Wednesday, October 21, 2020

London honors Noor Inayat Khan, Muslim heroine of World War II

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LETTER FROM LONDON

A stone’s throw from University College London, Gordon Square is one of those lush green London squares where you could spend the morning reading a good novel, barely bothered by passers-by and squirrels. This garden is located in the heart of Bloomsbury, between the British Library and the British Museum, where one of the most prolific intellectual movements of the early 20th century was born.e century in the United Kingdom.

Core of the group, the children Stephen – painter Vanessa (future Vanessa Bell), her sister Virginia (future Woolf), their brothers Thoby and Adrian – moved to 46 Gordon Square in 1904. Economist John Maynard Keynes later lived there. address. Writer Lytton Strachey lived a stone’s throw away at 51 on the same street. Blue plaques attached to the neighborhood’s elegant Victorian facades recall the memory of these illustrious figures.

On August 28, the English Heritage Trust, which manages these iconic “blue plaques” (in addition to 400 historic sites in the United Kingdom, including Stonehenge or entire sections of Adrien’s Wall), inaugurated a new one in the neighborhood, at 4 Taviton Street. A rather peculiar plaque: it is the first of its kind to honor the memory of a Muslim woman of Indian origin and one of the very few women to have been sent on a mission by the SOE (Special Operations Executive), a secret service put in place by Winston Churchill at the start of the Second World War.

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Noor Inayat Khan lived at this address between 1942 and 1943. “Code name: Madeleine”, specifies the commemorative plaque. The young woman was perfectly French-speaking, she was sent to occupied France in 1943 as a radio agent to support the French resistance networks, a wildly perilous mission. She carried it out, with exceptional bravery, but was betrayed, imprisoned, tortured by the Gestapo and finally murdered in the Dachau camp in September. 1944.

” Forever in our hearts “

“His last word was ‘Liberty'”, notes the inscription engraved under his bronze bust that we discover in a shady corner of Gordon Square. Erected ten years ago, the statue contemplates the park with its immense eyes, a barely sketched smile on its lips. “Noor lived nearby and spent peaceful moments in this garden”, can we still read on its pedestal. At his feet, a wreath of poppies (the classic offering to British war heroes), a plastic message with the partially erased signature: “You didn’t have to do it, but you did it for the freedom of others. Forever in our hearts. “ And a black and white shot: we can guess Noor, in a sari, playing the zither.

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