“I was told to come alone. I was not to carry any identification, and would have to leave my cell phone, audio recorder, watch, and purse at my hotel. . . .”
For her whole life, Souad Mekhennet, a reporter for The Washington Post who was born and educated in Germany, has had to balance the two sides of her upbringing – Muslim and Western. She has also sought to provide a mediating voice between these cultures, which too often misunderstand each other.
In this compelling and evocative memoir, we accompany Mekhennet as she journeys behind the lines of jihad, starting in the German neighborhoods where the 9/11 plotters were radicalized and the Iraqi neighborhoods where Sunnis and Shia turned against one another, and culminating on the Turkish/Syrian border region where ISIS is a daily presence. In her travels across the Middle East and North Africa, she documents her chilling run-ins with various intelligence services and shows why the Arab Spring never lived up to its promise. She then returns to Europe, first in London, where she uncovers the identity of the notorious ISIS executioner “Jihadi John,” and then in France, Belgium, and her native Germany, where terror has come to the heart of Western civilization.
Mekhennet’s background has given her unique access to some of the world’s most wanted men, who generally refuse to speak to Western journalists. She is not afraid to face personal danger to reach out to individuals in the inner circles of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS, and their affiliates; when she is told to come alone to an interview, she never knows what awaits at her destination.
Souad Mekhennet is an ideal guide to introduce us to the human beings behind the ominous headlines, as she shares her transformative journey with us. Hers is a story you will not soon forget.
This starts with Souad’s unusual childhood and how it impacted her thoughts and her determination. Her background is a unique blend of Muslim with western influences. This brings out her convictions and her courage which runs throughout this book. I will say the first part was a little slow for me. I kept wondering when I was going to get to the jihad section. But this is a vital area of her story. This background into Souad’s way of thinking is so important as the book moves along.
This memoir takes you all over the globe. The differences in customs and cultures are fascinating. And! I have to say I am impressed with Souad Mekhennet! She is a tough journalist. She has been in some tough, scary situations but, she keeps pounding away to find out the truth. Really, I don’t think much frightens this woman. And I know nothing stops her!
However, the tone of this narrative is a little stiff or rather more matter of fact. I would have loved to have known more of her feelings during many situations.
I learned so much about many areas of the Middle East. I just thought I knew about these places. Souad takes you to so many countries and teaches you so much in this memoir. I do admire her courage and her tenacity.
I received this book from the publisher for a honest review.