Angelina Jolie does a lot of international aid work as part of her position as U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees, and recently she went over to Iraq to survey the conditions in the refugee camps there. What she saw left her “speechless” and she shared her thoughts on the trip in a new op-ed for The New York Times.
I have visited Iraq five times since 2007, and I have seen nothing like the suffering I’m witnessing now.
I came to visit the camps and informal settlements where displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees are desperately seeking shelter from the fighting that has convulsed their region.
In almost four years of war, nearly half of Syria’s population of 23 million people has been uprooted. Within Iraq itself, more than two million people have fled conflict and the terror unleashed by extremist groups. These refugees and displaced people have witnessed unspeakable brutality. Their children are out of school, they are struggling to survive, and they are surrounded on all sides by violence.
For many years I have visited camps, and every time, I sit in a tent and hear stories. I try my best to give support. To say something that will show solidarity and give some kind of thoughtful guidance. On this trip I was speechless.
What do you say to a mother with tears streaming down her face who says her daughter is in the hands of the Islamic State, or ISIS, and that she wishes she were there, too? Even if she had to be raped and tortured, she says, it would be better than not being with her daughter.
It goes on from there, and the whole thing is really worth a read. I think sometimes it’s easy to forget about the very real effects of war not just on our own soldiers, but on regular citizens around the world who have not just lost their entire families but their homes and even their cities and everything they’ve known. It’s really heartbreaking, but I think it’s wonderful that Angelina isn’t just turning a blind eye to the difficult stuff and actually gets out there.