Angelina Jolie visits Iraq to speak with Mosul girls about school

The city has been greatly affected by ISIS

Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie has visited West Mosul, Iraq, less than a year after the city was liberated from three years of a brutal ISIS occupation. While there, she spoke with a father and his children, including two girls, who have been unable to attend school.

“The girls I met talked about the years of not being able to go to school, and of seeing people killed, and of feeling too afraid to leave their houses,” Jolie tells PEOPLE while speaking in front of the ruins of the Al-NuriMosque. “It is deeply upsetting that people who have endured unparalleled brutality have so little as they try, somehow, to rebuild the lives they once had.”

The hundreds of thousands of Mosul residents have been affected by the horrors of war which have included explosions and shootings. Many have been used as human shields and became targets as they tried leaving the city. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has reported that it’s been “the largest and longest urban battle since World War II.”

At least forty thousand homes need to be restored or built as more than two million people have been displaced and 3.8 million as returnees. Jolie emphasizes the need for recovery, although she understands the sacrifices the citizens have made for liberation.

“This is the worst devastation I have seen in all my years working with UNHCR,” Jolie says. “People here have lost everything: their homes are destroyed. They are destitute. They have no medicine for their children, and many have no running water or basic services. They are still surrounded by bodies in the rubble. After the unimaginable trauma of the occupation, they are now trying to rebuild their homes, often with little or no assistance.”

Rebuilding the city will be extensive, but restoring education is an important task as the children are suffering the most. Restoring education will give the kids a brighter and more secure future. Incorporating more arts, such as music, aerobics and dance, sports, visual arts and more, will give kids a chance to express themselves in these war-torn countries.

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