Angelina Jolie, a longtime special envoy for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), knows about the Syrian refugee crisis first hand, having traveled to the region ten times since the conflict started. In this op-ed for Time magazine, she writes about her experiences and thoughts on the crisis.
Here are some snippets from her piece:
— I’ve been to the Syrian region some 10 times since the conflict began. At first, the families I met were hopeful. They said, “Please, tell people what is happening to us,” trusting that once the truth was known, the world would come to their rescue. But hope curdled into anger and the struggle for survival: the anger of the father who held his baby up to me, asking, “Is this a terrorist? Is my son a terrorist?” and the pain of families I met who faced daily choices about which of their children would get scarce food and medicine.
— Laws prohibiting the killing of civilians, the bombing of hospitals and schools, or mass rape; treaties banning the use of chemical attacks; the Responsibility to Protect pact, signed by U.N. member states; the Security Council’s powers to act to stop a conflict–the U.N. Charter itself–all lie broken, unused or misused in the Syrian conflict. Since 2014, the U.N. has been unable to count the dead in Syria. Some estimate that over half a million Syrians have died.
— … raises fundamental questions for us as Americans: When did we stop wanting to stand up for the underdog, for the innocent, for those fighting for their human rights? And what kind of country would we be if we abandoned that principle? There is a lot of focus in America today on self-preservation. But peace is almost always fought for hardest by those who really understand war. History shows that when we fought for the liberation of Europe in World War II, or contributed to building the postwar global order, we did so for our own interests–and we reaped the benefits. When America was attacked on 9/11, many countries made common cause with us because we had earned their friendship.