Georgia Bisbas | Student Writer
Content Warning: Sexual Assault
Veteran correspondent Christina Lamb’s unflinching report of the suffering women have experienced in war is utterly staggering. Trauma, fear, and the risk of ostracism often prevent the majority of women from sharing their stories, but on this occasion, Lamb has given them a voice. Some are insistent they be named and remembered for their suffering, including Yazidi women who are insistent they tell their story despite the pain because ‘they don’t want anyone to say they didn’t know’.
Our Bodies Their Battlefield recounts the violence women have experienced as a result of conflicts in Rwanda, the DRC, Iraq and Bosnia to name but a few. It was uncomfortable to read, and Lamb confirms that any difficulty in writing it pales in comparison to the horrors that the women she speaks to have faced. Some chapters detail such violent rape, infanticide and mutilation that at times I could not see the page for hot tears in my eyes. Lamb has been a war journalist and Foreign Correspondent for 30 years and has witnessed more violence against women in the past five than in her whole career. Lamb makes sure to name the war lords and dictators who have escaped punishment for inflicting and enabling these large-scale crimes. In the International Criminal Court, there has never been a conviction for rape in war despite its classification as a war crime and its historical use as an ‘instrument of terror’.
To say this book is important is an understatement, parts of it should be essential reading in history syllabuses. In recent months, there has been collective outrage at the whitewashed curriculum in schools and colleges and a noticeable omittance of the parts of history that are deemed shameful or not worth mentioning. What this book demonstrates, however, is the galling disregard for the invisible survivors of war and conflict.
I do not recommend this book lightly and as much as I want to buy a copy for every person I know (and every single politician and worldwide denier of global inequality for that matter) it covers incredibly difficult subject matter and is genuinely upsetting to read. Half of the reason it is so distressing is our distance from these issues: if when learning about WW2, which I was taught twice throughout school, the lessons included Japanese ‘comfort women’ and the mass rapes by the Soviet army in Berlin I wouldn’t be as enraged by reading about them for the first time in 2020.
Lamb has written an astounding book that, although distressing, describes astonishing acts of bravery, resilience and solidarity in the face of trauma. One can get lost in the harrowing elements, but they must look to the examples of justice and perseverance for encouragement. I implore people to read it and learn more about what war does and continues to do to women worldwide. We must listen to their stories, and we must not say we did not know.