“Where there are bees there are flowers, and wherever there are flowers there is new life and hope.”
WARNING: There are images in this blog post that some may find upsetting and distressing. I contemplated whether or not to include them, but I personally think they should feature, as a way of reminding ourselves about what is happening in the world and that we should not shy away from things that upset us, and instead let it fuel us to help make change.
Why Did I Read This Book?
This book was Beth’s Book Club pick for May/June and I was so glad when it was announced because I have seen this book everywhere and it is often suggested as a next read for me on Amazon and Goodreads. So reading it for the book club meant I HAD to read it.
What Did I Think?
Some of my favourite books are those written by Khaled Hosseini because his books concentrate on the devastating impact war and conflict has had on a once beautiful country and community. I am never one to shy away from narratives that are heartbreaking and eye-opening, and I find books like these to be completely compelling in the way that they honestly depict the suffering of everyday people in countries that have been consumed by war.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo follows refugees, particularly a husband and wife, in their journey to the UK. For me, Christy Lefteri offers an important refugee story that focuses on a range of different experiences, with each story bonding strangers together through pain and understanding. We meet Nuri and Afra in a refugee safe house in England, and through Nuri, we learn about their journey to ‘safety’, from Syria to Europe.
Notice how I write the word ‘safety’ in quotation marks. This is because although they have made it to the UK in one piece, they are not exactly safe yet. They are seeking asylum and their application is yet to be approved. I found it astonishing to learn about the process of seeking asylum in the country I call home, is one that is unwelcoming and dismissive. The questions they were asked during the interview were completely random and I cannot see why these questions would need to be answered at all, never mind by someone who has undoubtedly seen the very worst of humanity.
The book really focuses on the devastating loss of life and the inhumane treatment of humans to other humans. I have to say that the story played on my mind for days after reading, and I couldn’t help but start noticing stories and treatment of asylum seekers in this country. Following the tragic events of the stabbings in Reading, one tweet that stuck in my mind was one that stated:
You might have had the same thoughts at some point too. Yet what this book really highlights is that these European countries like Italy and France, although they may be deemed ‘safe’ from the outsider, life as a refugee in these countries is extremely terrifying and dangerous. Refugee camps are rife with disease, abuse, drugs and gangs and in my opinion, that is definitely not what I would call safe. I remember coming back from Normandy on a University trip and seeing thousands of refugee tents by the side of the Calais port. It was truly shocking and an image that has evidently stayed in my mind years later.
You may also remember stories from the European refugee crisis a few years back. One horrific story, in particular, was of a Syrian baby who was found dead on the shores of a Turkish beach. The image shocked the whole world and seemed to make everyone wake up and realise what was actually happening across the waters.
These innocent people were not coming over here to ‘steal’ our jobs. They were not coming over here for free health care. The majority were not coming over here as terrorists. They were coming over here to escape the poverty and the dangers of war. Just like when our grandparents and great grandparents were evacuated during the war, these people were on a journey to seek safety. It angers me that refugees are treated with hostility and aggression when they reach the UK. These people (and they are actual human beings too, in case we forgot) have had to leave their whole life behind, put themselves in extreme danger, risk their lives, experience some of the worst in humanity, to arrive in a country where they will, most likely, never be accepted.
Credit to Christy Lefteri for creating a book that highlights all the above. A book that makes you question your thinking and opens your eyes to what is going on in the world. It is too easy to turn a blind eye to events like these and to these narratives. Yet we must do all we can from our position of privilege to help these people finally find safety in a country that is not rife with war.
At the back of the book, there are some charities that you can research if, like me, you would like to do your bit to help. I have also included some others which I have found that are doing incredible work too.
If You Would Like To Help
Charities Mentioned In The Back of The Book:
Open Cultural Centre – www.openculturalcenter.org
Faros (The Lighthouse) – www.faros.org.gr
Salusbury World – www.salusburyworld.org.uk
The Buzz Project – https://www.facebook.com/BuzzinginKirklees
Save The Children – https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/
Al Mustafa Welfare Trust – https://www.almustafatrust.org/
Refugee Action – https://www.refugee-action.org.uk/
Help Refugees – https://helprefugees.org/
The UN Refugee Agency – https://www.unhcr.org/uk/supporting-refugees-in-the-uk.html
Refugee Council – https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/
The British Red Cross – https://www.redcross.org.uk/
Manchester Refugee Support Network – http://mrsn.org.uk/
Refugee Support – https://www.refugeesupport.eu/
Care 4 Calais – https://care4calais.org/
The Khaled Hosseini Foundation – https://www.khaledhosseinifoundation.org/