Cover image for The beekeeper : rescuing the stolen women of Iraq / Dunya Mikhail ; translated from the Arabic by Dunya Mikhail and Max Weiss.
Title:
The beekeeper : rescuing the stolen women of Iraq / Dunya Mikhail ; translated from the Arabic by Dunya Mikhail and Max Weiss.
ISBN:
9780811226127
Publication Information:
©2018

New York, NY : New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2018.
Physical Description:
211 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
General Note:
"Originally published in Arabic as Fi Suq al-sabaya by Al Mutawassit"--Title page verso.

First published as a New Directions paperback original in 2018.
Contents:
N -- The bee kingdom -- In the girls' market -- Through the eye of a needle -- Five tricks for escaping Daesh -- In Daesh's camp -- Exodus -- My grandmother's grave -- The chirp -- One step closer, two steps, three -- Narjis, Narjis -- The infidels -- Sinjar : the beautiful side -- The spring.
Abstract:
"Since 2014, Daesh (ISIS) has been brutalizing the Yazidi people of northern Iraq: sowing destruction, killing those who won't convert to Islam, and enslaving young girls and women. The Beekeeper, by the acclaimed poet and journalist Dunya Mikhail, tells the harrowing stories of several women who managed to escape the clutches of Daesh. Mikhail extensively interviews these women--who've lost their families and loved ones, who've been repeatedly sold, raped, psychologically tortured, and forced to manufacture chemical weapons--and as their tales unfold, an unlikely hero emerges: a beekeeper, who uses his knowledge of the local terrain, along with a wide network of transporters, helpers, and former cigarette smugglers, to bring these women, one by one, through the war-torn landscapes of Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, back into safety. In the face of inhuman suffering, this powerful work of nonfiction offers a counterpoint to Daesh's genocidal extremism: hope, as ordinary people risk their lives to save those of others"-- Provided by publisher.
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Summary

Summary

Since 2014, Daesh (ISIS) has been brutalizing the Yazidi people of northern Iraq: sowing destruction, killing those who won't convert to Islam, and enslaving young girls and women.

The Beekeeper, by the acclaimed poet and journalist Dunya Mikhail, tells the harrowing stories of several women who managed to escape the clutches of Daesh. Mikhail extensively interviews these women--who've lost their families and loved ones, who've been sexually abused, psychologically tortured, and forced to manufacture chemical weapons--and as their tales unfold, an unlikely hero emerges: a beekeeper, who uses his knowledge of the local terrain, along with a wide network of transporters, helpers, and former cigarette smugglers, to bring these women, one by one, through the war-torn landscapes of Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, back into safety.

In the face of inhuman suffering, this powerful work of nonfiction offers a counterpoint to Daesh's genocidal extremism: hope, as ordinary people risk their own lives to save those of others.


Author Notes

Dunya Mikhail was Born in Iraq in 1965. While working as a journalist for the Baghdad Observer, she faced increasing threats from the authorities and fled to the United States in the mid-1990s. Her first poetry book in English, The War Works Hard, was named A Book to Remember by the New York Public Library, and Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea won the 2010 Arab American Book Award for poetry.
Max Weiss is a professor at Princeton University, the author of In the Shadow of Sectarianism, and the translator of Samar Yazbek's A Woman in the Crossfire and Nihad Sirees's The Silence and the Roar.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Iraqi journalist and poet Mikhail (The Iraqi Nights) lays bare the agonizing experiences of the Yazidi people at the hands of ISIS in this visceral account of the outskirts of modern day Iraq. In 2014, ISIS began invading villages of northern Iraq, killing most of the men and enslaving the women and children. Much of Mikhail's account is made up of first-person testimonies of several survivors who speak of being repeatedly raped, sold to the highest bidder, and tortured. They recall losing their families and witnessing their children, raised by ISIS supporters, becoming "a distorted version" of who they once were. Mikhail also homes in on the rescue efforts of a man named Abdullah, a local beekeeper who used his knowledge of the region and the money he made selling honey in Iraq and Syria to cultivate a "hive of transporters and smugglers" to save women; he subsequently connected Mikhail to several survivors. Powerful and heartbreaking, this work lets the survivors tell their stories and highlights the courage of those risking their lives to rescue others. Photos. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


New York Review of Books Review

War memoirs tend to be written by soldiers; civilian voices are seldom heard. "The Beekeeper," by the Iraqi-American poet and journalist Dunya Mikhail, is a rare and powerful exception. In 2014, ISIS swept into parts of northern Iraq where the ethnically Kurdish Yazidi people have lived alongside the Muslim majority for centuries. The invading army forced the Yazidi men into open pits and shot them, and took thousands of women and children captive. Elderly women were sometimes buried alive. Through interviews with those who managed to escape, Mikhail has created a searing portrait of courage, humanity and savagery, told in a mosaic of voices. We learn of the slave markets where women are bought and sold, and of the online auction sites where they are listed simply as "Girl #1" or "Girl #2." Fetching anywhere from a dollar to $500, they are raped, "rented" and used as forced labor. For ISIS fighters (referred to here as Daesh), such are the spoils of war. Linking their stories is a Yazidi Schindler named Abdullah, a beekeeper who has made it his mission to rescue the enslaved women after many of his family members were taken, including his sister. "Every day that I save a captive woman I save her, too," he tells Mikhail. Using his extensive contacts and knowledge of roads throughout Iraq and Syria, he organizes a "hive" of smugglers of both sexes to engineer cunning rescue operations. There are many such heroes in these varied accounts, not least the women themselves, and details so astounding that it was wise of the author to include photographs bearing witness to their truth. The smugglers are paid by the Kurdistan Region of Iraq's Office of Kidnapped Affairs. (Yes, there is such a thing, established in response to the captive-taking.) It is dangerous work, and many smugglers lose their lives in ambushes and airstrikes. But even more remarkable in this heart of darkness are the selfless acts of mercy by strangers who help the women elude their captors. One beneficiary of such kindness is Zuhour, sold as a house slave along with her three small children to a man who starves them. (The children in these accounts are typically employed to make munitions or, in the case of older boys, sent to training centers where their swift conversion to ISIS ideology is as unsettling as the battle skills they are taught.) After running away, terrified of armed patrols sent to round her and her children up, Zuhour enters a sewing shop situated inside a house, begging the seamstress there to give them shelter. "I would like to help you," the young woman replies, "but the trouble is that my father is a member of Daesh." She helps anyway. Her father fights on three-week rotations, returning to the house for a few days of rest. On those days the seamstress hides Zuhour and her children in her sewing room - the only place her father never sets foot. This goes on for two months, until the women get hold of a Kurdistan phone book and start calling numbers at random. (A common problem for the captives is not being able to remember numbers from their confiscated phones.) The first person to answer contacts Zuhour's uncle, who calls the beekeeper, who sends a female smuggler to pose as a customer. This is one story among many, which together illuminate a human catastrophe that might otherwise be a mere footnote to the still-unfolding consequences of the Iraq war. Mikhail, whose gifts as a poet infuse these narratives with unexpected beauty, is interested in the little things: "I mean the little things with their big shadows." DEBORAH CAMPBELL is the author of "A Disappearance in Damascus: Friendship and Survival in the Shadow of War."


Library Journal Review

Mikhail, a native of Iraq, returns to her home country from New York to tell the harrowing stories of Yazidi women living under the control of Daesh, known to Westerners as ISIS. A painful, wrenching read, these chronicles expose tremendous horrors of brutal rape, kidnapping, sex slavery, and incomprehensible domination as these women desperately search for some semblance of peace and escape-mental, physical, and emotional. Mikhail's poetic background lends a unique voice to these women in a narrative style that can be difficult to grasp and follow at times. VERDICT These women need to be heard, making this an important, commendable work. However, the atypical narrative format, which switches gears often and includes granular retellings of phone conversations, subjectively affects the reading experience.-Erin Entrada Kelly, Philadelphia © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

1 Np. 1
2 The Bee Kingdomp. 9
3 In the Sabaya Marketp. 28
4 Through the Eye of a Needlep. 40
5 Five Tricks for Escaping Daeshp. 60
6 In Daesh's Campp. 76
7 The Exodusp. 93
8 My Grandmother's Gravep. 103
9 The Chirpp. 113
10 One Step Closer, Two Steps, Threep. 125
11 Narjis, Narjisp. 140
12 The Infidelsp. 151
13 Sinjar: The Beautiful Sidep. 166
14 The Springp. 178

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