Azadeh Moaveni‘s article “ISIS Women and Enforcers in Syria Recount Collaboration, Anguish and Escape” is one of the few stories in The New York Times that I read every word of. It gives an insight into a city we are now bombing, Raqqa, a city that I would warrant most Westerners have never heard of before, first giving a sense of a modern city with a population engaged in daily life and mores close to those we consider our own. It is seen from the point of view of the lives of three young women, and as it develops I thought again of how Margaret Atwood‘s The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, on par in its social critique/predictiveness with Brave New World, 1984, and Lord of the Flies, all of whose premises and scenarios we are living out to some extent today. [Lord of the Flies, which I had not thought much about since I first read it in my early teens, has come back into my mind a lot recently when watching the spectacle of the Republican debates, as men who may have possibly once been relatively civilized or reasonable, although I’m not sure about that, dive for the bottom of the barrel in order to win.] I’ve only read The Handmaid’s Tale once because it laid out so frighteningly how easy it would be to subdue and enslave the entire female population of the United States, including as tools of entrapment and enslavement all the seemingly anodyne aspects of contemporary life, beginning with ATM cards, and using crises brought about by ecological disasters as the rationale, that I couldn’t ever bear to go back into the story, even to confirm my memory of the end of the book, which, as I recall, opened up the possibility that, like Germany during the Third Reich, abominations could take place in one country, while life continued in a more normal fashion elsewhere.
“ISIS Women and Enforcers in Syria Recount Collaboration, Anguish and Escape” gives a living example of Atwood’s dystopic masterpiece, happening now in a city that wasn’t as different from our own as most Americans may be led to think.