Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie gave an exclusive interview with CNN’s Arwa Damon while visiting Iraq to draw attention to the refugee crisis in the wartorn country. Here is a full transcript of the interview:
Damon: First of all thank you obviously for your time. What is your main aim in this visit — what are you trying to acomplish while you are out here?
Jolie: Well I came to the region about 6 months ago, I first went to Syria because I work with U.N.H.C.R. and there are 1.5 million refugees in Syria alone from Iraq and while I was there, I went inside and met with some internally displaced people. And this trip is to get a better picture of the internally displaced people and to discuss with the local government, with our government, with the NGOs and with local people, the situation and try to understand what is happening, because there are over 2 million internally displaced people and there doesn’t seem to be a real coherent plan to help them and there’s lots of good will and lot’s of discussion –but there seem to be a lot of uh — just a lot of talk at the moment and a lot of pieces need to be put together. So, trying to figure out what they are.
Damon: **What kind of a sense have you been able to get so far in terms of how severe the crisis is and what actually needs to be done to help out? **
Jolie: Well, I in my research before I came here, I looked at the numbers and there are over 4 million people displaced and of the 2 million internally displaced it’s estimated that 58 percent are under 12 years old. So it’s a very high number of people in a very, very vulnerable situation and a lot of young kids. So far the different U.S. officials I’ve met with and different local people I’ve met with all have shared concerns and very, very strongly you know they have spoken out about the humanitarian crisis but um, but there seems to be a block in.
I’m not good at policy and fixing all this and saying what’s wrong but I do know that for example U.N.H.C.R. needs to be more active inside Iraq. In order for that to happen, they need they feel strongly about having some better protection … better security in talking with the U.S. officials, they’re willing to give that security to the extent that they can give it.
And so you know I don’t have the answers but I know that this is one thing that needs to be addressed and solved because there does need to be a real presence here to help count the people and register the people. Also even just the government here needs to empower the prime minister … here needs to empower the government that deals with migration and displacement to be able to address the concerns for these people and that hasn’t happened in a significant way yet.
Damon: Do you think that the global community has a responsibility to address that?
Jolie: Well I think the global community always has a … has a responsibility to any humanitarian crisis. And I think it’s in our best interest to address a humanitarian crisis on this scale because displacement can can lead to a lot of instability and aggression and you know pop. We don’t … we certainly we just don’t want that we have.. A lot of people feel it’s a little calmer now … this is the time to really discuss and and try to get these communities back together. But if these communities don’t start coming back together properly, if we don’t start really counting the people … understanding where they are … what they need … making sure the schools are being built … making sure the electricity the water and all these needs are being met and also understanding that a lot of the people that will return are going to come back to houses that are occupied or destroyed and bombed out and we have to we have to have… It’s going to be a big operation to understand the needs … to address it to help people put the pieces of their life back together and return to their communities. So it’s really just putting kind of … getting the plan together … getting the group together and everybody actively focused on helping the IDPS and the refugees.
Damon: What would the message that you would want to carry out of here back to the States or even the message that you would want to get out internationally in terms of what’s happening here … the refugee crisis … how serious it is and the consequences that could happen in the future if it’s not properly addressed?
Jolie: I always hate speculation on the news, so I don’t want to be somebody who speculates. Um but I think it’s clear, I think, I think you know a displaced unstable population is you know is a very what happens in Iraq, and how Iraq settles in the years to come is going to affect the entire Middle East. And a big part of what is going to affect how it settles is how these people are returned and settled into their homes into their community and brought back together and whether they can live together and what their communities look like, so it does have broad implications.
Damon: On a personal level why is this so important to you … you willing to come here and risk your life?
Jolie: Uh, what about you (laughs) why are you here? (laughs) It was an easy choice to make. I’ve uh, I felt I had to come here because it is very difficult to get answers about especially the internally displaced people. It’s as I said even U.N.H.C.R. who I traditionally work with — they are not able to be inside at the moment and so I was very frustrated and just getting a bunch of ideas and papers but not knowing what’s really going on, so so today I’m able to talk to all different people from our government and their government and really get some answers as to what is holding up the processes to really really assist these people properly.
Damon: Do you think that you in your position can try to push this process forward put … pressure perhaps on the U.S. government to let more refugees into the U.S. to address the situation within Iraq and of course address the situations in Syria and Jordan?
Jolie: To put pressure on the U.S.?
Damon: On the U.S. or to try to just put pressure in general create awareness?
Jolie: (interrupting) I think certainly creating awareness. And I think you know what I found is there is… I spoke to the State Department today about meeting our goal, you know the U.S.’s goal of 12,000 people and they still intend to reach that goal and they have and you know there are many different people who can be cynical or say well how are they going to do it, and I will ask them how are you going to do it and is there some way we can help to … you know … is there some thing we all need to understand more is there ways we can help to process different people in different countries better is there because uh because we do need to get those people and we do need to in eight months get as close to 12,000 people as possible we should and I have to believe that there are people working towards that goal so.. So at least that and um, what was your other question?
Damon: Why is it so important? What do you think needs to be (interrupted) Why is Iraq important?
Jolie: Well as I said, if it is not stable it can affect the entire Middle East and that will effect our entire world. If you don’t simply want to look at it as of course it’s important because there are human beings living here .. I don’t see borders and I see lives and I see children and this is you know an environment where there is a war but there is a humanitarian crisis. And they have to be addressed simultaneously. We can’t wait for one to end to then finally take the time to address the other, it has to start right now.
Damon: There are reports out of Hollywood that… (laughs)
Jolie: Oh don’t. Stop it. (interupts I had to ask) Stay true to your tradition. You’re CNN. Don’t do it!
Damon: I know that’s why I have to… (Laughs)
Jolie: But I don’t have to answer. OK?