Angelina Jolie on Iraq's devastation: 'I have no words'

Angelina Jolie in Iraq: Mosul 'the worst devastation I've seen'
3 min read
17 June, 2018
'This is the worst devastation I have seen in all my years with UNHCR': The film star and UN envoy is in Iraq rallying support for survivors of the conflict
The visit is Jolie's fifth to Iraq with the UN refugee agency [UNCHR]
Hollywood icon and UN refugee agency (UNHCR) special envoy Angelina Jolie visited a camp for displaced Syrians in northern Iraq on Sunday as part of her visit aimed at reviving support efforts for those affected by years of conflict.

The iconic actor arrived on Sunday morning at the Domiz camp, meeting with some of the 33,000 refugees from Syria's seven-year conflict.

A day earlier LA native Jolie had met with displaced families and wandered through the bombed out streets in the city of Mosul, liberated from IS control less than a year ago in what the UN has identified as the largest and longest urban battle since World War II.

"This is the worst devastation I have seen in all my years with UNHCR," said Jolie in a UN statement.

Read more: Eye on Iraq: Meeting the man behind 'Mosul Eye'

"People here have lost everything: their homes are destroyed. They are destitute."

"They are still surrounded by bodies in the rubble. After the unimaginable trauma of the occupation, they are now trying to rebuild their homes, often with little or no assistance."

The actor seemed in awe at the ability of Mosul's residents to carry on with their lives, calling for the international community not to forget the plight of the conflict's survivors.

Jolie visited families rebuilding their lives in Mosul [UNHCR]

"I have no words for the strength it must take to rebuild after loss like this," she said.

"But that is what the people of this city are doing. They are grief-stricken and traumatised, 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," she added.

"We often tend to assume, as an international community, that when the fighting is over, the work is done. But the conditions I observed here in West Mosul are appalling. Displacement is still happening. The camps near the city are still full. Whole areas of West Mosul remain flattened. Enabling people to return and stabilising the city is essential for the future stability of Iraq and the region," she added.

The visit is Jolie's 61st mission – and fifth to Iraq – with the UN Refugee Agency since she took up the role in 2001. It also coincided with the second day of Eid al-Fitr, with many residents spending the day celebrating the end of Ramadan with relatives.

This time last year however, heavy gunfire, shelling and air strikes rained down on the city, continuing for weeks before its liberation in July 2017.

Read more: Giving comfort in the chaos: Meeting aid worker Madiha Raza

The UN used Jolie's visit to highlight the utter devastation faced by residents of Mosul and survivors of the brutal conflict and mass displacement across the region.

As people return to Mosul after fighting ended, "not one structure is unscathed. Not one pane of glass is unbroken," the UN said in a statement.

"It is deeply upsetting," Jolie said, "that people who have endured unparalleled brutality have so little as they try, somehow, to rebuild the lives they once had."

Mosul was captured by the Islamic State group in the summer of 2014. It was retaken by Iraqi forces with the help of US-led airstrikes, but both sides have faced criticism for the high civilian cost of the military operations that left thousands dead and wounded and much of the city in ruins.