A book offers a fictionalization of the grisly execution of Coptic Christians by Islamic State group terrorists in Libya.
In February 2015, a team of masked Islamic State terrorists kidnapped 21 laborers at a construction site in Sirte. They were stripped, dressed in orange jumpsuits, and shackled in chains. All of the men were Coptic Christians, and all but one of them were from Egypt. Since no one was saved, Kelley’s (To Valhalla, 2015, etc.) rendering of the evening before their summary execution is necessarily fictionalized. In his account, the men spent much of the night anxiously discussing their fate. Some wondered if they would be offered an opportunity to convert to Islam to avoid death, and if so, if they would accept it. Others entertained the possibility that the government would mount a rescue effort. After one of the men suffers a crisis of confidence in his faith, the conversation turns to theology, and the history of Christianity, Coptic Christians, Judaism, Islam, and a brief primer on the origins of IS are all discussed. The next morning, following the execution, a fictional 16-year-old, Mekhaeil Zacharias, is spared so he can relate what happened to the world and serve as a macabre warning. The teenager, who lost both of his older brothers, hitchhikes his way back to Egypt and is eventually reunited with his family. Kelley ably sketches the historical context of a post-Gadhafi Libya, lost to the chaos of tribal factionalism and internecine war. Much of the conversation he imagines among the victims reads like a seminar in comparative religion and is, unfortunately, both a bit contrived and didactic. The depiction of Mekhaeil’s plight, however, is poignantly composed and heartbreaking. The adolescent’s natural hopefulness is inspiring, even in his bleakest moments: “I knew that each and every one of those men was hoping—and praying, probably—that I would be spared. I felt the love that they had for me, even at the darkest hour in their lives.” And the book, like Mekhaeil, powerfully assumes the role of moral witness to evil.
An affecting dramatization of the horrors perpetrated by terrorism.