The crisis facing Iraq has plunged the country into its darkest period in recent memory. Those who wish to know the real nature of the conflict, we need to listen to those who suffer every day.
We need to ask what they need and we need to ask how we can help. In every visit I make to the shelters I hear so many stories of despair, hunger and heartbreak; stories of how families and lovers and friends and neighbors have been torn apart by the brutality and ever present nature of the conflict.
Many of these stories are the same. Taxi drivers, intellectuals, children, women, police officers, judges, militias, religious figures and tribal sheikhs each know someone who has fled, been killed, lost their home or their family or had some tragedy befall them if that someone is not them. Tragedy is everywhere.
These stories tell us how we can understand what is happening in Iraq. Accounts of politicians which feature so prominently in the media are unable to tell the true stories of struggle in Iraq, and they cannot help us to understand the solution to violence and hatred. Often these so called leaders are an obstacle in themselves, preying on the crisis to serve their own agenda and deepening the sectarian divide for personal gain.
In November, I once again visited Iraq to collect testimonies and learn about the displaced people, hoping to spread their message and gain them some much needed support.
Iraqi-born poet Amal al-Jubouri may not have the Hollywood recognition of Angelina Jolie, but both women are artists who have decided to use their talents and profile to help the victims of war.
When al-Jubouri, one of foremost poets writing in Arabic, met Jolie this year, she urged the actress and U.N. humanitarian envoy to go with her and see the worsening hardships in her homeland. Jolie has already visited Iraq in previous years.
“I said: ‘Iraq is burning, Angelina.’ She told me she would love to go to Iraq,” al-Jubouri said of her meeting with Jolie, a special envoy for the refugee agency UNHCR.