Saturday, June 18, 2011

Angelina Jolie Visits Syrian Refugees

Thousands of desperate Syrian refugees who fled to Turkey after experiencing a government crackdown were blessed by the world’s “Goodness Angel,” movie star and United Nations goodwill ambassador Angelina Jolie.

The actress arrived Friday ‘n the southern Turkish province of Hatay, where she visited one of the Syrian refugee camps in the center of Hatay’s Altınözü district.

“Goodness Angel of the World, Welcome,” read a large banner at the entrance of the Altınözü camp, where dozens of locals and media representatives from Turkey and abroad had gathered, trying to grasp a look at the actress. Many people gathered at balconies and roofs of the houses located in front of the camp entrance, and people were even hanging on the trees nearby, but none was able to see Jolie, as she entered the camp with her dark-glassed vehicle.

Shortly after Jolie entered the camp tens of Syrians, mostly children and young people appeared in the entrance of the campus, making their voices be heard loudly for the first time. They shouted slogans and carried banners in Arabic. The protest lasted for about 10 minutes.

No media could enter the refugees’ campus during Jolie’s visit, upon the actress’ request, who refused to have any meeting with the press. Media representatives were informed that photographs and recordings of her visit within the camps would be distributed afterwards. The footage was to be taken by her private photographer and cameraman.

Strict security measures were taken in Hatay on Friday, upon the actress’ arrival, with police forces surrounding the airport and blocking traffic in the areas where the convoy would pass through.
Jolie was welcomed at the southern province’s airport by the Hatay governor, representatives from Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, as well as UNHCR Turkey Representative, Carol Batchelor and several UNHCR staff. She came to Turkey from Malta with a special jet, which landed in Hatay at 3 p.m. The plane waited at the airport for about an hour, while she and her team, with UNHCR staffers, met with the authorities and waited for the completion of identification procedures.

Very few fans managed to come to the airport to welcome the actress, as the airport is about 10 kilometers away from the city center. “Angelina, kiss me for world peace,” read a banner held by two teenagers, who, together with another few fans, were asked to stay far away from the VIP entrance by the Turkish police.

Early this week, the Foreign Ministry had received a request from Jolie, who is has been a U.N. goodwill ambassador since 2001. The actress reportedly thanked the Turkish government and authorities for approving her visit and hosting her in Turkey.

The flow of Syrian refugees to the Turkish border continued Wednesday and Thursday. According to Turkish Foreign Ministry officials, more than 9,600 Syrians have come to Turkey thus far, many fleeing violence in the northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughour and surrounding villages in Syria.

Ankara is considering opening a humanitarian aid corridor into Syria to deliver aid to civilians who have been left homeless.

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