Author(s): Dunya Mikhail; Max Weiss (Translator)
In The Beekeeper of Sinjar, the acclaimed poet and journalist Dunya Mikhail tells the harrowing stories of women from across Iraq who have managed to escape the clutches of ISIS. Since 2014, ISIS has been persecuting the Yazidi people, killing or enslaving those who won't convert to Islam. These women have lost their families and loved ones, along with everything they've ever known. Dunya Mikhail weaves together the women's tales of endurance and near-impossible escape with the story of her own exile and her dreams for thefuture of Iraq.In the midst of ISIS's reign of terror and hatred, an unlikely hero has emerged: the Beekeeper. Once a trader selling his mountain honey across the region, when ISIS came to Sinjar he turned his knowledge of the local terrain to another, more dangerous use. Along with a secret network of transporters, helpers, and former bootleggers, Abdullah Shrem smuggles brutalised Yazidi women to safety through the war-torn landscapes of Iraq, Syria, and Eastern Turkey.This powerful work of literary nonfiction offers a counterpoint to ISIS's genocidal extremism: hope, as ordinary people risk torture and death to save the lives of others.
“Until 2014, Abdullah Shrem was a beekeeper in Iraq, tending to his hive and selling honey across the mountains of Sinjar. Then Islamic State forces arrived, announcing their terror in symbols daubed on the doorways of the homes they raided: “They wrote the letter Y on our homes and on our stores and built a barrier like the Berlin Wall – N for the Christians, and Y for the Yazidis. S for the Sunnis, and Sh for the Shi’ites,” Shrem recalls.
The Yazidis met the worst fate: men were marched into mass graves and shot, while women were separated – young from old, mothers from children, wives from virgins. The younger were taken to a “marketplace” to be sold as sex slaves or sabaya; the older were killed or sold as domestic slaves.
Shrem’s response was extraordinary: he left beekeeping to create a network of rescuers – modelled on the female-led fortress of the beehive – who would return the kidnapped women to their families. “I cultivated a hive of transporters and smugglers from both sexes to save our queens,” he tells Dunya Mikhail, an American-Iraqi journalist, whose book is centred on the women Shrem rescues. In fact, he does not save only women, but also children, men and entire families. His story is worthy of being made into a film, his resourcefulness and everyman heroism carrying shades of Oskar Schindler.”
Arifa Akbar – The Guardian (JC BookGrocer)