One of Hollywood’s leading actresses, Angelina Jolie is also noted for her humanitarian efforts.
Jolie recently visited Bangladesh for the first time as the special envoy of UNHCR to access humanitarian needs of the Rohingya people who fled their homes in Myanmar and crossed over to Bangladesh to escape state-sponsored prosecution.
A household name across the world, Jolie stole the hearts of Bangladeshi film lovers for her portrayal of Lara Croft in 2001 Hollywood action-adventure film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, which was filmed in Cambodia and gave the viewers a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the country.
However, the film did not portray the sufferings of the people in war-torn Cambodia which Jolie witnessed while filming Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in 2001 — an experience which left a lasting impression on her. She felt that she had to stand beside the hapless refugees and displaced people.
She eventually turned to The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and was named UNHCR goodwill ambassador at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva on August 27, 2001 and after more than a decade of service as a UNHCR goodwill ambassador, Jolie was promoted to the rank of special envoy on April 17, 2012.
What started in Cambodia in 2001 took Jolie on a life-changing journey across the globe.
Jolie’s visit to Bangladesh was her 64th mission with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, since 2001, which received wide-scale coverage in different international media.
Jolie began her three-day visit on February 4. She went to Chakmarkul and Kutupalong Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar.
Bangladesh had been heavily affected by the influx of more than 730,000 Rohingyas forcefully displaced from Myanmar since August 2017 and now hosts nearly a million Myanmar nationals.
During her visit to the camps she heard testimonies from Rohingya women, children and men who had fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh. Besides, she witnessed the registration process of the Rohingyas, visited a transit centre for newly arrived Rohingyas and a hospital, giving much-needed care and support to women and girls.
Jolie held a press conference in Kutupalong on February 5 where she urged the Myanmar authorities to show genuine commitment to end the cycle of violence, displacement, and improve the conditions for all communities in Rakhine State, including the Rohingyas.
‘While UNHCR is ready to support efforts to improve conditions, there has been very little progress on the ground. The Rohingyas cannot return to Myanmar at this juncture,’ she said at the press conference at Kutupalong Rohingya camp.
Jolie said that the Rohingyas had every right to live in security, to be free to practice their religion and coexist with people of other faiths and ethnicities.
‘You’ve every right not to be stateless, and the way you have been treated shames us all.’
She said a test and measure of any government was how they treated the most vulnerable people in the society, and how they treated those who stood up for the vulnerable and spoke out for the atrocities committed against them.
‘The people responsible for human rights violations must be held accountable for their actions,’ said the UNHCR special envoy.
‘And they’ve an absolute right to return home, but only when they feel safe enough to do so voluntarily and they know that their rights will be respected,’ she added.
Jolie concluded her visit in Dhaka after official meetings with prime minister Sheikh Hasina and the foreign minister AK Abdul Momen on February 6.
Since 2001, Jolie has visited refugee camps in different countries including Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Pakistan, Thailand, Ecuador, Kosovo, Kenya, Namibia, Sri Lanka, North Caucasus, Jordan, Egypt, Costa Rica, Chad, Syria, Haiti, Iraq and others to raise awareness about the plight of refugees and displaced people. Previously she met with the members of forcibly displaced Rohingya people during a prior visit to Myanmar in July 2015 and in India in November 2006.
She has received Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and honorary damehood of the Order of St Michael and St George (DCMG), among other honours, in recognition of her humanitarian efforts.
Angelina Jolie was born to Jon Voight and Marcheline Bertrand in Los Angeles, California on June 4, 1975.
Her film career began with the low-budget production Cyborg 2 (1993). She later played lead in Hackers (1995) and acted in films like George Wallace (1997) and Gia (1998). She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Girl, Interrupted (1999).
Besides Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), Jolie received huge acclaim for her acting in films like Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), A Mighty Heart (2007), Wanted (2008), Salt (2010), Maleficent (2014) and others. Among her directorial ventures are A Place in Time (2007), In the Land of Blood and Honey (2011), Unbroken (2014), By the Sea (2015) and First They Killed My Father (2017).
Jolie separated from her third husband, actor Brad Pitt, in September 2016. They have six children together, three of whom were adopted internationally.
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