The dilemma of travel to countries that violate human rights

Iranians are terrorists, the Chinese eats dogs and spit on everything, all Indian men see women as objects and US guys are superficial and fat. You don’t agree? Read on! About the dilemma of travel to countries that violate human rights.

Countries that violate human rights

Iran is a huge topic in the news nowadays. Mostly because of the Iranian nuclear dispute. But also because of an enormous growth of the tourism industry. In big cities like Tehran or Isfahan hotels are fully booked and tour providers are booked out until 2016.

The press is getting excited about the immense beauty of the country, its surreal landscapes, ancient cities and majestic mosques.

Countries that violate human rights
The dilemma of travel to countries that violate human rights: Should we travel to Iran?

But there is another point that is in focus of world media: the government, that disdains human laws and rights. Everybody who travels to Iran or is about to plan a trip is well aware of that fact. Coming from Europe, the US or developed Asian countries for example, we are mostly very well informed about these topics.

Nevertheless, before my first trip to Iran in May 2014, I was asked so many times for my opinion about the country, about if I wouldn’t care about the regime and their political oppressions. And why the heck I had the idea to travel to Iran at all…

In the past years I have travelled to China, IranIsrael etc. And of course I think about, if it is morally questionable to spend my money in states like these as a tourist. In states where everybody knows that there is something bad going on. May it be corruption, death penalty or the involvement in a war.

Imagine that: Every single time somebody asks me about my reasons to travel to Iran, about why I visit a country with an unpredictable government and nuclear power, I turn the tables.

I ask back about his or her last trip. China maybe? The US? They both have death penalty as well; in China even more people are executed every year than in the rest of the world. The United States may have fewer death sentences than some others, but human rights violation like in Guantanamo are still an important topic. Nevertheless, you should not dismiss a travel destination by saying this country is 100% evil and the other is just 80%.

Countries that violate human rights
Countries that violate human rights: The US, land of dreams for everyone?

Don’t get me wrong, I love being in the US and every single moment I spent in China. But no one ever asked me these questions when I spoke about my travel plans to these areas of the world. No one ever asked “Is it safe in the US?” or “What do you think about the human rights violations in America?”

Openness is more than not complaining about page 1.

People seem to ask these kind of questions only about countries that they are not aware of, about places that they don’t know. You watch the news, read newspapers, are interested in the world. But openness is more than not complaining about page 1.
It’s about going out there and making up your own mind. Please don’t believe the hype! Get to the point, get an idea of the position of the government and don’t mix this up the with its people.

Iran_Anekdotique_USA Countries that violate human rights
Countries that violate human rights: Did you ever think of the US?

We forget, that leadership is just one part of a country. There are the people, the culture, the countryside, the language, all the stuff we love to explore and get an idea of the life and habits of its inhabitants, about our world.

What would be, if nobody would explore countries like Germany or Italy? Would we know the truth about the people who live there? Would we know about their culture, about how life works over there? Would we all love spaghetti so much?

I often ask myself: What are people scared of? A foreign culture? Other religions? Different cuisines? Seriously? Being a tourist isn’t being a political sympathizer. Ask yourself: “Do I support everything my own government does? Am I ok with the elections?”

World media plays an important role in this one-sided thinking. Your local TV station that has one thing in focus: breaking news. The more extreme the better. This results in often very bad and sad news. And very unilateral. But the rest is faded out for us.

Countries that violate human rights
Countries that violate human rights: Where do you draw the line?

Stay curious. Not for newspapers or TV shows. But for the smell of the places, for the vibe of the cities, the beauty of the countryside, for the food, the drinks, the air. For the soul of the people, their behaviors and traditions. For the unknown corners of the world that are waiting to be discovered. You can learn so much.

We are not just German or French or British or American, we are humans. This might sound cheesy to you, but it’s just like that. The differences between us might not be as big as you might ever have thought.

I never wanted to support a government with a trip to any country. Not the US, not Iran, not Israel or the State of Whatever. I don’t want to come to any governments defence or relativize their acting. I think our prejudices are partially right, but you should do everything possible to uncover it. Of course they get my money, that I spend over there. But the country needs more then this. They, the PEOPLE, they need us. And we need them. Why?

Clemens from Anekdotique in IranCountries that violate human rights
Countries that violate human rights: Can we shed prejudices about Islam?

During my trips to India, Thailand or China, I have learned so much about my behaviour, my luck and my position as a German in the world. As a traveller I support the dialog between countries and perhaps even the dialog between governments – even if only a tiny bit. And every connection, every approach leads to apprehension. On both sides.

We don’t need to bring our idea of a good life (however we define it), of democracy, religion and culture to these countries. This is not possible and not our duty. Try to rethink the way you see the world. Go out and make up our mind.

I will stay curious. What about you?

Countries that violate human rights

Note: This post is not presented by anyone but me. It doesn’t need a sponsor or cooperation. All views expressed above are mine, and mine only.

Further interested in the topic? I recommend to check out these books:

Hooked? Check these articles about the countries mentioned:

• Backpacking Iran: All you need to know

• Beats, bombs and Bauhaus: Israel’s port city of Tel Aviv

• How to do Solo Travel as a Western Woman in Iran

• The best sights & cities in Iran: Highlights of 1001 nights

• 10 reasons why Beijing is worth a trip

• New York Instagram Diary Part1, Part 2 & Part 3

• Ocean Grove on the Jersey Shore: An American Dream

  1. Mark says:

    Loved this post. I just published a post somewhat similar a couple days ago. About concentrating on the people in these countries over their governments, You might like it:

  2. Clemens you raise a very interesting topic for discussion.

    I agree with your view and think that if we assessed everywhere we went then we’d find fault no matter where we travelled to. No country or location is perfect in every right. Mind you we all have differing personal and moral standards.

    I’ve travelled to the US and to China many, many times. Yes, I’m not comfortable with some of things that may go on there. However I now know a small portion of the people who live in those places and know them as people, not someone/thing portrayed by a media with an agenda to a story.

    Governments will be governments, rightly or wrongly in what they do. People are people, some are better than others. Why should they and we be deprived of meeting because of the actions of someone else?

  3. Annika says:

    This is a great post and really speaks to me. Funny how I would instantly agree with you, how it is all about the people that we meet not about governments and how really every country has issues – but I was insistent on not visiting China as I really have a problem with their treatment of Tibet for personal reason . But even with my reasons being personal, your sentiment still stands – it’s all about the people!

  4. I agree that it’s about people and crossing boundaries to learn what life is like. I lived in China and Vietnam for a number of years and found that a lot of people are disenchanted with their governments. But there simply aren’t many options for them to change their situation.

  5. motahare says:

    I like your opinions!
    Thanks so much for separated government and people!

  6. Kendal says:

    I guess my concern is… if I travel to one of these countries, will I have to cover myself up? Will I have to wear something I don’t believe in wearing? And if I don’t, will something bad happen to me? In places where you hear stories of women being treated as less than human… I don’t know. I think it’s good to have awareness that there are places in the world where you don’t have the same freedoms as you have in other places, but I don’t know if I could visit without wanting to get involved in creating change…

  7. Theresa says:

    Wow, what a great and honest post! I totally agree with you!
    I just stumbled upon your blog and I instantly fell in love! Thank you for writing this amazing travel blog!

    all the best, Theresa


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