‘Shadow Lives’ reviewed in the Observer

Victoria Brittain’s brilliant account of the forgotten women of the War on Terror has accumulated even more accolades this weekend, after being reviewed in the Observer.

Yvonne Roberts writes:

The so called “war on terror” has legitimised practices in the UK most commonly associated with totalitarian regimes. Control orders restricting movement issued without public hearing of any evidence; extraordinary rendition across countries, continuous surveillance and, as Victoria Brittain so powerfully portrays in Shadow Lives: The Forgotten Women of the War on Terror, all have a huge impact on the women and children who are drawn into this world where deprivation of civil rights is the norm.

The review continues to describe the conditions of individual families whose ordeals are so eloquently documented in Victoria’s book. We quote at length below:

Brittain, a former associate foreign editor of the Guardian, describes, for instance, the tenacity of Sabah, wife of Jamil el-Banna, arrested in west Africa where he was setting up a peanut oil factory. She is left with five children, little English and no knowledge of where her husband is held. Eventually, Palestinian-born Sabah becomes a campaigner, keeping her grief to herself, stepping outside her house, “full of sleeping children” to shed her tears alone. After five years, her husband is finally released. “I think human rights here have taken an open holiday,” says one of the children.

The pattern for family after family is similar. Acts of generosity but also children bullied, wives spat at and abused. Some men on control orders buckle and suffer shattering mental ill health, witnessed by their families. Police continually visit, children’s computers for homework are forbidden, their toys confiscated and never returned. Some of the men subsequently receive financial settlements; the price that their wives and children pay is ongoing. “Listen to my story,” one teenage girl says, “then decide if you will be able to live my life.” When so many turn away, it is vital that eloquent and committed chroniclers of the calibre of Victoria Brittain persist.

To read the article in full, go to the Guardian website, here.

You can buy Victoria’s book for just £13.00 including free UK P&P, directly from the Pluto website.

Shadow Lives

The Forgotten Women of the War on Terror

Victoria Brittain. Foreword by John Berger. Afterword by Marina Warner

Reveals the impact on the wives and families of men incarcerated in Guantanamo, or in prison in Britain and the US, during the ‘war on terror’.

“A searching, sensitive, and wrenching account of the ordeal of the women left behind, their torment, their endurance and courage, their triumphs over the cruel “extension of prison to home.” And not least, a revealing picture of what we have allowed ourselves to become.
– Noam Chomsky

“This is a window into an invisible world…a reminder that abandoning normal legal standards has serious consequences for the Rule of Law.” – Helena Kennedy, QC

£14.99 only £13.00 on the Pluto site

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