COLUMN 

Chronicling unimaginable depravity

James Evelegh shares his latest reading material, a harrowing book by Sunday Times journalist Christina Lamb.

By James Evelegh

Chronicling unimaginable depravity

I’m on homecation this week, so that means a chance to catch up on some reading.

I can recommend my current book, though it is harrowing.

Our bodies, their battlefield – what war does to women’, by Sunday Times journalist Christina Lamb looks at the appalling and widespread instance of rape in war zones and how it is systematically deployed as a weapon of war. The book chronicles the experiences of traumatised survivors from conflicts around the world, including Myanmar, Iraq, Bangladesh, Rwanda and Bosnia.

Testimonials for the book include, “these women’s stories will make you weep and then rage at the world’s indifference” (Amal Clooney) and “quite literally the most powerful and disturbing book that I have ever read” (Antony Beevor).

The mind-numbing violence and cruelty, perpetrated on an industrial scale, is truly shocking.

Whilst the life-wrecking impact on the victims is what the book is all about, I always look for a media angle in my periodic book reviews.

In many of the conflicts Lamb writes about, the barbarity has been years in the preparation, where minority groups have found themselves steadily more discriminated against and negatively portrayed in the media (witness the well-documented use of Facebook in the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Myanmar) as sub-human, as vermin whose very existence poses a threat to the majority’s way of life.

In the book, which I’m halfway through, new media does have one brief moment in the sun, when the ‘BringBackOurDaughters’ hashtag briefly helped focus worldwide attention on the 276 Chibok schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria.

So much of the violence remains undocumented, as guilty regimes airbrush it from history and victims remain silent – often through an understandable fear of being rejected by a society that somehow blames them for the suffering visited upon them.

That their stories have come to light is testament to the bravery of those prepared to speak out and the perseverance, empathy and zeal of journalists like Christina Lamb. Indeed, the publication of the book shows that media has a positive role to play in bringing terrible injustice to light. More people just need to read it.

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