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Britain’s ‘first Muslim war heroine’ to be honoured with London Blue Plaque

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In 2012, Queen Elizabeth II's daughter Princess Anne unveiled a bronze bust of Khan in nearby Gordon Square Gardens. Twitter/English Heritage (@EnglishHeritage)/via The News

LONDON: A woman of Indian-origin dubbed "the spy princess" on Friday gets a new memorial in Britain honouring her espionage work and refusal to betray secrets in World War II.

English Heritage is putting up a Blue Plaque honouring Noor Inayat Khan outside 4 Taviton Street in the Bloomsbury area of central London where she lived from 1942-43.

In 2012, Queen Elizabeth II's daughter Princess Anne unveiled a bronze bust of Khan in nearby Gordon Square Gardens.

Shrabani Basu, her biographer, said Khan — born into a princely Indian Sufi family and descended from Tipu Sultan, the 18th century ruler of Mysore — was an "unlikely spy".

She believed in non-violence and religious harmony but gave her life in the fight against fascism when her adopted country needed her, she said.

"It is fitting that Noor Inayat Khan is the first woman of Indian origin to be remembered with a Blue Plaque," said Basu, who wrote Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan.

"As people walk by, Noor's story will continue to inspire future gener ations. In today's world, her vision of unity and freedom is more important than ever."

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Khan was the first woman wireless operator sent to Nazi-occupied France but was captured, tortured and shot dead aged 30 at the Dachau concentration camp in September 1944.

English Heritage described her as "Britain's first Muslim war heroine in Europe". She was killed after refusing to give away secrets under repeated torture by the Gestapo.

Khan was posthumously awarded the George Cross and is one of only four women to have directly received Britain's highest non-combat award for gallantry.

English Heritage has acknowledged that the proportion of women celebrated by its blue plaque scheme remains "unacceptably low".

It plans to unveil tributes to the secret agent Christine Granville at a west London hotel where she lived and the sculptor Barbara Hepworth in north London.

Another is planned for the headquarters of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, which campaigned successfully for women to be allowed to vote.


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