Try as we might to hope that the two apian titles speak only of positive lessons from bees — of how theirs is a society where each one functions for the good of the entire colony, of how they continue to work even when everything around them is dying — I am afraid they don’t.
Two beekeepers of neighboring nations; one real, the other fictional. Both written by women; one an Iraqi journalist and poet, the other a novelist who volunteered in refugee centers, herself a daughter of Cypriot refugees.
The Beekeeper of Sinjar is Abdullah Shrem. When DAESH (ISIS) began terrorizing Yazidi communities and abducting their women including Abdullah’s sister, he took advantage of his knowledge of the terrain and select personal contacts to rescue and smuggle women back to safety. Each time he saved a captive woman, he felt that he was also saving his sister.
Among the stolen women was Nadia Murad, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018, the first Iraqi and Yazidi to be awarded the prize.
Dunya Mikhail initially inserts poems into a journalistic approach and recounts distressing interviews with the rescued women who were sold, beaten, and raped repeatedly, but who nonetheless opened up to the author so that she could write about their suffering. “It’s important that your book see the light of day, so that the world will know what’s going on here.” The journalistic eventually veers into the poetic, and I feel that this is one of the books from the region that will endure not only as an overwhelming account but also as a literary work.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo is the fictional Nuri Ibrahim, but through him and the plight he shares with his blind wife, Christy Lefteri expresses the unspeakable realities and consequences of war, of lives ended, uprooted, wasted, abused, and destroyed.
“War,” writes Dunya Mikhail, “comes with various names but with only one face.”
Even though it seems that love and hope is universal, unfortunately, so is war.
“The problem isn’t that the world is going to end, but that it continues without any change.” — Nadia Murad