Angelina Jolie Pens Impassioned NYT Op-Ed ‘On the Syrians and Iraqis Who Can’t Go Home’

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In a powerful op-ed for the New York Times, Angelina Jolie recounts her recent trip to Iraq and calls out for international support to help refugees in Iraq and Syria affected by wartime atrocities.

The Unbroken director visited a refugee camp for displaced Iraqis and Syrians near Dohuk, Syria on Sunday (Jan. 25, 2015), where she was left “speechless”.

“I have visited Iraq five times since 2007, and I have seen nothing like the suffering I’m witnessing now,” she writes. “…Nothing prepares you for the reality of so much individual human misery: for the stories of suffering and death, and the gaze of hungry, traumatized children.”

A longtime activist, special envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and co-founder of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative, Angelina penned this op-ed as a call to action for international support.

Her article sheds light on the unspeakable violences and crimes against humanity being committed.

“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.”

For example, she wrote about a mother whose daughter is a victim of ISIS: “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.”

Angelina Jolie Pens Impassioned NYT Op-Ed 'On the Syrians and Iraqis Who Can't Go Home'

She writes to the international community (in part):

Stories of terror, barrel bombs and massacres have acquired an awful familiarity. There is a great temptation to turn inward, to focus on our own troubles.

But the plain fact is we cannot insulate ourselves against this crisis. The spread of extremism, the surge in foreign fighters, the threat of new terrorism — only an end to the war in Syria will begin to turn the tide on these problems. Without that, we are just tinkering at the edges.

At stake are not only the lives of millions of people and the future of the Middle East, but also the credibility of the international system. What does it say about our commitment to human rights and accountability that we seem to tolerate crimes against humanity happening in Syria and Iraq on a daily basis?

When the United Nations refugee agency was created after World War II, it was intended to help people return to their homes after conflict. It wasn’t created to feed, year after year, people who may never go home, whose children will be born stateless, and whose countries may never see peace. But that is the situation today, with 51 million refugees, asylum-seekers or displaced people worldwide, more than at any time in the organization’s history.

Much more assistance must be found to help Syria’s neighbors bear the unsustainable burden of millions of refugees. The United Nations’ humanitarian appeals are significantly underfunded. Countries outside the region should offer sanctuary to the most vulnerable refugees in need of resettlement — for example, those who have experienced rape or torture. And above all, the international community as a whole has to find a path to a peace settlement. It is not enough to defend our values at home, in our newspapers and in our institutions. We also have to defend them in the refugee camps of the Middle East, and the ruined ghost towns of Syria.