Angelina Jolie returns to Iraq to meet the survivors of the 2014 Sinjar genocide

For years Angelina Jolie has wanted to take advantage of her fame to give voice and visibility to social and humanitarian causes. Just over a month ago, the 47-year-old actress and director decided to end more than two decades linked to UNHCR, the organization for refugees dependent on the UN. With them, participated in more than 60 field missions to learn first-hand about the situation in different refugee camps. But that was not why he was going to completely disassociate himself from humanitarian causes, according to what he said. Jolie is now in Iraq to meet with survivors of the August 3, 2014 genocide in the Sinjar region.

The aim of the Islamic State was to eliminate the Yazidi population, culture and religion —they considered that Yazidisism was based on devil worship. There were those who were able to leave the region before the arrival of the terrorists, but those who could not escape ended up being tortured and killed. As for the youngest, they were kidnapped and later sold in slave markets. One of the bloodiest massacres took place in the town of Kocho, where 334 men and 72 women died. In the following days, the Sinjar mountain sheltered more than 100,000 refugees, creating an international alarm.

One of the survivors was the activist Nadie Murad, who managed to escape ISIS captivity after months of torture and rape before being sold on the slave market in 2014. Some time after the event, she decided to found the Nadia Initiative, a non-profit organization that has helped give visibility to the cause, to rebuild schools and hospitals in the area.

Jolie’s trip to Sinjar, in northern Iraq, it has been with Murad, who has accompanied him on a visit to his home and the town where he lived until the jihadites arrived; as well as other key areas of the region, where the organization works for the recovery of heritage and essential services for the population. In addition, the actress met with women and children who survived the genocide. More than 6,000 were enslaved during the time the jihadist conquest lasted, which also left much of the infrastructure completely useless. According to the statement published by Murad’s organizationmany of them are survivors of sexual slavery who, after liberation, decided to return to Sinjar with the hope of building a better future and returning home.

Angelina Jolie with Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad during their visit to Sinjar, Iraq, on February 1, 2023.NADIA’S INITIATIVE (via REUTERS)

“Angelina Jolie has been instrumental in raising awareness and meeting the needs of women, children and refugees around the world. I am happy to have the opportunity to show such a dedicated advocate my homeland and show her the incredible progress we have made toward recovery and the remaining needs of my community.” commented activist Murad.

“I am happy to return to Iraq, this time to support the work of my friend Nadia Murad and other local Yazidis who are rebuilding their lives and communities after enduring the horrors. I have witnessed the progress they have made, but also the need for long-term international commitment to support their work and leadership. The survivors continue to fight against the trauma, insecurity, displacement and slow progress of reparations”, the actress and director expressed in the note released by Iniciativa de Nadia. “I met families who are still looking for answers about the disappearance of their loved ones and others who still lack support to cover their basic needs. The local people are working to help themselves and they deserve all the respect and support”, added the interpreter.

Angelina Jolie and Nadia Murad visit the ruins of Sinjar, Iraq, on February 1, 2023.
Angelina Jolie and Nadia Murad visit the ruins of Sinjar, Iraq, on February 1, 2023.NADIA’S INITIATIVE (via REUTERS)

Murad was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 after years of fighting to make visible the horrors and massacres that were being committed in her country. In an interview conducted last year for the magazine Time, precisely in which Angelina Jolie served as an interviewer, explained more details about the project: “When I founded the Nadia Initiative, I just wanted to focus on documenting what happened to us, especially the stories of the survivors and what ISIS did to us. It takes time to do projects to document the evidence, but even those challenges we can use to prevent what happened to us from happening to others.”

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Angelina Jolie returns to Iraq to meet the survivors of the 2014 Sinjar genocide