Now that Angelina Jolie’s Oscar campaign has come to an end, the actress and filmmaker has traded her pumps and her skirt suits for a superhero cape. Jolie, who spent the last several months attending luncheons and awards shows in support of her directorial effort Unbroken, is back in full-on humanitarian mode, having just visited Iraq to see firsthand the suffering of refugees caused by the war in neighboring Syria. Jolie penned an op-ed about her experiences in the New York Times, saying that what she saw left her “speechless.” It’s a heartbreaking read.
Syria has been plunged into chaos by crushing civil war and more recently the rise of the Islamic State, or ISIS, and nearly half of that country’s 23 million people have had to leave. According to Jolie, their suffering, the effects of which she’s witnessed firsthand, is unimaginable. “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.”
Jolie, who is the special envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has made helping displaced people her life’s work, and is clearly frustrated by what she sees as a lack of mobilization from the international community. “Much more assistance must be found to help Syria’s neighbors bear the unsustainable burden of millions of refugees,” she writes. “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.”
Jolie also gave an emotional an emotional speech while in Iraq, which you can watch below. Weirdly enough, Jolie’s op-ed doesn’t provide readers with a way they can help, implicitly suggesting that a solution to this crisis must come from the highest corridors of power. CNN has a good roundup of all the organizations who are trying to help Syrian refugees, and how you can help them in this important cause.