I am writing this in honour of the International Day of Peace, and I know that can seem cheesy or hollow considering the state of affairs of our planet are far from peaceful, but one must try to do what they think is right. To all the people who don’t care and think todays meaning is a hollow gesture I will quote Nadia, one of the women who tells her story to Dunya Mikhail in The Beekeeper: “The problem isn’t that the world is going to end, but that it continues without any change…”
This book is not for the faint-hearted. Page after page becomes blurred with splodges of tears filling up the space where language should be, page after page of Terrosism and the people who will never be the same because of it. Wives seeing their sons and husbands killed, daughters sold as slaves and their relatives who escaped, feeling guilt and fear every day they are without knowing what has happened to those they love most. I can’t say this is an amazing read, or that it is a page turner; many times I wanted to close its covers and for the paper to vaporise, for time to undo itself and the stories to unravel back to a nothingness we can all build upon. But it is necessary. It is imperative that we listen to those whose voices have been trodden down so low not even death is relief, but a mere solution to an end. We must listen so that if we can help, we do with all of the strength we can muster.
The Beekeeper of Sinjar is a memoir/report of ISIS’s invasion into the Sinjar reigion of northern Iraq by the exiled Iraqi poet, Dunya Mikhail. Through her mobile phone, she listens to stories told by Abdullah, a man who kept bees before no amount of honey could make his world sweet anymore. An innocent villager turned anti-terrorist freedom fighter, smuggling humans out of hell on earth. He didn’t just use his knowledge of the local area to help as many family members as he could to escape; his mobile phone number was passed through unknown hands and inpenetrable memories like a prayer, and he answered the calls one by one. He could have ignored them, have ran away like so others had to in order to survive. But some people are so good it makes you believe that there could be a God after all- a god with pistachio tea and resolve harder than the Sinjar mountain stones.
I don’t want to write the sufferings of the Yazidi captives here, I have no words that can express them- you have to hear their voices, recorded in Mikhail’s writing to even begin to understand one grain of the cruelty flesh and blood is capable of. Even then, I don’t think anyone will ever be able to fully understand. You just feel, and feelings like that can’t just leave. They remain until some one replies, like ghosts haunting the living for closure. I dont think anyone can read this book without being affected somehow, and I know I’m not being very eloquent right now, but trust me- if you want to learn what humanity is, what love at its strongest is, you have to know Abdullah, and all the un-named people who helped him, who didn’t turn a blind eye.
So, today regognising international peace, I want to dedicate this paltry but well intentioned post to all those who never make it: who vanish in the confusions of hatred without a trace save for the memories their loved ones can never put down to rest. The the emptinesses hollowing out the lives of those they leave behind. I don’t know the names of the people’s lives recorded in this book, but that doesn’t matter- you dont need a name to be real. I never knew as an adult how hard love would be to come by, how many people just want safety for themselves and lock the door. I want us to do better. If I could, I’d use superman powers to go and rescue every refugee/ person in fear on the planet and give them the happiness we all feel and want to keep. But I can’t. Hope isn’t a one time event and it is never completed by one person- we are all superheroes, we just forget it sometimes. I hope after today, each and every day we keep the un-named dead and living who suffer under terror and hatred in our hearts, and use that feeling without words to push us to do better for one another. Go to protests. Educate yourself. Give money to the right places when you can. But even if you dont have the time or the money to learn, it is still simple. You just have to love strangers like you should love the mirror.
I know this post is a bit of a ramble (forgive me, it’s been a long day at work)- but I hope my message meets willing ears and eyes. Because I love dogs, I’m going to finish my proclamation for the endurance of peace with a section where Dunya is in exile talking about the western love of animals… As always, please do try to read this book, IT WILL CHANGE HOW YOU TREAT HOPE!!! But more importantly, please try to bring peace and never forget… ALL REFUGEES WELCOME AND DOWN WITH BORDERS!!!!
“… People here have such beautiful dreams. To annoy Americans with our nightmares simply means inviting them into our underworld… I’ve heard from my relatives that Americans care more about their dogs than about other people. Maybe because human love is incomplete. As Iraqis, we don’t have the habit of caring for dogs. Perhaps dogs are what we really need, to know the meaning of unconditional love. A dog doesn’t care where your from, it doesn’t care about your race or religion or colour. All the dog wants from you is to throw something toward the horizon, like a worry you finally brought out of your chest, so that it can run after that thing and grip it tightly between its teeth, panting and excited, as if the whole world has just been caught between its jaws…”