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Dec 2, 2021
Claudia Cragg (@KGNUClaudia) speaks here for KGNU (@KGNU) to the acclaimed poet and journalist Dunya Mikhail (@dunyamikhail) In her latest work, 'The Beekeeper of Sinjar', Mikhail - who is herself an Iraqi exile, tells the harrowing stories of (mostly) Yazidi women from across Iraq who have managed to escape the clutches of ISIS.
ISIS persecuted the Yazidi people, killing or enslaving those who would not convert to Islam. The 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 the future 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 brutalized Yazidi women to safety through the war-torn landscapes of Iraq, Syria, and Western Turkey.
Mikhail was born in Baghdad and earned a BA at the University of Baghdad. She worked as a translator and journalist for the Baghdad Observer before being placed on Saddam Hussein’s enemies list. She immigrated to the United States in the mid-1990s and earned an MA at Wayne State University.
Mikhail, a Christian, is the author of several collections of poetry published in Arabic. Her first book published in English, The War Works Hard(2005), translated by Elizabeth Winslow, won the PEN Translation Award, was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize, and was selected as one of the 25 Best Books of 2005 by the New York Public Library. Elena Chiti translated The War Works Hard into Italian in 2011. Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea(2009), which Mikhail co-translated with Elizabeth Winslow, won the Arab American Book Award. Mikhail's collection of poetry The Iraqi Nights (2014) was translated into English by Kareem James Abu-Zeid and published by New Directions.