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Our Bodies, Their Battlefields: War Through the Lives of Women

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From Christina Lamb, the coauthor of the bestselling I Am Malala and an award-winning journalist—an essential, groundbreaking examination of how women experience war. In Our Bodies, Their Battlefields, longtime intrepid war correspondent Christina Lamb makes us witness to the lives of women in wartime. An award-winning war correspondent for twenty-five years (she’s never ha From Christina Lamb, the coauthor of the bestselling I Am Malala and an award-winning journalist—an essential, groundbreaking examination of how women experience war. In Our Bodies, Their Battlefields, longtime intrepid war correspondent Christina Lamb makes us witness to the lives of women in wartime. An award-winning war correspondent for twenty-five years (she’s never had a female editor) Lamb reports two wars—the “bang-bang” war and the story of how the people behind the lines live and survive. At the same time, since men usually act as the fighters, women are rarely interviewed about their experience of wartime, other than as grieving widows and mothers, though their experience is markedly different from that of the men involved in battle. Lamb chronicles extraordinary tragedy and challenges in the lives of women in wartime. And none is more devastating than the increase of the use of rape as a weapon of war. Visiting warzones including the Congo, Rwanda, Nigeria, Bosnia, and Iraq, and spending time with the Rohingya fleeing Myanmar, she records the harrowing stories of survivors, from Yazidi girls kept as sex slaves by ISIS fighters and the beekeeper risking his life to rescue them; to the thousands of schoolgirls abducted across northern Nigeria by Boko Haram, to the Congolese gynecologist who stitches up more rape victims than anyone on earth. Told as a journey, and structured by country, Our Bodies, Their Battlefields gives these women voice. We have made significant progress in international women’s rights, but across the world women are victimized by wartime atrocities that are rarely recorded, much less punished. The first ever prosecution for war rape was in 1997 and there have been remarkably few convictions since, as if rape doesn’t matter in the reckoning of war, only killing. Some courageous women in countries around the world are taking things in their own hands, hunting down the war criminals themselves, trying to trap them through Facebook. In this profoundly important book, Christina Lamb shines a light on some of the darkest parts of the human experience—so that we might find a new way forward. Our Bodies, Their Battlefields is as inspiring and empowering is as it is urgent, a clarion call for necessary change.


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From Christina Lamb, the coauthor of the bestselling I Am Malala and an award-winning journalist—an essential, groundbreaking examination of how women experience war. In Our Bodies, Their Battlefields, longtime intrepid war correspondent Christina Lamb makes us witness to the lives of women in wartime. An award-winning war correspondent for twenty-five years (she’s never ha From Christina Lamb, the coauthor of the bestselling I Am Malala and an award-winning journalist—an essential, groundbreaking examination of how women experience war. In Our Bodies, Their Battlefields, longtime intrepid war correspondent Christina Lamb makes us witness to the lives of women in wartime. An award-winning war correspondent for twenty-five years (she’s never had a female editor) Lamb reports two wars—the “bang-bang” war and the story of how the people behind the lines live and survive. At the same time, since men usually act as the fighters, women are rarely interviewed about their experience of wartime, other than as grieving widows and mothers, though their experience is markedly different from that of the men involved in battle. Lamb chronicles extraordinary tragedy and challenges in the lives of women in wartime. And none is more devastating than the increase of the use of rape as a weapon of war. Visiting warzones including the Congo, Rwanda, Nigeria, Bosnia, and Iraq, and spending time with the Rohingya fleeing Myanmar, she records the harrowing stories of survivors, from Yazidi girls kept as sex slaves by ISIS fighters and the beekeeper risking his life to rescue them; to the thousands of schoolgirls abducted across northern Nigeria by Boko Haram, to the Congolese gynecologist who stitches up more rape victims than anyone on earth. Told as a journey, and structured by country, Our Bodies, Their Battlefields gives these women voice. We have made significant progress in international women’s rights, but across the world women are victimized by wartime atrocities that are rarely recorded, much less punished. The first ever prosecution for war rape was in 1997 and there have been remarkably few convictions since, as if rape doesn’t matter in the reckoning of war, only killing. Some courageous women in countries around the world are taking things in their own hands, hunting down the war criminals themselves, trying to trap them through Facebook. In this profoundly important book, Christina Lamb shines a light on some of the darkest parts of the human experience—so that we might find a new way forward. Our Bodies, Their Battlefields is as inspiring and empowering is as it is urgent, a clarion call for necessary change.

30 review for Our Bodies, Their Battlefields: War Through the Lives of Women

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    As the author acknowledges this is a very dark book and extremely harrowing. Page 9 (my book) As we saw with those who spoke about Harvey Weinstein, even strong independent women in the liberal West who speak about sexual predators do so with extreme difficulty and dread. …Imagine then women with no money or education in lands where those with a gun or machete exert the power. No rape counseling or compensation for them. Instead they are often the ones condemned. Condemned to a lifetime of trauma a As the author acknowledges this is a very dark book and extremely harrowing. Page 9 (my book) As we saw with those who spoke about Harvey Weinstein, even strong independent women in the liberal West who speak about sexual predators do so with extreme difficulty and dread. …Imagine then women with no money or education in lands where those with a gun or machete exert the power. No rape counseling or compensation for them. Instead they are often the ones condemned. Condemned to a lifetime of trauma and disturbed nights, problems in forming relationships, not to mention physical damage, perhaps a childless existence – they may even be ostracized from their communities, what one referred to as “slow murder”. Around the world a woman’s body is still very much a battlefield, and hundreds of thousands of women bear invisible wounds of war. The author covers the globe from past to current events. She interviews Yazidi girls who were enslaved and visits with Filipino women whose lives were shattered by sexual enslavement from the Japanese during World War II. Some of these Filipino women married after the war, never telling their husbands – and after long years in their old age told their children. She speaks with women in Bangladesh (Rohingya refugees), Argentina, Guatemala, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nigeria, and Rwanda. A common theme from them was to get some acknowledgement of those responsible for the evil that they did, whether it be the government, the military, or even the individuals directly responsible. The Japanese government has issued an apology, but even this has come with provisions. A succeeding Japanese government denied the apology, a statue to the victims was removed in the Philippines… There have been a few trials. Sadly, this seldom happens – and the process to get it done can be very excruciating for the women as they have to tell over and over again the events that forever traumatized them. Page 127 Johnston Busingye, Rwanda “You meet these women, here in the city, or go out to the village, to Taba, and meet them and they seem normal. But I think when they go home and close their doors at night, there is a space inside them which no one can break into, no matter what you do.” Page 159 Dr. Branka Antic-Stauber, Bosnia and Herzegovina “What I have seen [that] definitely helps their healing is when perpetrators get punished because that gives the victim confirmation by authority she was not the one at fault for what happened to her and that she’s innocent.” The author also explains that this rape and sexual enslavement is all part of the systemic genocide and ethnic cleansing taking place – to dehumanize and destroy. She also points out that in war it may at times be necessary to kill – but rape is a deliberately vicious act. The most devastating part of the book to read about was on the Congo. Here is a country that supplies the cobalt for batteries of cars, cell phones, and laptops, coltan is used in almost all electronic devices. All high-tech companies are benefitting from the rampage of these products from the Congo earth using cheap labour to extract them. Various militia groups are violently asserting their authority and using rape as a means of controlling territory. In this case rape includes small girls. The author met with Dr. Mukwege who runs a gynecological clinic in Bukavu, Congo to aid rape victims. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018. So, there are some heroes in this book. This is a significant book giving insight into women who are overlooked and forgotten. Page 325 Pamela Patten “Rape is the only crime in which society is more likely to stigmatize the victim than punish the perpetrator.” Page 91 Aisha , Rohingya rape victim “you won’t find our names engraved anywhere.”

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alla

    One of the most shocking books that I’ve read in my life. It disturbed me so much that I felt how my fragile ignorance bubble broke into pieces. So much suffering of women, girls and even babies in different corners of the world, including Rwanda, Nigeria, Congo, ex-Yugoslavian countries, Syria, Iraq, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Argentina, where armed men used (and still use) rape as a form of genocide, ethnical cleaning, threat, humiliation and demonstration of power. And I am ashamed to admit that I One of the most shocking books that I’ve read in my life. It disturbed me so much that I felt how my fragile ignorance bubble broke into pieces. So much suffering of women, girls and even babies in different corners of the world, including Rwanda, Nigeria, Congo, ex-Yugoslavian countries, Syria, Iraq, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Argentina, where armed men used (and still use) rape as a form of genocide, ethnical cleaning, threat, humiliation and demonstration of power. And I am ashamed to admit that I identified one area of complete ignorance. Before I started reading this book, I knew about crimes of ISIS and Boko Haram, I had a lot of information about wars in Yugoslavia and Rwanda and related international tribunals, I read books and watched documentaries about Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh, but I had zero knowledge about an ongoing war in Congo and about multiple victims of rape in this country. Democratic Republic of Congo is called a broken heart of Africa for reason. DRC (former Zaire) suffered a lot during colonial times, especially from Leopold II of Belgium. And now there is a war that does not stop since 1996. Approximately 5,5 million people died, yet Western World is pretty quiet about it and the local UN mission has not been very successful in resolving this conflict, maybe due to financial interests of economically developed states: Congo is rich in natural resources, that are used by multiple corporations for production of electronics, EVs and mobile phones (you can watch a documentary Blood in the Mobile about this topic). But in all this cruelty, there is a person that gives hope to the humankind. His name is Doctor Denis Mukwege who is also called Doctor Miracle. He founded and works in Panzi Hospital in Bukavu (DRC), where he specializes in the treatment of women who have been raped by armed rebels. He provided medical help to approximately 55,000 rape victims. And together with two amazing women Eve Ensler and Christine Schuler Deschryver he found the City of Joy - a transformational leadership community for women survivors of violence (documentary on Netflix). This is his face and this is a link to his foundation that I support - https://www.mukwegefoundation.org/muk.... In 2018 he accepted Nobel Peace Prize together with an ex-slave of ISIS and Yazidi human rights activist Nadia Murad.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Quirkyreader

    First off, I won this as a goodreads giveaway. Thank you Scribner. Spoiler Alert....... This is a very brutal read. It had me in tears. This is about using rape as a weapon. If this is a trigger for you be warned. It is more or less and introduction to many of the conflicts and wars of history that used sexual assault as a weapon. One of the earliest events mentioned in the Sabine women all the way up to what is happening in Burma. After reading this some of your perspectives on the world will chang First off, I won this as a goodreads giveaway. Thank you Scribner. Spoiler Alert....... This is a very brutal read. It had me in tears. This is about using rape as a weapon. If this is a trigger for you be warned. It is more or less and introduction to many of the conflicts and wars of history that used sexual assault as a weapon. One of the earliest events mentioned in the Sabine women all the way up to what is happening in Burma. After reading this some of your perspectives on the world will change.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Isobel Edwards

    Book 22/100 A couple of days ago this book popped up on my recommendations on Audible and after seeing that the author worked on Malala’s book I knew I had to read this one too. Before I get into the review I’d like to disclaim that this is probably the hardest book I’ve ever read, a lot of stories in this book are to put it simply absolutely horrific. However that being said the fact that these stories are so hard to read is what makes the book so important, because these are real stories and ha Book 22/100 A couple of days ago this book popped up on my recommendations on Audible and after seeing that the author worked on Malala’s book I knew I had to read this one too. Before I get into the review I’d like to disclaim that this is probably the hardest book I’ve ever read, a lot of stories in this book are to put it simply absolutely horrific. However that being said the fact that these stories are so hard to read is what makes the book so important, because these are real stories and happened to real people. Lamb writes the first major account to discuss the sheer scope of sexual attacks and rape in modern conflict. She talks to the women that have experienced it first hand and gives voice to those who have been rejected by so many others. I try to make myself aware of things going on in the world but I couldn’t quite comprehend a lot of the things I was hearing. For the last few months I have been studying Russian Politics, but no where did it even briefly mention the thousands of German women and girls that the Red Army raped. So many in fact that many German women killed themselves and their families out of the sheer terror of hearing the army was coming their way. No one should have to live through the things the women in this book have had to endure. It makes me both devastated and appalled that our governments don’t think these things are important enough to tell us or even important enough to intervene, as they could have done on numerous occasions. Anyone who cannot understand why we ought to help as many refugees as possible should read this book. This book will certainly stick with me forever, and although at the moment I’m struggling to find any other reviews of this book, I think that soon people will realise the importance of it and it will become a very well known account. At least I can hope so.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Katie Fellows

    Whilst I feel uncomfortable rating a book based on the reports of the trauma of war, I want to make sure this book garners the support it so desperately deserves and that the voices of the women and men are heard. Raw and incredibly emotive, this is a must read for anyone who wants to understand modern conflicts and the myriad of ways in which civilians across the world suffer.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nas

    I have not even finished the book yet but had to take a break to come write a review. This was most definitely the most difficult book I have read in my life. I cannot read it for more than an hour at a time before I ended up in tears time and time again. To think that women and children go through such atrocities even in this day and age, at this very moment and none of it gets reported in mainstream media enrages me. Not only did I feel immense sadness at the lack of attention this subject get I have not even finished the book yet but had to take a break to come write a review. This was most definitely the most difficult book I have read in my life. I cannot read it for more than an hour at a time before I ended up in tears time and time again. To think that women and children go through such atrocities even in this day and age, at this very moment and none of it gets reported in mainstream media enrages me. Not only did I feel immense sadness at the lack of attention this subject gets but I also felt embarrassed at my own ignorance. This book needs to be read by all, not because it is enjoyable, but because it's not. It should make you uncomfortable and that is even more of a reason to push through it, because these women lived through what we can't even bare to read from the comfort of out homes. Anyone with any objection to accepting refugees into their countries need this to revive their humanity and realise that those people could easily be us.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    Brutal and necessary. For as long as there has been war, sexual violence has been part of it - yet too often, it is not talked about and its perpetrators are not punished. Christina Lamb doesn't mince words and spares the reader none of the graphic descriptions necessary to drive home the unspeakable horrors the many, many women she has interviewed (male rape is touched upon very briefly in the postscript, a subject that deserves its very own book of horrors) from too many wars, too many countri Brutal and necessary. For as long as there has been war, sexual violence has been part of it - yet too often, it is not talked about and its perpetrators are not punished. Christina Lamb doesn't mince words and spares the reader none of the graphic descriptions necessary to drive home the unspeakable horrors the many, many women she has interviewed (male rape is touched upon very briefly in the postscript, a subject that deserves its very own book of horrors) from too many wars, too many countries, across too many decades, were subjected to and the suffering they endured - and in many ways, continue to endure, as they must live with the memories, the trauma, and the physical reminders of what they have been through every day for the rest of their lives. Prepare to be horrified and physically sick about a million times over while you read this book, but most definitely read it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ange

    Read for the Booktube Prize 2021. Review to follow

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ophelia Alderton

    This book is impossible to review. It was deeply disturbing but I am glad I read it. I don’t want to live in ignorance. Stories from around the world where women are abused and raped in order to assist with victory, genocide and profiteering. If you are interested in global politics and history then I recommend this book to you.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    ○ Important reading on the sexual violence forced upon women in war and conflict. Lamb covers several conflicts during which sexual violence was not just 'something that happened' but rather was used as a tool for inducing fear in women and their communities. She described how society has -- and still -- largely ignore these crimes even though they are now considered war crimes. Yet, even with this acknowledgement of them as such crimes, when put on trial war criminals are rarely accused and/or ○ Important reading on the sexual violence forced upon women in war and conflict. Lamb covers several conflicts during which sexual violence was not just 'something that happened' but rather was used as a tool for inducing fear in women and their communities. She described how society has -- and still -- largely ignore these crimes even though they are now considered war crimes. Yet, even with this acknowledgement of them as such crimes, when put on trial war criminals are rarely accused and/or convicted as it is often 'easier' to convict for other crimes, for example murder. ○ A number of women tell their stories in this book, each one as horrifying as the next. Painful memories are brought up and discussed how they have affected the women, many of whom have still not seen justice been brought. It also goes into details on how, just because the conflict(s) ended, the women are in some cases shunned from society as speaking up against their abusers meant they were looked down upon by their own communities. ○ At times repetitive, although understandable given the topic at hand. It is not easy reading, following one conflict and the women's accounts of how they were abused, some in one instance, others kept as sexual slaves for weeks, months, years. Each story deserves its place in history, for sure, but in this narrative they start to blend into each other some eerily similar. Which of course is a good point, showing that despite international condemnation, this type of violence directed toward women keeps on happening. But the book manage to convey this message and would have done so without such density of violence. A broader analysis is missing and could've easily fit in between the women's stories for a larger picture. ○ One complaint: Lamb tends to insert herself in the narrative, often commenting on how she did something, said something, that is not necessarily relevant to the narrative. She mentions her own trips in the countries she visits between her meetings with the women, commenting on how it's difficult to understand how blood had run in a certain building just years before. Or how she many times mention how someone told her, as if it is special that she's telling it to her and not someone else. It's a minor thing maybe, but not to me, because it jars with the idea that the books is about the women who suffered during the wars.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Hillary Paulino

    This book was one of the hardest books I've ever had to read. What these women went through is so horrifying that I found it hard to believe I was reading a non-fiction book. Surely human beings can't be this cruel. Surely there is a line that isn't crossed. But no. This book proves that war can strip humans of every inch of their humanity. The hardest to read about were the cases with children. And the women that were my age. Because you put yourself in their shoes and realise that it was just so This book was one of the hardest books I've ever had to read. What these women went through is so horrifying that I found it hard to believe I was reading a non-fiction book. Surely human beings can't be this cruel. Surely there is a line that isn't crossed. But no. This book proves that war can strip humans of every inch of their humanity. The hardest to read about were the cases with children. And the women that were my age. Because you put yourself in their shoes and realise that it was just some dumb luck you were born in a place far away from this war. Christina Lamb brings women to the frontlines. In history books all across the world, we hear of the men. We hear of Stalin, of Jefferson, of MacArthur - we hear of their troops, the amount of ships and weapons and victories that they had. The people they killed and the history they made. But where were the women? Lamb answers this question in this book. Because rape in war is such a given that it is glossed over, forgotten or worse - no one wants to talk about it or admit to it. But she lays out the information here. Testimonies from women in the Rwandan genocide, the Yazidis, the comfort women in the Philippines - the words of these women will make you weep. And I did weep. The lives of these girls and women will never be the same again. This book is written plainly with no sensationalism. It is simply the truth written down and it is so hard to accept that these atrocities happened to women and are still happening today. It is an incredibly hard book to read not because it is difficult to understand - but because it shows you how depraved humans can become when law and order is stripped away and war takes over.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Teodora Agarici

    Christina Lamb's OBTB is just frighteningly good and unbelievably devastating. A lesson on the power of in-depth journalism. I don't recall to have read something so disturbing and atrocious before. Possibly the toughest read I've encountered. I managed to turn entire pages trying not to burst into tears but reading a chapter on babies and young children who have been raped in West Africa, in the end, I failed. "We cannot understand how the international community and the UN just stood by and wa Christina Lamb's OBTB is just frighteningly good and unbelievably devastating. A lesson on the power of in-depth journalism. I don't recall to have read something so disturbing and atrocious before. Possibly the toughest read I've encountered. I managed to turn entire pages trying not to burst into tears but reading a chapter on babies and young children who have been raped in West Africa, in the end, I failed. "We cannot understand how the international community and the UN just stood by and watched us be raped”, one of the victims tells Lamb in Rwanda. Pari Ibrahim, the founder of Free Yazidi Foundation, also says:"It seems like we can't get indictments, only summits. Just talk, talk, talk and no action." Remarkably well-documented and written. Absolutely everyone should read this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joel Pearce

    This book further consolidates Christina Lamb as a personal hero of mine. Every story told by particularly brave women but also the families of these women- such as the ‘Beekeeper of Aleppo’ was hard to read and disturbing, but important to fill in the gaps in history left by male historians. Everybody should read this book a which forces the reader to confront their assumptions about human nature.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Deepak K

    A searing account of women's suffering during war time. Relying on personal interview materials, the author presents the ordeal faced by the women around the world, while also giving out a brief note on the historical event. She mentions about the detention centers at the Greek Island Leros, where the Yazidis are settled for rehabilitation while also noting that Germany had stepped up their support of the traumatized women and children escaping ISIS. She then goes on to describe the events aroun A searing account of women's suffering during war time. Relying on personal interview materials, the author presents the ordeal faced by the women around the world, while also giving out a brief note on the historical event. She mentions about the detention centers at the Greek Island Leros, where the Yazidis are settled for rehabilitation while also noting that Germany had stepped up their support of the traumatized women and children escaping ISIS. She then goes on to describe the events around the origin of the hashtag #bringbackourgirls and how it brought International attention to the Boko Haram cruelties. This was also crucial in forcing other countries to issue statement and support the fight against Boko Haram. There are also narratives of the Rohingyan women at Cox Bazaar, Bangladesh who had suffered hardships in the hands of the Burmese military. There are also the less-known stories of Bangladesh women, who had suffered atrocities at the hands of West Pakistan soldiers during the India-Pakistan-Bangladesh war of 1971. The Rwandan conviction of Mayor Akaseyu, who himself was directly responsible for the rape and killing of Tutsis, is touted as the first war case where a high-profile person was punished along with rape charges. Going further, the tales of atrocities committed by Serbians against the Bosnian muslims shows how neighbors and acquaintances take part in crime against women without any remorse. The details around the World war II history was quite enlightening. The Treptower Park Statue, considered to be a Soviet war memorial, is but for the surviving women the "Tomb of the unknown rapist". It is estimated that one in 3 women in Berlin were raped. Anthony Beever who wrote a seminal account of the World War II had noted the cruelty of the Red army in his works. Although every country's armed forces have had share in the atrocities committed, it seems the RED army cruelties were worse by a very high margin. There were also stories of 600 women having killed themselves in Denmin town, fearing the RED soldiers. Stalin had supposedly explained this thus - "Can't he understand if a soldier who has crossed thousands of kilometers through blood and fear and death has fun with a woman or takes some trifle." There is even a Russian rape joke, it seems - "Ivan after war cannot get it up and order wife - Now, put up a fight." Alexander Solzhenitsyn has detailed the savagery in his poem Prussian Nights thus: The little daughter’s on the mattress, Dead. How many have been on it A platoon, a company perhaps? A girl’s been turned into a woman, A woman turned into a corpse. The dirty war (1976-83) of Argentina also gets a mention. She also mentions the societal conflicts between the Abuelas (the association of grandmothers formed to find their missing kids) and the women forcefully taken by the military (who are accused of having slept with the military). A chapter on the Beekeeper of Aleppo has details on how a single person's effort has enabled the freedom of multiple women, taken as slaves by IS. The are heart-wrenching stories of crimes in Congo; women suffering from fistula, ruptured genital organs and other atrocities committed during the multiple regimes there. The natural wealth of Congo being important to the International market, there have been no concrete steps to resolve issues. The author also documents the suffering of the Lolas, comfort women of Phillipines. Although, stories of comfort women from China and Korea have been mainstreamed, this is the first time I am hearing about the Lolas. The topic of war is usually associated with nationalism, military powers and strategies, while its tragic consequences are only measured in terms of the number of live lost. The extent of the sufferings experienced by women, an unfortunate collateral, is worse than any previous notions I may have had. The book gives a convincing and compassionate picture of these. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, rape crimes have begun to be treated seriously, however the author contends that conviction of such crimes during war time is still very minimal and serious steps are needed to overcome this mindset.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shona

    This has been the most difficult book I have ever read. Although it was hard and at times I had to put it down for awhile, I believe that this book should be included in history courses. This part of war and conflict needs to be dragged out into the light so it can be talked about and perpetrators brought to justice. What these woman and children have gone through is unfathomable. This has happened in so many places - Iraq, Syria, Rwanda, Nigeria, the Philippines, Bosnia - the list goes on and a This has been the most difficult book I have ever read. Although it was hard and at times I had to put it down for awhile, I believe that this book should be included in history courses. This part of war and conflict needs to be dragged out into the light so it can be talked about and perpetrators brought to justice. What these woman and children have gone through is unfathomable. This has happened in so many places - Iraq, Syria, Rwanda, Nigeria, the Philippines, Bosnia - the list goes on and and each instance is utterly horrific. Also infuriating is that some of these victims of the cruelest things imaginable also are stigmatized when they return to their communities because of what they went through. This book is heartbreaking and infuriating, but absolutely necessary. Read it and pass it on.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jen (Remembered Reads)

    While the author's use of regular oddly naive interjections were a little jarring (Lamb is a journalist, so her surprise at certain bits felt artificial), and anyone who is more familiar with the details of any of the situations described will be frustrated by some of the bits that are summarized in a very general way, Our Bodies, Their Battlefields would certainly work well as an introductory collection of incidents of mass rape during war time for an audience who is unfamiliar with most of the While the author's use of regular oddly naive interjections were a little jarring (Lamb is a journalist, so her surprise at certain bits felt artificial), and anyone who is more familiar with the details of any of the situations described will be frustrated by some of the bits that are summarized in a very general way, Our Bodies, Their Battlefields would certainly work well as an introductory collection of incidents of mass rape during war time for an audience who is unfamiliar with most of the conflicts described. For that audience, I think the work does what it's trying to do, but if you are more familiar with the war crimes described, be prepared to be a little frustrated in parts.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Maureen Grigsby

    This book was VERY hard to read. The topic of systematic rape in war is as horrific as it gets. I am glad I have started to get myself educated on this topic, but it is discouraging as this behavior is often ignored or actively encouraged by military and government leaders. Really a dynamite book!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

    For a topic so important I found this book to be a bit lacking. While the many tragic and gruesome personal stories from women around the world sheds a lot of light on matters I didn’t really know much about prior, I think the book could have gone further in a wider analysis and critique of various nation’s government and legal structure, and of the international community’s inaction over combatting sexual violence in combat. Still worth a read overall.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Scott Baird (Gunpowder Fiction and Plot)

    Wow! Excellent journalism, but fuck.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Marshmallo

    One of the hardest books one can ever read , worst than the worst dystopian…

  21. 5 out of 5

    Zoe Giles

    With everything going on within the UK at the moment regarding the Sarah Everard case and the discussion it has sparked around violence against women, I knew I wanted to read a book that taught me more about this issue on a global scale. This book had been on my wishlist for a while, and it felt right to break my buying ban and educate myself on this topic. This book is written by Christina Lamb who has been a foreign correspondent for Britain for many years and has reported on multiple wars. Du With everything going on within the UK at the moment regarding the Sarah Everard case and the discussion it has sparked around violence against women, I knew I wanted to read a book that taught me more about this issue on a global scale. This book had been on my wishlist for a while, and it felt right to break my buying ban and educate myself on this topic. This book is written by Christina Lamb who has been a foreign correspondent for Britain for many years and has reported on multiple wars. During her time in this occupation, she became increasingly frustrated by the lack of acknowledgment for the 'untold half of the story'; the story of women. She had come across a staggering number of women from different conflicts, all with horrifying and eerily similar stories to tell, but no one had been listening. Even though rape was formalised as an international war crime in 1919, the International Criminal Court has convicted no one. Not one person. In all of your teachings of Second World War history did you know the Soviet Red Army advancing on the Germans was ‘the greatest phenomenon of mass rape in history’? That it got so bad that news the Russian army were coming led to 600 people killing themselves, and their children, in one town alone so that they couldn’t be sexually abused by the army? That Stalin himself justified this by saying when his troops have travelled that far they were entitled to some ‘fun’ with a woman? And that Putin today has made it a crime to discuss these ‘myths’ about the Red Army? No one apologised for this, no one was prosecuted, and it was completely buried by the history books so the women went their lives experiencing no justice. “The more I read, researched, and talked to women, the more I wondered about everything I had learnt in history.” This book truly had the most horrific and earth-shaking stories within them that had me crying, raging, and left me feeling extremely sick. Some of the cases in this book were even the basis for Margaret Atwood’s dystopian book The Handmaid’s Tale. However, it is the horror of these stories that makes this book so important. I was ashamed that I did not know about a lot of these conflicts, and the extent to which the women involved suffered, even though some took place very recently in 2017/8, when I was in my second year of university. The premise of this book is to acknowledge and bring to light the huge amount of sexual violence that women have faced in conflict zones. Too often, rape is seen as a 'byproduct' of war, and with this view on wartime sexual violence, it is not persecuted or even mentioned. Lamb instead shows how rape has been wielded as a weapon of violence. It has been used to degrade, humiliate, shame, and ethnically cleanse whole populations of women. It is not a 'byproduct' of war (although that would be bad enough), but it is an actual tool that is strategically implemented through military regimes time and time again. It is a weapon of violence that has been systematically ignored and covered up on an international scale, primarily by male lawmakers and historians. "How was it that rape, a crime universally condemned, could be disregarded and trivialised when it occurred in war?" "Rape as a weapon of war can displace a whole demographic and have the same effect as a conventional weapon but at much lesser cost." This book tells the stories of many women that Christina Lamb has met and spoken with herself. The bravery of these women astounded me time and time again as they recount horror after horror in the hopes that their stories will enact some change. Often, these women didn't just have to face the assaults done to them during the conflicts, but ostracisation and humiliation from their own communities once they were released because of what they had suffered. Repeatedly, these crimes were not taken as seriously as other war crimes that took place, largely because prosecutors and judges were often men. In one case, Lamb even tells us about a group of women survivors who took matters into their own hands, hunting down war criminals and taking victim statements to bring to the prosecutors and force their hand in the legal process, which led to around 100 prosecutions. “We women have to do it, because it’s not in the interest of the actual police - so many of them are war criminals.” "'It is', she said, 'hard to tell, but even harder for people not to know.'" "My voice is all I have and I will use it till I die." It was due to the sheer bravery of these women who came forward and shared their experiences that these assaults were ever prosecuted as war crimes. If it was down to the men, they most definitely never would have been; almost all historic and revolutionary cases where men were convicted for rape and sexual violence had women as the judges or on the bench. “Though I had to speak in a foreign court, with foreign judges in robes speaking a foreign language, I was not afraid because when you speak the truth, you have nothing to fear”. On top of the social stigma that followed these women around even after the wars/crises were over, and the mental health problems they faced, they were often left with children to take care of and no means to do so. Sometimes, these children were the sons/daughters of their rapists, and sometimes they were children which survived the massacre. Often, their husbands (if they survived) would refuse to have anything to do with them due to their assaults. Lamb described many cases where both mother and child had serious physical health issues as a result of the trauma that were done to them, making it even harder on top of that. As the government officials rarely acknowledged the rapes, they also gave very little to no reparations or economic funding. It is hardship unimaginable, and the very fact that they survived and attempted to build a life for themselves is a testament to their strength. I also loved reading about the ways they came together to heal. Throughout the various conflicts, there were similar stories of women finding each other and forming communities where they shared their experiences and supported one another. They often found some level of healing through being able to reach some economic freedom; coming together to create opportunities cultivate the land as a means of therapy, whether that be with owning cattle, growing vegetation, or planting flowers. They are the definition of resilience and strength. There were some absolutely incredible and admirable people within this book who did all they could to help. The Beekeeper of Aleppo who, after seeing the way his bees worshipped their Queen, knew that what was happening to these women was unacceptable. Time and time again he put his life on the line and organised the rescue of at least 367 girls. "My life is not more important than the tears of my niece or the other girls I have liberated." Dr. Mukwege, known as Dr. Miracle, helped treat more rape victims than anyone else on earth. Initially hoping to help the disgustingly high mortality numbers for women giving birth in the Congo, he found himself instead treating the multitude of children and women who came to him following their assaults. This led to him setting up the Panzi hospital for women and children, and treating thousands of rape victims. Not only did he offer medical treatment, but after spending time with the women he set up psychologists teams, offered socioeconomic support and classes such as literacy courses, as well as legal advice for those who wished to report their crime. On top of all of this, he spoke internationally to raise awareness, all while his and his family's lives were constantly under threat. "So now, every time I think, Aagh, this is enough, I remember those women dancing. I am suffering but they are suffering more than me yet still loving, still transforming hate into love and that really helps me." Christine Schuyler Deschryver, a friend of Dr. Mukwege, and the director and founder of the City of Joy. Inside Congo, not far from the Panzi Hospital, the City of Joy is a gated area for women to go to heal from their trauma, and is full of bright colours, flowers, and love. "'Here at City of Joy we talk all day long about vaginas,' she explained. 'I arrive and the girls ask, "Christine, how is your vagina today?" I say, "OMG, it's in a bad mood!"" Here the women could come to an individually adaptive six-month programme run by Christine, who they called Mama. They are able to create art, talk with one another, learn meditation and yoga, embroider, laugh, dance, and take self-defense and fitness classes, amongst other activities. Of the women who had spent time here, some had gone on to be village chiefs, community leaders helping others, and environmental activists. It is a haven for these women. "I'm convinced you can change the world only by love" It is clear that there needs to be FAR more done about this atrocity. Time and time again, international governments have ignored calls to help during the conflict and refused to count rape as a crime in and of itself when taking perpetrators to court. Through talking to these women, it has been made clear that their perpetrators being tried for rape is extremely important for them and their healing. On a larger scale, acknowledgment of the crimes committed by the offending governments and the inclusion of their traumas in history books and teachings is just as important. Too many women have gone their entire lives with trauma being completely covered up as though it did not happen, or even being told that they are lying. "But when you look at how long rape trials go on and how few convictions there are, you can't escape the feeling that something else is going on - that the government is considering war rape as something not serious. This needs political will and recognition by every single political leader, regardless of their ethnic background." Internationally, far more attention and funding need to be given by every single government in this world. This is one of the largest crimes of war that is still going on to this day, and if anything is increasing in recent years. Not enough has been done or is being done, and it needs to be a priority for everyone. "Meanwhile, every time I walk past a war memorial, I wonder why the women's names are not on it." This was a true 5 star read in terms of its educational value, emotional impact, and political and social importance. If you think you are up to reading this, I highly recommend you do so.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Fiona Protheroe

    I’m taking a break after reading 60% of this book. Right now, I can’t read more but I will in time. It’s very hard to hear the voices of women who have been raped and abused. Their pain should be acknowledged, the crimes against them should be punished and support should be provided to help them deal with that they have gone though. It’s a book I think everyone needs to read at least a part of. These women should not be forgotten and ignored.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Christina Meyer

    This book was a chilling, painful read. I often had to take half an hour or more to cool down after reading this book to get to sleep at night. Regardless, it is an important book in light of the MeToo movement that brings a global perspective to the issue of gender-based violence. The best part about this book was the stories of how individual women coped with their trauma and what types of therapies and movements for justice worked for these women. Without a doubt, the descriptions of City of J This book was a chilling, painful read. I often had to take half an hour or more to cool down after reading this book to get to sleep at night. Regardless, it is an important book in light of the MeToo movement that brings a global perspective to the issue of gender-based violence. The best part about this book was the stories of how individual women coped with their trauma and what types of therapies and movements for justice worked for these women. Without a doubt, the descriptions of City of Joy and Panzi hospital were the most inspiring, especially as I have been diligently following their successes since City of Joy was established 9 years ago. The accounts were aptly frustrating as well, given that most of the women profiled in this book never got justice or received reparations for the horrors that they faced. It was overall a depressing yet important read, adding the accounts of silenced and marginalized women to the histories of war that virtually always forget them. I think this is a valuable book to read, but it falls into the traps that are common to a lot of books by American and British foreign correspondents (i.e. Joby Warrick and Richard Engel). This book often falls into common journalistic tropes which are at best cliche and at worst orientalist. There were casual mentions of the East v. West dichotomy or the use of Islam to describe extremist branches of Islam. What was most disappointing (yet not entirely surprising) was the focus on gender at the expense of anything else, leading to a conclusion that left me saddened and dissatisfied. I was rather shocked that significant parts of the conclusion discuss progress, using examples of British military personnel trying to include more women in the military or the fact that the IDF doesn't commit mass rape of Palestinian women because a third of the IDF is made up of women. This was particularly egregious to me as someone who has studied several of the conflicts mentioned in the books for the last 7 years, meeting many of the people mentioned in the book such as Christine Schuler Deschryver, Eve Ensler, and Claudia Paz y Paz. All of that has led me to the conclusion that the best way to end rape in war is to end war and the culture of impunity that allows patriarchal systems to persist. The British (and American) military can employ all the women it wants, and that may have an effect on the likelihood of these militaries to commit mass rape of civilian populations. It would not, however, have prevented the chaos and destruction that it brought to Iraq in 2003, which aided the success of ISIS and the genocide of the Yazidis which is frequently mentioned in the book. Furthermore, the Israeli military should not be held as a pillar of progress as they routinely commit horrible human rights abuses and that a culture of machismo exists within the IDF which has been well documented by Israeli and non-Israeli women alike (see Talya Lavie's film Zero Motivation). Overall, this book is an important and enlightening read but is not as visionary as it could be in an ideal world. (Rounded up to 4 stars)

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ershen

    This is probably the most important text I’ve read recently, but it goes without saying that it was extremely difficult to read, it gave me literal nightmares. Lamb starts by noting that rape is somehow trivialised during wartime, regarded as a by-product of war. She proceeds to gives comprehensive accounts of women’s sexual violence in a handful of conflicts, where they are treated like cattle and object— the Yazidis captured by ISIS to be sex slaves. The ‘birangona’ in Bangladesh. Brutally rap This is probably the most important text I’ve read recently, but it goes without saying that it was extremely difficult to read, it gave me literal nightmares. Lamb starts by noting that rape is somehow trivialised during wartime, regarded as a by-product of war. She proceeds to gives comprehensive accounts of women’s sexual violence in a handful of conflicts, where they are treated like cattle and object— the Yazidis captured by ISIS to be sex slaves. The ‘birangona’ in Bangladesh. Brutally raped Rohingya women (ignored by ASSK). Of course there’s more beyond what she catalogues, this crime occurs in every conflict known to man. “Man’s discovery that his genitalia could serve as a weapon to generate fear must rank as one of the most important discoveries of prehistoric times along with the use of fire”. For a crime where often the stigma is as traumatic than the event, punishment is essential because “it is vindication which took away our suffering”. And yet, it’s a crime which is often erased in text books, public discourse, a war crime rarely tried. As she comments at the end, “every time I walk past a war memorial I wonder why the women’s names are not on it”.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Amrita Kaila

    So so disturbing. This book changed my view on a lot of aspects of my privileged life. Every single person should read this book. Please donate to Panzi Hospital in DR of Congo. The work of Dr. Denis Mukwege (well deserved Nobel Prize winner) left me in awe. There were so many times that I had to stop and regroup before continuing my reading. 5 heartfelt and sincere stars.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jana Rađa

    I found out about this book in September 2020 after reading a review in The New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/22/bo...) and decided to read it. Despite raving reviews on Goodreads, I give it three stars because my expectations were set a bit higher. I like the fact that Christina Lamb wrote this book. I like the fact that the topic of war rape is finally getting the publicity it deserves. I think that women who experience wartime rape and sexual violence deserve their stories to be I found out about this book in September 2020 after reading a review in The New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/22/bo...) and decided to read it. Despite raving reviews on Goodreads, I give it three stars because my expectations were set a bit higher. I like the fact that Christina Lamb wrote this book. I like the fact that the topic of war rape is finally getting the publicity it deserves. I think that women who experience wartime rape and sexual violence deserve their stories to be heard and to see the perpetrators punished. I believe that sexual violence against women in war is a crime in and of itself and that it should be punished as such. I believe that civilian victims of wartime sexual violence should receive compensation, just like soldiers do. What I didn't like is the way Christina Lamb focuses on numerous personal accounts of wartime rape and sexual violence. They take up most of the book. Christina Lamb leaves no stone unturned (Berlin in 1945, China 1937-1938, South Korea's "comfort women", Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990s, Yazidi women and girls in Iraq, Myanmar, etc.). It's just that I would have preferred to read more about the trials and why tribunals often fail to mete out justice. I would have preferred to read what legal experts have to say about it. I would have loved to learn more about the organizations and people trying to change things and help the victims of rape, often ostracised for life. I would have preferred to read how the authorities and others in the position of power explain why compensation is so rarely paid and what is being done about it (or not). On the other hand, maybe I'm wrong. In many of the reviews on Goodreads, people write how they have never read anything like it, how it was the most difficult thing to read ever, how Christina Lamb burst their bubbles. So, perhaps this book should be written just the way it is. Maybe it's me. The fact that I know about these things doesn't mean others do. Maybe I just need to read up, find a book that answers my questions. My next book on the topic is Susan Brownmiller's Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape. It is a classic (it was written in 1975) but, as Time puts it, "her arguments are still relevant as politicians, college administrators and activists struggle to address the problem of sexual violence" (https://time.com/4062637/against-our-...).

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rajvi

    The authour makes it clear that this is a very dark, disturbing, chilling, and extremely heartbreaking book. I had to often put the book down to take a moment to collect myself because of some of the words I read. Nothing can prepare you for this. I’m at a loss for words, I’m angry and I’m upset and I’m horrified and I feel helpless. I will remember each of their stories and I will carry them forward and always make sure to make a difference in any way I can. My heart bleeds to those who had to The authour makes it clear that this is a very dark, disturbing, chilling, and extremely heartbreaking book. I had to often put the book down to take a moment to collect myself because of some of the words I read. Nothing can prepare you for this. I’m at a loss for words, I’m angry and I’m upset and I’m horrified and I feel helpless. I will remember each of their stories and I will carry them forward and always make sure to make a difference in any way I can. My heart bleeds to those who had to go through that experience and to those who survived. I just know one thing, they are so very brave and deserve every piece of justice and happiness. I can’t really say what this book was about properly so here are a few excerpts that really encompass the goal of the book: “I am writing a book about rape in war. It’s the cheapest weapon known to man. It devastates families and empties villages. It turns young girls into outcasts who wish their lives over when they are hardly begun. It begets children who are daily reminders to their mothers of their ordeal and are often rejected by their community as “bad blood.” And it’s almost always ignored in the history books.” “Man’s discovery that his genitalia could serve as a weapon to generate fear must rank as one of the most important discoveries of prehistoric times along with the use of fire and the first crude stone axe,” Rape “is a preventable war crime that should be confronted with the same determination as the use of cluster bombs and chemical weapons” “rape and sexual violence ‘constitute genocide in the same way as any other act as long as they were committed with the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a particular group, targeted as such.’ It was the first time ever that rape had been recognized as an instrument of genocide and prosecuted as a war crime in an international court.”

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bias Sinha

    Our Bodies, Their Battlefield provides a corrective that is by turns horrific and profoundly moving. Lamb is an extraordinary writer. Her compassion for those she talks to and deep understanding of how to tell their stories makes this a book that should be required reading for all– even though (and perhaps because) it is not an enjoyable experience. We meet Munira, a Rohingya who was raped by five Burmese soldiers in quick succession and was then confronted after her ordeal by finding the body o Our Bodies, Their Battlefield provides a corrective that is by turns horrific and profoundly moving. Lamb is an extraordinary writer. Her compassion for those she talks to and deep understanding of how to tell their stories makes this a book that should be required reading for all– even though (and perhaps because) it is not an enjoyable experience. We meet Munira, a Rohingya who was raped by five Burmese soldiers in quick succession and was then confronted after her ordeal by finding the body of her eight-year-old son who had been shot in the back as he was running towards her. We come across a five-year-old in the Democratic Republic of Congo who had been raped, who kept repeating that they had been taken “because Mummy didn’t close the door properly”. Rape has been used as a tool of fear and intimidation. While Lamb recognises that sexual violence against men has been and is a problem – noting that some estimates suggest that nearly a quarter of men in conflict-affected territories in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo have experienced sexual violence – the focus here is on women. Lamb’s disgust at the way victims continue to be treated shames us all. This is a powerful book that not only underlines how women have been written out of history, but how victims of rape have had their suffering enabled, ignored and perpetuated.

  29. 4 out of 5

    HekArtemis Crowfoot

    6 stars. The brutality of this book begins almost immediately, there is barely any lead up to it, it hits you right in the face from the start. It pulls no punches, it hides nothing. This book has accounts of what has been done to thousands, hundreds of thousands of women. It has direct quotes from women these things happened to. It has direct quotes from the mothers of the babies these things happened to. If you plan to read this book, and you should read it because everyone should read it, the 6 stars. The brutality of this book begins almost immediately, there is barely any lead up to it, it hits you right in the face from the start. It pulls no punches, it hides nothing. This book has accounts of what has been done to thousands, hundreds of thousands of women. It has direct quotes from women these things happened to. It has direct quotes from the mothers of the babies these things happened to. If you plan to read this book, and you should read it because everyone should read it, then plan to cry, and plan to rage hopelessly. Plan to feel horror deep inside you. I am glad that near the end of the book there is a chapter that talks about the Panzi hospital and the City of Joy, two amazing things that exist to help women who have been brutalised in war. Though the information in that chapter was still painful, because there is some true horror that happens to women and children who end up having to go to Panzi, there is also a lot of hope and relief in the chapter as well. And that really is needed in a book like this. Something hopeful in a sea of horror.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ali Hassan

    What is the worst kind of weapon used by men on the battlefields? It isn't any kind of weapons of mass destruction, but stigmatizing and traumatizing women by maneuvering them sexually. Imagine the women with no money and education where those with the gun or machete exert the power. Not for them rape counseling or compensation. Instead, they are often the ones condemned. Condemned to a lifetime trauma and disturbed nights, problems in forming relationships, not to mention physical damage, perhap What is the worst kind of weapon used by men on the battlefields? It isn't any kind of weapons of mass destruction, but stigmatizing and traumatizing women by maneuvering them sexually. Imagine the women with no money and education where those with the gun or machete exert the power. Not for them rape counseling or compensation. Instead, they are often the ones condemned. Condemned to a lifetime trauma and disturbed nights, problems in forming relationships, not to mention physical damage, perhaps a childless existence - they may even be ostracized from their communities, what one referred to as 'slow murder'. Around the world, a woman's body is still very much a battlefield, and hundreds of thousands of women bear the invisible wounds of war. How are they humiliated and how they experience such tragedies are topics mostly neglected in historical records. This book attempts to make those voices be heard to all who inflict wreak on them deliberately and to those who don't want to talk about such kinds of war crimes.

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