IDPs, refugees, and I don’t usually post this much
Angelina Jolie has an editorial in the WaPo about her recent trip to Iraq. A lot of what she says isn’t surprising – masses of refugees and internally displaced people struggling to find adequate medical care, food, water, and shelter while facing a bleak and unknown future – but there was one face I wasn’t aware of that isn’t so surprising when you stop and think about it but is a little surprising at first glance: one-sixth of Jordan’s population today is Iraqi refugees. One-sixth the population of Jordan is slightly over 1 million. 1,000,000 refugees. In Jordan. That’s roughly as many people in a city the size of San Jose or Dallas.
It’s a sad fact that refugees and IDPs are largely forgotten in conflicts, especially after the conflicts end. The fire fights stop, the troops pull out, and millions are left without jobs and homes in countries without infrastructure, economic stability, and in some cases, a firm government. Women experience another blow in that many of them, widowed and with children to support, can’t find enough work to sustain their families or, worst case scenarios, can’t find work at all because in many of these countries, they aren’t allowed to work or are shunned from their communities. Rape has been used time and again as a war tactic (especially in Darfur, where non-Arab Sudanese women are raped by members of the janjaweed in hopes that the women will become pregnant and give birth to Arab children, essentially “breeding out” non-Arab Sudanese blood), is largely ignored by the global community, and works very well to completely cripple societies both during and after conflicts. Raped women are strapped with a stigma that shames them into not speaking up, seeking support, or fighting for their rights as humans, or they are shunned by friends, family, and strangers alike for being defiled and impure. The situation only worsens if the women have children as a result of the rapes. Women are ambushed when they leave the “security” of the camps for firewood, food, or water.
I hope that everyone, regardless of their opinion of Angelina Jolie, will read her editorial piece. We might not want to acknowledge what we’ve helped create and worsen but we at least owe it to the women and children to remember their plight and how our war is changing their lives forever.