Angelina Jolie Meets with Genocide Survivors in Iraq 8 Years After ISIS Attacks
Angelina Jolie is in Iraq meeting with survivors of a 2014 genocide initiated by the Islamic State years after the country's Sinjar region faced significant destruction.
On Wednesday, Jolie, 47, and human rights activist Nadia Murad — who escaped from ISIS captivity prior to founding the nonprofit Nadia's Initiative — together visited northern Iraq's Sinjar region, where they visited Murad's childhood home and village as well as other key areas in the region where the nonprofit is leading recovery efforts, the organization announced in a press release.
The longtime humanitarian and Murad spent the day meeting with women and children who survived the 2014 genocide, in which ISIS systematically attacked the region's Yazidi ethnoreligious minority community.
ISIS's attacks killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands more as more than 6,000 women and children were enslaved and a strong majority of infrastructure in the region was destroyed, according to a release.
"I'm honored 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 horrors," Jolie said in a statement via Nadia's Initiative on Wednesday.
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"I have witnessed the progress they have made, but also the need for long-term international commitment to support their work and leadership," Jolie continued. "Yazidi survivors continue to struggle with trauma, insecurity, displacement, and slow progress on reparations. I met families who are still searching for answers about their loved ones who are missing, and others who still lack support to meet their basic needs."
"Local people here are working to help themselves," she added. "They deserve respect and support."
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In a statement, Murad called Jolie's activism "instrumental in helping raise awareness and meet the needs of women, children, and refugees throughout the world."
"I relish the opportunity to show such a dedicated advocate my homeland, the incredible progress we have made toward recovery, and the remaining needs of my community," Murad added of the trip to Sinjar.
Murad's nonprofit, which is currently focused on redeveloping the Sinjar region for Yazidis to return to safely, is dedicated to "rebuilding communities in crisis and advocating globally for survivors of sexual violence," per a release. Murad herself received the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for her humanitarian efforts.
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In December, Jolie, whose human rights activism work has also included support for refugee aid, supporting women in Iran, Pakistani flood relief and advocating for crime victim legislation, stepped away from her longtime role as a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Special Envoy.
"She will be more effective as an outsider," a source close to the actress told PEOPLE about Jolie's decision at the time. "She always has been like that, and more with the people than the system."