Shadow on the Mountain: A Yazidi Memoir of Terror, Resistance and Hope

Image of Shadow on the Mountain: A Yazidi Memoir of Terror, Resistance and Hope
Release Date: 
February 18, 2020
Da Capo Press
Reviewed by: 

“It takes a strong stomach to read this memoir, but the journey is worth it.”

“Those crazed men closed in as though they’d poured right out of an apocalyptic gash in the earth.”

“The very beast of the West had tried to Shock and Awe and annihilate was after me now, out of its cage and making chase across the rocky plains of Shingal.” This memoir is a spellbinding tale woven with gorgeous phrasing, compelling you to finish its journey at a breakneck pace along with Shaker Jeffrey, a hero of Promethean proportions. Unimaginable suffering befalls the Yazidis, a people without protection in the chaos of the Iraq War. Jeffrey hauls the reader on his back as he scales mountains, learns to speak five languages to serve as an interpreter for the US military in Iraq (at the age of 16) and rescues young children and women from ISIS enslavement. One feels a great hall could be painted with a mural of his heroic life, to rival Hercules.

“I can still see Sergeant White standing out there under a great wing of blue desert sky, smile meeting mine like a second sun, the echoes of his laughter taking flight and filling up the ancient Arabian air.”

Jeffrey was imbedded with US Army for front line missions during the war, giving a shattered windshield view of life for the troops, our troops, and civilians. “Right from the start, I believed those men who came down to earth in a raging sky were gods.”

“RPG we all knew what to expect, and it all came: tower of smoke, a rush of hot wind from the ensuing fire, and then people running, running, running-mouths open, but soundless. Six soldiers vaporized. Two children standing on the side of the road erased from the world.”

Jeffrey reveals the Peshmerga soldiers were ordered to abandon the Yazidi by the Iraqi government, allowing ISIS to commit war crimes unimpeded on an unarmed, marooned people. “Night fell slowly over Shingal and along its dimming ether the baleful smog of war slid by, passing beyond the ridge of callous afterthought.” Passages like this will leave a permanent scar on your heart.

Lest you think Shadow on the Mountain is all cruelty and grief, there is inspiration in this tome and even moments of levity. Ultimately, the PKK, a Kurdish group considered terrorists were the souls who rescued the starved and brutalized Yadizi people from the summit. President Obama also provided humanitarian aid drops to those on the mountaintop. Unbelievably these women, children, elderly, and maimed mass of humanity spent three weeks in 110-degree heat waiting for death.

The slave market chapter in Shadow on the Mountain amplifies the issue of women and children being treated as the spoils of war. “Come get what your right hand possesses, a broker hollered. Behind him girls stood chained in a row.” Not to mention some of these girls are 12-years old. Impossible to describe the torture of toddlers at the hands of ISIS, which is something you will have to buy the book to access.

This book is a class 10 whitewater trip through the cruelties of war, terrorism, and how humanity still rises above the darkness and sadism found in men at war time. Jeffrey spotlights the efforts of international humanitarian organizations, heroic soldiers in the US government, and amazing individuals with promethean courage. Though it is not fashionable to applaud soldiers in the US military, Bowers, Brownsword, and Migone are committed to extracting Shaker Jeffrey, who is currently hunted by ISIS, and a Republic of Germany refugee. The Trump Administration has dramatically reduced the refugees who may be admitted to the US regardless of military service and humanitarian risk. In fact, the current administration has reduced all immigration permits, especially those who cannot show financial resources, which means, even someone like Shaker Jeffrey, an interpreter for the US ground troops in the Iraq War is denied access. It takes a strong stomach to read this memoir, but the journey is worth it.