The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq

By Clarke, Rosie | World Literature Today, May/June 2018 | Go to article overview

The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq


Clarke, Rosie, World Literature Today


Dunya Mikhail The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq Trans. Max Weiss & Dunya Mikhail. New York. New Directions. 2018. 240 pages.

In 2014 Daesh militants launched an assault on Sinjar in northern Iraq, home to hundreds of thousands of Yazidis-a religious minority whose belief system is linked to ancient Mesopotamian religions and combines aspects of Zoroastrianism, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. The Salafist militant group known as Daesh, ISIS, or ISIL considers them "devil worshippers" and murdered over three thousand and kidnapped around six thousand more- mainly women and children-to be trained as Daesh soldiers or sold as sex slaves.

The Beekeeper, by Iraqi poet and journalist Dunya Mikhail, offers a window into the almost unthinkable experiences of those persecuted by Daesh either for religious belief or refusal to submit to their rule (see WLT, Jan. 2018, 48-52). The book is a collection of transcribed survivor testimonies, interviews, and research into these crimes, which, combined, stand as a stark and vital work of testimony. The seamless fusion of statements with Mikhail's almost haiku-like poems and phone conversations with the eponymous beekeeper, Abdullah, make this book a riveting work of narrative nonfiction. Characters disappear only to reemerge as the family member of another missing woman, or patron of a survivor, and the reader learns in slowly increasing horror the tragedies inflicted by Daesh. …

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