The actor opens up about why her divorce from Brad Pitt is a human rights issue, escaping Harvey Weinstein and what young activists have taught her

‘People try to lớn stop us speaking up’ – Jolie meets inspirational young campaigners


Angelina Jolie sits at a desk, back straight as a rule và rather regal. Her features are cartoonishly beautiful – straight đen hair, vertiginous cheekbones, huge xanh eyes and lips lượt thích a plumped red sofa. She is talking on Zoom lớn four young activists. It is a horribly apt day khổng lồ be discussing human rights – the Taliban has just captured Ghazni thành phố on its approach to lớn Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.

If this were a movie, you might suspect Jolie was playing a divine leader addressing the fortunate few. Yet it soon becomes apparent that things aren’t quite as they seem. The actor & film director is the one in awe, not the activists. The young people talk about the work they have done raising awareness of the carnage in Syria, the environmental crisis, trans rights & food poverty. Jolie hangs on their every word. She tells them they have inspired her children who follow their work, warns them against burnout, apologises for the failings of her generation and says how honoured she is khổng lồ meet them.

The next evening it is just Jolie và me Zooming. In the background I can hear kids playing. Our conversation is frequently interrupted by the ferocious roar of her rottweiler Dusty, who appears to lớn believe he is a lion. It’s been an even more depressing day for human rights – the Taliban has entered Kabul and toppled the Afghanistan government. Jolie says the only thing giving her hope is the young people we met last night. “They speak about these issues with more urgency và awareness of what is morally right and decent than any politician, any diplomat, any NGOs I’ve worked with.”

She says she can’t stop thinking about Muhammad Najem, a 19-year-old who literally shouted from the rooftops about the Syrian regime’s siege of his trang chủ village, Eastern Ghouta. After his father was killed four years ago in an airstrike on the mosque where he was praying, Muhammad & his brother would wait for the daily bombing to stop, film the carnage from their roof & document the suffering of survivors. He & his family soon became government targets, & fled khổng lồ Turkey from where he spoke to lớn us. It wasn’t just his bravery that was notable; it was the warmth of his smile, his zest for life, despite all he has seen. Since we last spoke, Jolie has Zoomed again with Muhammad and a girl who is campaigning against period poverty. “His relationship to that teenage girl và her activism was more in tune than almost any man I’ve met,” Jolie says. We agree that cloning Muhammad may be the answer to world peace. “He is that evolved man!” Jolie says.

Grrrrrrrrr!” Dusty roars, apparently in agreement.

I had an experience in the States with my own children and I thought... Well, human rights, children’s rightsJolie has spent 20 years campaigning for human rights, first as a goodwill ambassador and then special envoy for the UN high commissioner for refugees. She has carried out more than 60 field missions, invariably with notepad & pen in hand, bearing witness khổng lồ people displaced by war and persecution in countries such as Syria, Sierra Leone, Iraq & Afghanistan.

Now Jolie, 46, has written a book with child rights lawyer Geraldine Van Bueren QC & Amnesty International, called Know Your Rights, a guide for young people named after the Clash tuy nhiên whose title is also tattooed on Jolie’s back. The book lays out all the rights children have under the UN convention on the rights of the child, ratified by 196 countries, explains how lớn claim them và offers advice from young people who have done. Know Your Rights tackles all the big issues in a chatty, accessible way – from the rights lớn life, dignity, health, equality và non-discrimination, criminal justice, a safe place, freedom of thought and expression, privacy, peaceful protest, play and education, to lớn the right lớn protections from harm & armed violence.


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and to former refugee Yoryanis Ojeda in Colombia in 2019. Photographs: Getty ImagesI ask Jolie why she has written the book. “I’ve met too many children who live with the effect of their rights being violated – displaced people, young rape victims. I couldn’t understand why they were still fighting for basic things that were their rights to lớn begin with. It made me very angry. How are we going lớn solve anything if we’re not addressing that, right?” Her explanation is fluent & authoritative – và not surprising.

But the next bit is. “Then I had an experience in the States with my own children và I thought... Well, human rights, children’s rights.” Suddenly the fluency is gone. Her language becomes disjointed and elliptical. “I remembered the rights of the child, and I took them out & looked at them and thought: well, these are for when you’re in a situation và you want to make sure there is tư vấn for the children in your life.”

She apologises, và says she can’t be more direct. “Then I found out the US hadn’t ratified the rights of the child. One of the ways it affects children is their voice in court – a child in Europe would have a better chance of having a voice in court than a child in California. That said a lot to me about this country.”

To be around all these young people who have a sense of fight & rebellion reminds me of who I was when I was youngerWhat happened that made her fear for her children’s rights. “I... I’m still in my own legal situation,” she stammers. “I can’t speak about that.” Look, I say, there has been so much nonsense written about you over the years, it’s impossible to distinguish between truth & fiction – you have to lớn help me understand what you are alluding to. Are you talking about your divorce from Brad Pitt and the allegations you have made against him of domestic abuse? She tells me she is sworn to lớn silence. Well, nod if you’re talking about the divorce & allegations. She nods. Và did she fear for the safety of her children? This time she answers. “Yes, for my family. My whole family.”

It would be amazing, I say, to spend your life on the world stage, highlighting the abuse of children’s rights, & then discover that these same rights may have been compromised so close to home. “Often you cannot recognise something in a personal way, especially if your focus is on the greatest global injustices, because everything else seems smaller. It’s so hard. I’d lượt thích to be able lớn have this discussion and it’s so important...” She makes a couple of efforts to complete her sentence, gives up and starts again. Và now the fluency returns. “I’m not the kind of person who makes decisions like the decisions I had lớn make lightly. It took a lot for me khổng lồ be in a position where I felt I had to separate from the father of my children.”

Angelina Jolie và Brad Pitt were Hollywood’s golden couple; so famous that they had a portmanteau moniker, Brangelina. & Brangelina was, aptly, the ultimate celebrity brand. Both are Oscar winners, among the highest paid stars in the film business (Pitt is said lớn be worth $300m, Jolie $150m), mainstream draws & indie icons, and of course utterly gorgeous (Pitt was twice voted the sexiest man alive by People magazine, while Jolie was named sexiest woman alive by Esquire magazine in 2004). But Brangelina also became a byword for celebrity altrusim và consciousness-raising. Pitt accompanied Jolie on many of her UNHCR trips, they opened schools in war-torn countries, and three of their six children were adopted from countries brutalised by conflict & poverty – 20-year-old Maddox is Cambodian, 17-year-old Pax is Vietnamese and 16-year-old Zahara is Ethiopian. They even managed to lớn manipulate the truyền thông media to their own ends. Faced with the inevitability of being papped when their daughter Shiloh was born in 2006, Jolie & Pitt auctioned off the photoshoot to People magazine in the US & Hello! in Britain for $7.6m. Two years later, when twins Knox & Vivienne arrived, they sold the shoot to lớn the same magazines for an estimated $14m, making them the most expensive celebrity photos in history. On both occasions, the proceeds went to the Jolie-Pitt Foundation khổng lồ fund humanitarian projects. As a couple, they seemed too good (or at least too successful) to lớn be true.

And so it proved. In September 2016, Jolie filed for divorce from Pitt, which was finalised in 2019. But they are still locked in a bitter custody battle, after she alleged domestic violence against him. In November 2016, the FBI announced no charges would be brought against Pitt, và cleared him of any wrongdoing, following an incident a couple of months earlier on their private plane in which it was alleged that a drunk Pitt was abusive with Maddox, then 15. Five days after the incident, Jolie filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences & stating that her decision to kết thúc the marriage “was made for the health of the family”. Pitt admitted he had an alcohol problem (he attended Alcoholics Anonymous after their separation) và that he had yelled at one of his children, but has always denied being physically abusive to lớn them. Jolie refuses khổng lồ say anything about the incident due lớn court proceedings. Pitt’s lawyers declined to bình luận when invited to bởi so by the Guardian.