Over the past few years, I’ve been highlighting an interesting, lesser-known woman on this particular day. Why? Mostly for the same reason that we mark this particular day: to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievement of women.
The 2017 theme for IWD is #BeBoldForChange.
So, this year, I’d like to share the story of Noor Inayat Khan — a bold, badass woman I read about last year. She was also featured on Public Radio International earlier this year as the “Indian spy princess who died fighting the Nazis.”
She was a Muslim. A refugee. A princess. A guerrilla fighter, trained in bomb-making, sabotage, and secret communications. But, above all, she was a war hero.
A descendant of the brave and legendary Indian ruler, Tipu Sultan, she had quite the dashing, daring spy life in wartime Europe. Captured by the Germans, she was badly tortured and then shot to death at Dachau Concentration Camp. She was only 30 years old then. Tough to the end, she did not give away any of her secrets. Her final word was “Liberté” (how she died is still disputed among certain historians, I must add.)
And yet, there was the gentler side: she was raised in the tolerant, pacifist Muslim Sufi tradition, wrote children’s stories, and studied and played music.
There is a terrific biography by Shrabani Basu, journalist, and historian. Basu’s specialty is the history of British colonialism in South Asia. She talked about the book in this video of her interview at Simon Fraser University in Canada.
Recognition for Noor Inayat Khan’s contributions has come late — mostly in the past decade or so.
A few more links to read up on her:
— ‘Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story’ — a docudrama (narrated by Helen Mirren)
Watch the above docudrama here: