A Documentary Film on the Birangona by Komola Collective Needs Urgent Donation
Birangona means ‘Brave Woman of War’. This was the honourific granted to the hundreds of thousands of survivors of the campaign of rape carried out by the Pakistani Army and their Bengali collaborators in the war of liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. Their individual stories are largely hidden and forgotten by a society in which rape is considered to be a source of shame for the victims like other rape survivors in conflict situations.
In the aftermath of the war these survivors were not only overlooked by the international community but also were silenced by their very own communities in independent Bangladesh. Having endured brutal rape, torture and enforced pregnancies and abortions many women of war were made to return to their villages, communities, families and husbands, but were never allowed to speak about the brutality that they had had to endure for the nation during the war of liberation.
There are thousands of Birangona living in extreme poverty, being rejected by local people for the religious ‘sin’ (zina) and shame of having been raped by Pakistani military. Their children and grandchildren, as eye-witnesses and as generations of rape-survivors, also experienced endless discrimination in a nation-state that was supposed to be secular and progressive. The Director of Komola Collective, Leesa Gazi, notes correctly: ‘with each day that passes, the Birangona of Bangladesh die out, and with them, their stories: stories that contributed to the making of a nation, and stories which we, as part of an international community striving to end sexual violence in conflict, cannot afford to ignore.’
Komola Collective, a London-based theatre and art group, has therefore taken a timely initiative to document the stories of Birangona. They are producing a film, called ‘Rising Silence’ , in partnership with Openvisor, Making Herstory and Jatrik, that aspires to document and preserve the lived experiences of survivors of rape and the narratives of great survivors of brutal abuse: the Women of War – The Birangona.
Other community women’s rights campaigners, including East London-based organisation such as Nari Diganta, provided unwavering support to the initiative and is trying to raise fund for the important film. A panel of experts and women rights campaigners and Nari Diganta members Pushpita Gupta and I have discussed the significance of the film. Speakers agreed that this film is about the Birangona‘s will to survive and honouring their insurmountable courage. It is a way of bringing a crucial part of a nation’s history – that has been ignored for too long, made taboo and silenced – to the forefront. Above all, it is about documenting the voices of these women and the national reproducers of a nation-state that has 20,000 populations who rarely talk about Birangona.
If readers of this blog can see the significance of the potential film, please donate whatever you can afford. We deeply appreciate your support to make this film happen. Let’s make a history by making a historical film on rape survivors and the ‘women of war’ in a nation that is so proud of its liberation war.
To watch the ‘Rising Silence’ promo film on Birangona click on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nlm_saJURKY