The Bird Tattoo

The Bird Tattoo
وشم الطائر
(Washm al taair)

Written by

(دنيا ميخائيل)

Published by


A Yazidi woman in northern Iraq fights against ISIS

Helen is a young Yazidi woman, living with her family in a mountain village in Sinjar, northern Iraq. One day she finds a local bird caught in a trap, and frees it, just as the trapper, Elias, returns. At first angry, he soon sees the error of his ways and vows never to capture a bird again. Helen and Elias fall deeply in love, marry and start a family in Sinjar. The village has seemed to stand apart from time, protected by the mountains and too small to attract much political notice. But their happy existence is suddenly shattered when Elias, a journalist, goes missing. A brutal organization is sweeping over the land, infiltrating even the remotest corners, its members cloaking their violence in religious devotion. Helen’s search for her husband results in her own captivity and enslavement. She eventually escapes her captors and is reunited with some of her family. But her life is forever changed. Elias remains missing and her sons, now young recruits to the organisation, are like strangers. 

Approximate number of pages: 252 p.

Foreign rights: contact the author’s agent


Reasons to publish this book

Dunya Mikhail’s works have been translated into English, French, Portuguese, Italian, Chinese, and other languages. She has become an important name in North America, and her English works have been featured in top magazines. In this novel, she documents the horrors that Yazidi women had to endure when ISIS occupied their land. It is a novel that mixes current political events with the magic of storytelling.


  • English


    published as

    The Bird Tattoo in the United Kingdom in 2022 by Pegasus Books
  • Portuguese


    by Beatriz Gemignani

    published as

    A tatuagem de pássaro in Brazil in 2022

Prizes and awards


In Dunya Mikhail’s ‘The Bird Tattoo,’ Iraqi women are sold as slaves by The Washington Post, December 2022

INTERVIEW: Iraqi poet Dunya Mikhail shares her thoughts on her first novel The Bird Tattoo by Al Ahram, September 2021

#WiTMonth Conversations: Poet Dunya Mikhail on Her Debut Novel, ‘The Bird Tattoo’ by ArabLit, August 2020

Mikhail’s sympathetic and fast-moving story of ordinary life and its violent disruption makes for a moving love letter to the Yazidi by Publishers Weekly


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