In the second of our new Postscript series, in which writers tell the story behind their book, Dunya Mikhail describes the process of telling the stories of yazidi women escaping ISIS, and the beekeeper who helps them.

As a woman, I felt so insulted to hear that a market was open for buying and selling women. They called it “souk al-sabaya” meaning “female slaves market.” I made contacts with friends and relatives back home asking them what on earth was going on. I learned that thousands of men were killed and thousands of women and children were taken as spoils of war. People were marching in a long caravan, some with elderly people on their backs, kicking up the dust behind them because Daesh came, their black flags on the carts of the caliphate. It was the summer of 2014 and I was in a break from my teaching job in Michigan but I couldn’t relax nor could I mind my own business. I kept following up day and night. Few months later, I heard that some women escaped the grip of Daesh. When I listened to them, I wished that the whole world would come and listen with me. That’s why I wrote this book. Their stories didn’t kill me but I would die if I didn’t tell them to you.

The first survivor I spoke with was Nadia. She spoke with me in Kurdish, a language I don’t speak. Abdullah (the eponymous beekeeper) is her cousin and he was at her home by chance that time when I called. He knows Arabic and he kindly translated between us. When Nadia mentioned that Abdullah was the person who helped her escape, I turned to him to learn more. I found his story fascinating, so we continued our conversation on the phone for a whole year. Then, I made a trip to Iraq to meet them face to face. 

It never occurred to Abdullah that one day he would be involved in dangerous work to rescue people. He had earned his living from selling honey between Iraq and Syria. His experience as a reliable businessman granted him trust and friendship with Syrian merchants, and his frequent visits to Syria gave him knowledge of the roads. This experience helped him rescue people who were captives in Syria. 

It started when his niece Marwa called him from Raqqa asking for help. He turned to those merchants for advice. They told him to deal with cigarette smugglers because they were used to danger. Gradually Abdullah cultivated a hive of transporters and smugglers, both men and women,to save more and more people. 

So far he has rescued over 350 people.

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