“These people have lost everything, and the trauma and the loss that they have suffered is unparalleled.” That was the heartbreaking message Angelina Jolie delivered from West Mosul this week, as she met with families determined to rebuild what has been taken away from them. The actor and director visited ruins in the Iraqi city, as well as refugee camps, during a visit to the war-torn nation, which coincided with Eid Al Fitr.
The Changeling star, who has worked with the United Nations for 17 years, revealed that “this is the worst devastation I have seen in all my years with UNHCR” as she toured Mosul. This was the fifth visit to Iraq for Jolie, who is a UN Special Envoy, and her 61st mission in total with the UN Refugee Agency. “I have no words for the strength it must take to rebuild after loss like this,” she said during her visit, the UNHCR reported. “But that is what the people of this city are doing. They are grief-stricken and traumatized, but they are also hopeful. They are clearing their homes with their own hands, and volunteering and helping each other. But they need our assistance.”
The mother of six also called for world leaders to take heed as she visited the Domiz camp, near the town of Dohuk in northern Iraqi Kurdistan, a day later. The camp is home to 33,000 Syrian refugees, many of which Jolie met during her tour. “Words like ‘unsustainable’ don’t paint a picture of how desperate these times are,” the actor said, addressing the world’s media at the camp. “I met two mothers this morning, both of them widows. They both lost their husbands while living as refugees, to medical conditions that could normally have been treated.”
The Oscar winner addressed a crowd ahead of World Refugee Day on June 20, where she paid tribute to the people of Iraq for “their generosity towards Syrian refugees and displaced people”. “On this visit I have been reminded, as I am every time I am here, of the truly extraordinary dignity, resilience, warmth, generosity and grace of the people of the Middle East.” The actor also urged world governments to meet their responsibilities, adding that there are “millions of refugees and displaced people who want to return home and to work and start over”. “I hope that we can find the strength to find a better way forward together: so that we move into a new era of preventing conflict and reducing instability, rather than simply struggling to deal with its consequences.”