Long Shot: My Life as a Sniper in the Fight Against ISIS – Azad Cudi

Review From User :

Longshot is a vivid and poignant memoir of the author's time serving as a sniper with the Kurdish militia in the war against the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, etc.). Visceral and gripping, it is one of the best war memoirs I have read in many years. Cudi's descriptions of the suffocating atmosphere in the rubble-filled hellscape that was the city of Kobani and the brutal fighting that occurred there rank right up there with those of Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa or Anthony Beevor's Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege, 1942-1943 . Through his sentences, I could hear the crack of the rifle and smell the rotting corpses.

Although primarily about Cudi's own wartime experiences, the book also serves as Cudi's autobiography, tracing his life's path from an idyllic boyhood in rural Iran and asylum in Europe to the ultimate fluorescence of his Kurdish identity and transformation into an activist and warrior for the Kurdish cause. The book also provides a brief primer on the Kurdish independence movement, sprinkled with Cudi's pro-Kurdish propaganda.

Lying in place in the cold, sometimes for days at a time, going without food and water while pissing himself, Cudi would stare through his sniper scope for hour after endless hour, waiting to take a single shot. For months on end, Cudi defended the shrinking perimeter of free Kobani, sniping from the shadows and watching his comrades die in terrible and senseless ways. Through the course of the siege, Cudi transformed from idealistic volunteer into unsentimental veteran. He had to or he would have died- or gone mad. By the end of his wartime service, his kill count reached into the hundreds and Cudi became a true force multiplier, with the ability to single-handedly dominate a battlefield.

Yet, this experience came at a steep psychological cost. Cudi paints a picture of his psychological descent into the abyss of violence, from his own shock and horror at making his first kill into what would become an addiction to war. The war consumed him, mentally and physically. At the end of his time on the front lines, the only peace he could find was in war. Not since Anthony Lloyd's My War Gone By, I Miss It So has such a grim autobiography of war exposed a man's revulsion and fascination with war.

Cudi's recounting of his formative years in Iran, his flight to Europe, and his embrasure of the Kurdish cause forms a fascinating backdrop to the battle scenes. He makes his support for the cause of Kurdish independence clear through his enthusiastic descriptions of the Kurdish militia units. These sections often read like (and may even borrow from) some of the most effervescent propaganda from Russia's Communist Revolution or the Zionist movement preceding the creation of Israel. The experiment in Kurdish democracy (at least in the way the author explains) is idealistic yet fascinating. However, Cudi's view of the movement is hardly balanced. In reality, the movement is not unified under a single banner dedicated to peace and harmony. The Kurds themselves have come into some valid criticism, including the PKK's presence on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations. The book does not suffer much from the effort and, if anything, Cudi's enthusiastic promotion lends credence to his wartime actions.

The book's only other weakness is in Cudi's portraiture of his comrades. While he does take the effort to flesh out some of his fellow fighters with personalities and idiosyncrasies, he leaves many others two dimensional. By the end of the book, I had a difficult time remembering who some of the other fighters were. At times, it seemed that Cudi introduced his comrades only to kill them off a page or a chapter later, like a nameless and unfortunate Red Shirt in Star Trek. I would have liked to know more about them - who they were, where they came from, why they fought, and what they were thinking.

In conclusion, this was a fantastic war memoir that ranks right up there among the best. It would have been easy for Cudi to tell a generic war story about an epic battle between the good Kurds and the (truly) evil jihadis of ISIS. Even a factual account would have been fascinating. A ragtag group of Kurdish militia, armed with old rifles and homemade grenades, managed to defeat the ISIS juggernaut, from whom the entire American-trained and equipped Iraqi army fled without firing a shot. Fortunately for us, Cudi takes us beyond the soundbites, beyond the lines drawn on maps, and deep into his own brutalized psyche. The result is a heartbreaking and imminently readable book.

Category: Adventure, Autobiography & Biographies

As Syria imploded in civil war in 2011, Kurdish volunteers in the north rose up to free their homeland from centuries of repression and create a progressive sanctuary of tolerance and democracy.
Expand text… To the medievalists of ISIS, this was an affront, so they amassed 10,000 men, heavy artillery, tanks, mortars and ranks of suicide bombers to crush the uprising. Against them stood 2,500 volunteer fighters armed with 40-year-old rifles. There was only one way for the Kurds to survive. They would have to kill the invaders one by one.

A decade earlier, as a 19-year-old Iranian army conscript, Azad had been forced to fight his own people. Instead he deserted and sought asylum in Britain. Now, as he returned to his homeland to help build a new Kurdistan, he found he would have to pick up a gun once more. In September 2014, Azad became one of 17 snipers deployed when ISIS besieged the northern city of Kobani.

In Long Shot, Azad tells the inside story of how a group of activists and intellectuals built their own army and team of snipers, and then fought off a ferocious assault in nine months of bitter and bloody street battles. By turns searing, stirring, inspiring and poetic, this is an unique account of modern war and of how, against all odds, a few thousand men and women achieved the impossible and kept their dream of freedom alive.