Angelina Jolie is doing more than anyone else in Hollywood to speak out against ISIS and sexual violence in Syria and Iraq.
The 40-year-old actress and UNHCR special envoy testified before British Parliament on Tuesday, discussing how ISIS has used rape as a form of “policy” in unprecedented ways.
“This is what is beyond something we have seen before,” Jolie said. “This is actually put into their policy. They are saying, ‘We should do this, this is the right way to build a society, so we tell you to rape.’”
Jolie has traveled around the world meeting survivors of sexual violence and campaigning against rape in wartime for the past decade. She worked with former British foreign secretary William Hague to launch an initiative to combat sexual violence in conflict zones, and together they co-chaired a global summit on the subject last year to try to deter the use of mass rape as a weapon of war against civilians.
There is plenty of room for criticism about the efficacy of Hague and Jolie’s initiative, which was recently described as a “costly failure.” But Jolie’s focus on the crisis in Syria and Iraq, and her efforts to raise awareness, has indeed been a sustained and genuine, if at times flawed, endeavor.
The first public statement she made after news of her wedding broke, for example, wasn’t about Brad Pitt—it was about the escalating bloodbath in Syria. Earlier this year, Jolie, along with her UN colleagues, visited displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, her fifth visit to Iraq and sixth to Syrian refugees.
“It is shocking to see how the humanitarian situation in Iraq has deteriorated since my last visit [in 2012],” she said in a statement. “Nothing can prepare you for the horrific stories of these survivors of kidnap, abuse, and exploitation and to see how they cannot all get the urgent help they need and deserve…The war in Syria is at the root of so many of the problems faced here in Iraq and across the region. There is an urgent need for international leadership to break the cycle of violence in Syria.”
And last April, Jolie used her time briefing the UN Security Council to criticize its lack of action to protect innocent Syrians from the Assad regime and ISIS. “We cannot look at Syria, and the evil that has arisen from the ashes of indecision, and think this is not the lowest point in the world’s inability to protect and defend the innocent,” Jolie said. (Syria’s ambassador had but a brief, dickish comment on the actress’s prepared remarks: “She’s beautiful.”)
Here’s CNN’s report on Jolie’s visit to Syrian refugees in Lebanon early last year: