Woman who fought Nazis becomes first Muslim spy to receive blue plaque
Britain’s first Muslim war heroine during World War Two is being commemorated with a blue plaque.
Noor Inayat Khan, who was of Indian and American heritage, was the first undercover female radio operator to be flown into Nazi-occupied France.
Referred to as an ‘unlikely spy’, she served behind enemy lines in the Special Operations Executive body set up by Sir Winston Churchill in 1940.
Beginning her first mission in 1943, the heroine was arrested by the Gestapo after she was betrayed by a French double agent who was reportedly paid to hand her over.
But after managing to escape from prison, she was shortly recaptured and 10 months later transferred to Dachau concentration camp where she was killed, alongside three other women, in 1944.
Despite undergoing repeated torture, the dedicated secret agent refused to reveal any information to her captors – not even revealing her real name.
The plaque honouring her service has been placed on the Khan family’s London home on Taviton Street in Bloomsbury.
It was the address that the resourceful spy had scratched onto the base of her feeding bowl in an attempt to communicate her capture to other prisoners following her arrest.
Shrabani Basu, biographer to the secret agent said: ‘When Noor Inayat Khan left this house on her last mission, she would never have dreamed that one day she would become a symbol of bravery. She was an unlikely spy.
‘As a Sufi, she believed in non-violence and religious harmony. Yet when her adopted country needed her, she unhesitatingly gave her life in the fight against Fascism.
‘It is fitting that Noor Inayat Khan is the first woman of Indian origin to be remembered with a Blue Plaque. As people walk by, Noor’s story will continue to inspire future generations.
‘In today’s world, her vision of unity and freedom is more important than ever.’
The memorial token was unveiled on Friday.
Only 14% of more than 950 English Heritage Blue Plaques dotted around the capital celebrate women. The organisation have admitted that the proportion is still ‘unacceptably low’.
Plaques planned for the rest of the year include tributes to another female secret agent, Christine Granville, and to artist Barbara Hepworth.
The charity said that ‘if we are to continue to see a significant increase in the number of blue plaques for women, we need more female suggestions’.
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