased for the following reasons, according to the author: “removal of Soviet state control, causing of nationalist and religious identity movements; and, globalization with its capitalist forms of organization and notions of individual liberty--wrongly defined as Western--penetrated to the most remote areas, bringing their values and media to threaten traditional male elites, who reacted violently" (25). Factors that contributed since that time involved "destabilization of the region, seductions of Western media and the freedom offered by the Internet, and success of the global woman's movement. Its legal achievements peaked at UN conferences in the early nineties, setting off alarm bells and traditionalist enclaves from the Vatican to Saudi Arabia" (25-26).

The alarm bells rang decades after a seemingly infinite series of events sparked when the Sykes-Picot Treaty and other pacts carved up Kurdistan amongst the winning, dominant world powers. This book detailed Kurdistan's history and the United States’ rush to fill a gap as soon as the Cold War ended…selectively continuing to fight communism by aligning with Turkey, utilizing Israel as America's proxy and conveniently finding the PKK/Kurds as being equal to the same communists previously fought, while ignoring differentiating aspects.

Meredith Tax adeptly presented, and compelling supported, her positions in what I viewed as the following themes:
*Revolutionary Strategies: ISIS, ISIL, Daesh
*Ethnic Identity and Genocide
*Tribalism and Sultanism
*Totalitarian Theocracy
*Globalization
*Oil Politics
*UN Sanctions: Challenges and Manipulations
*Systemic Violence and Homicides Against Women
*Hyperbolic Focus on Female Virginity
*Conflict Zone Governments: Big Government vs Local Councils vs Small Communes
*Jihadist Heavenly Rewards Program: A Sliding Scale
*Manipulation of Western Audiences
*Democratization of Iraq: A New Radical-Islamic, Anti-Female State
*Recruitment Efforts and Profiling

The reader must wonder if the aforementioned themes developed because the Kurds lived in an area resting on oil. “Iraqi Kurdistan has huge oil and gas reserves, as many as 55 billion barrels of oil, a quarter of the reserves in the whole country. Thirty-nine different oil companies from nineteen countries moved in" (98). It looked like a power-grab, regardless of the multi-faceted costs to the tribes and overall states; and, without regard to its ripple effect worldwide.

A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State,” by Meredith Tax, revealed itself to be a surprisingly-thorough, well-organized and compelling read. It should be recognized as a primer on Kurdistan and Daesh, while highlighting the challenges and accomplishments of a unique group of females that continued to fight against an internationally-misunderstood conflict with escalating, global implications. The book’s "Glossary of Organizational Names" (13), map, and photos greatly contributed to ease of reading and understanding of its contents, easily garnering the compendium a five-star rating and a spot on my “Favorites” list. ( )
  StreedsReads | Aug 27, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Meredith Tax has taken as a personal mission to tell the world about how the Kurds have feminized the Islamic Tradition.
In a world where tradition means oppression for women and other 'minority' groups, in a world where radical movements come to life stripping people from their human rights, a revolutionary organization comes to life. The Democratic Union Party (PYD) has liberated and reformed three areas in wich the Daesh had tried to establish control, in wich women have about 40% of leadership positions. This, as you might have already guessed is revolutionary and life changing for the politics and traditions in wich so many people have suffered.
Meredith compares many movements that have been successfully able to revoke bad governments, and compares it to the PYD movement; she talks about the history of the Daesh, and informs us in many other ways to establish her point on how the Kurds of Rojava have placed a government of democracy and equality. ( )
  PrincesaNegron | Jul 21, 2016 |
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