Syrian refugees move Angelina Jolie to tears

In her capacity as UN special envoy, Hollywood actress hears gruesome accounts of refugees first hand in Jordan.

September 12, 2012 08:12
3 minute read.
Angelina Jolie visits Syrian refugees in Jordan

Angelina Jolie in Jordan 370. (photo credit: reuters)


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ZAATARI, Jordan - Syrian refugees stuck in a dust-blown camp in Jordan gave gruesome accounts of civilians incinerated in their country's civil war to UN special envoy and actress Angelina Jolie on Tuesday, moving her to tears.

The United Nations is in the process of registering more than 250,000 refugees from the 17-month-old conflict in four neighbouring countries, with more than 100,000 arriving in August alone - 85,000 of those in Jordan.

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On average around 2,000 Syrians arrive each day in Jordan and the country has already declared the influx is beyond what it can deal with and appealed for international help.

"Little children who were asked what they saw described body parts separated and burnt people being pulled apart like chicken. A little 9-year-old girl said that," Jolie told reporters after a two-day visit to Jordan's Zaatari camp.

"It's been a very heavy experience because often at times you come to these camps ... and rarely do you come when meet them as they cross the border and get to know people the moment they become a refugee," she said, stopping to compose herself.

"They will say: 'As the months go on there will be no more of us, our homes are gone are families are gone' ."

Escaping an escalating military campaign by Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces, refugees languish in an unfinished camp where aid agencies and authorities are struggling to provide the most basic shelter and facilities.

At Zaatari, 28,000 people live in searing late summer heat with limited facilities and choking, dust-filled winds.

"The world is watching as though they mean to humiliate the Syrian people. We feel we are in a big detention center and zoo, fenced around where everyone comes to capitalize on our suffering," said Musa Awadat, a father of six. "We didn't flee from Syria to come here to another prison."

'International appeals for funding to help refugees not being met'

UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres, who toured the camp with Jolie and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, said their visit was a message to the world "to help us and the Jordanian government in order to massively invest in improving the living conditions of the refugees in this camp".

Jolie traveled to Syria in 2007 and again in 2009 to meet Iraqi refugees with her partner, actor Brad Pitt. During one trip they met Assad and his wife Asma, who later told Vanity Fair magazine that the couples lunched in the capital.

Jolie, dressed in a black T-shirt with her hair tied back, said that all appeals for international funding to tackling the refugee crisis had "not been met."

Syrian opposition groups say more than 27,000 people have died in an uprising that has lasted more than 17 months and has descended into outright civil war in the pivotal Arab state.

"The complexity of this crisis is one of the aspects that sets it apart, and the speed at which people have fled Syria," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said in Geneva on Tuesday.

"With 100,000 having fled to neighboring countries in the space of a single month, August, that makes it an extraordinary acceleration of this crisis," he told a news briefing.

He said that almost 200,000 Syrians had crossed into Jordan, although not all were registered as refugees.

In April, Jolie was promoted from serving as a UNHCR goodwill ambassador to a special envoy.

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