The Beekeeper Rescuing Kidnapped Captives in Post-IS Kurdistan/Iraq

Abdullah Shrim “the Beekeeper”

When first arriving in Kurdistan / Iraq in 2017; colleagues, students, friends and neighbors, and others averred pessimistically that the Islamic State (IS) wouldn’t go anywhere soon. Common retorts to my inquiries were “America wants the IS in Iraq,” “there is no more Iraq,” “there will never be peace in Iraq” were enervating and discouraging. Now in 2018, the Islamic Caliphate is over. The IS de facto capital Mosul, Iraq has fallen, while the IS attempts to make a discreet return in areas like Kirkuk by manipulating the animosity between religions, distrust between nations like Iran and the United States, and the political stalemate between the KRG and Baghdad governments.  Now, the there should be more emphasis on repairing the lives of innocent victims and rebuilding the dilapidated infrastructure and institutions of Iraq/Kurdistan. And a tiny yet significant aspect of the preceding pertains to the 3,000 Yazidis and hundreds of Christians from Northern Iraq/ Kurdistan, still missing after the IS kidnappings.

Interviews with people on the ground here indicate an optimistic hope in locating those missing captives, buttressed with a fleeting admission that perhaps a meager portion might already be deceased. Further inquiries upon the preceding dilemma led me to a fellow human-being currently doing miracles to save those missing IS captives. He is called “the Beekeeper” by the humanitarian community, in consequence to his life’s occupation. His real name is Abdullah Shrim, and his inspiring story can be further explored in the publication, “The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq,” by author and poet Dunya Mikhail ( The Beekeeper has amazingly rescued over 300 women from IS captivity, employing his network of informants to locate and extract IS captives in Syria.

A fellow Yazidi humanitarian from Duhok named Zirak Hameed helped to interview the Beekeeper with me.  The interview was eye-opening at the least. Not solely in consequence to his exemplary example as a profound humanitarian and activist, but as a means for other humanitarians and activists to learn from his experiences. The topics which the Beekeeper expounded upon included, his most difficult and memorable experiences, recognition to those helping to rescue the IS captives, current tribulations; and a personal message he desired to convey to the public and president of the United States. The Beekeeper’s beginning is a monumental testimony to the power of a single human to change the world. After necessity invigorated the Beekeeper to rescue 56 of his own relatives kidnapped by the IS, 32 of which have been rescued, he simply just continued saving prisoners until his record accumulated an accolade of over 300 rescues. He added that his most pertinent determinant in continuing his efforts was not religion, but humanity.

The Beekeeper had experienced many tribulations during his journey, yet embraced persistence in pursuing his passion. He recollected the occasional disappointments he had to surpass in constructing a loyal trustworthy network, considering the fact that people first began financially exploiting the misery and tragedy occurring to the Yazidis and Christians since the IS’ genocidal campaign began in 2014. Another challenge was discovering new informants when the IS began expelling the Kurds who abetted his operations, from IS territories.  However, the personal costs associated with his passion were priceless. The Beekeeper has lost 8 male and 3 female colleagues to the IS. He depicted them in our interview as real-life heroes and heroines of today.  Cohorts who took akin risks and sacrifices as Harriet Tubman did in American history. He emotionally commented with a blank stare “if they were alive now, they would have liberated many more prisoners of the IS. I’m certain.”

The Beekeeper’s blank stare was quickly interrupted and followed by his most memorable example. He calmly displayed a photo of an Arab woman, lovingly embraced and surrounded by smiling Yazidi children. According to the Beekeeper, her name was Shahaa, a resident of Raqaa, Syria. Shahaa was rescuing IS captives in exchange for money to afford a fertility operation, to one day have her own children. She also needed money to aid her immediate family, who suffered penury.  After freeing a sufficient amount of IS captives to finally proceed with this operation, the money she accumulated unexpectedly led to her own demise.  Others in Raqaa suddenly wondered where the mysterious funds derived from. She was summarily beheaded by the IS. The Beekeeper described this tragedy as “closest to my heart.”

One of the most difficult rescues for the Beekeeper  entailed a Yazidi family in Turkey who strenuously traveled several times to the Turkish border, only to be denied by Turkish border authorities each attempt, and consequently returned to their IS captors each time. Each attempt brought a lingering thought of capitulation and surrender to the Beekeeper, feeling the odds of rescuing this group nearly unconquerable. And each frustratingly failed try also aggrandized his suspicions that Turkey was secretly cooperating with the IS, as he stated in our interview, that numerous network sources asserted that though IS captives had difficulty leaving Turkey and escaping captivity, the IS recruits were entering and departing with ease. In one of the many attempts by this one family, they unexpectedly traversed a mass grave which left psychological trauma for constituents of the family. Yet, the Beekeeper persisted in his attempts and formulated a new method. After shadowing the Euphrates River and nearly losing a child to drowning while wading in its waters, this Yazidi family finally escaped the IS to safety in Iraq / Kurdistan.

When asked who the Beekeeper desired to acknowledge for outstanding help, he gratefully mentioned a few organizations and philanthropists. The KRG Prime Minister, Nechiran Barzani, financially aids such rescues regularly. Another was Mercury One, an international Christian humanitarian and education NGO based in Texas. And interestingly, the Beekeeper identified his largest donors as women. He equated his female counter-parts to the importance of a Queen in a bee colony.

The Beekeeper also bluntly highlighted that the Iraqi government in Baghdad and overall international community, has remained silent in rescuing captives of the IS. He also described his current donations as insufficient. The slow trickle of low-cost operations is not keeping a pace with the capriciousness and unpredictability of the IS’ movement of prisoners, especially since the IS’ caliphate has collapsed. The Beekeeper’s operations requires more finances for vehicles, satellites, mobiles, GPS systems, transportation costs, and weapons. The preceding tally doesn’t append psychological and physical care needs after a rescue. The Beekeeper also desired military cooperation with his network in extraction operations of the IS’ prisoners, after locating them.

The Beekeeper’s future operations additionally face a significant challenge since the crisis between the Baghdad (Iraq) and KRG (Kurdistan) governments. In September of 2017, the KRG held their independence referendum against international condemnation. In consequence, the airports of Kurdistan were quickly closed, an economic blockade forcefully imposed, salaries of KRG government employees frozen, and the oil in Kirkuk appropriated by the Baghdad government. The Beekeeper has indicated that this has significantly reduced funding for his operations. He also added that Yazidis residing in Shingal Mountain (Sinjar in English, Shingal is the holy mountain for Yazidis in Northern Iraq/Kurdistan) rebuke the Baghdad government’s control of Shingal in consequence to persistent bad treatment.

The Beekeeper concluded his interview with us, with advice for future humanitarian enthusiasts inspired to rescue captives in other war zones. He advised, “remain passionate and employ various ways, rather than submit to failure, employing solely one method.” His words to the 45th President of the United States, Donald John Trump, were:

“Despite continuous genocides in this region against Yazidis, we want to live peacefully and educate our children. We have lost hope in the Iraqi government. We only have hope in international governments like the United States. Imagine these captive Yazidi children, as your own.” 


*[Note: The author wishes to thank Zirak Hameed for his valuable assistance. Zirak is Yazidi humanitarian based in Duhok, Iraqi Kurdistan. He is the Educational Program Manager for Edge Institute and an English teacher at Faydiye Baic School in Duhok. He holds a Bachelors in English from the University of Duhok]

Author: Taiyo “Siraj” Davis

Master of Arts, History
English and History Instructor
Author of Religious Fanaticism: Early 19th Century Marginalization of David Walker and Nat Turner and The Pursuit of Love Against the War of Terrorism Religious-Fanaticism- Abolition-Century- Marginalization/dp/3639320220
Author of various international publications on human rights, in six different languages
News Journalist for Salem News
Amnesty International Lobbyist and Organizer
American Families United Lobbyist
Asian Student Association Co-founder
American Association for Palestinian Rights Organizer
Founder and president of Clemson University Collective Consciousness human rights organization author/Siraj%20Davis/



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