And why you should really visit Syria!
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As soon as you start research about traveling to Syria on the internet, you quickly come across this question: Is it ethical to travel to Syria? The purpose of this article is to explain in more detail what is behind it, what it means and provide you with details, why it is definitely justifiable!
A number of YouTubers and Instagram personalities have travelled to Syria in recent years. Some posts of them have caused massive shitstorms. The reason for this is an insensitive way of dealing with the feelings of Syrians in the country itself, but also living in exile. Another reason for these shitstorms was that the YouTube videos seemed more like propaganda and concealed the fact that the person was on a private tour.
Travel-vlogger Nomadic Matt even writes an entire article on why one should NOT travel to Syria for ethical (not security) reasons, and gets really aggressive and vocal about those who "abuse their western privilege to travel to Syria."
A trip to Syria should always be organized sensitively and culturally appropriate. But doesn't that also apply to any other destination?
Some say: “A trip to Syria is a holiday in other people's misery”
A quick counter-question: What about volunteers who travel to Africa during their gap year to have their picture taken with black babies on their laps while handing out a few lollipops? What
about unethical human safaris in Ethiopia or Papua New Guinea just to post photos on Instagram with real “natives”?
Unethical behaviour on a trip comes from the traveller, not from the destination per se. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with a trip to Syria if you treat the local population with respect, responsibility and empathy.
Some say: “A trip to Syria condones the human rights abuses that are happening in the country”
Then please don't travel to certain countries in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, South America, you name them ... Let's be honest, when we boycott tourism, it doesn't hit the people we want to
punish the least. On the contrary, it affects ordinary people in towns and villages whose source of income is tourism. For Syria, tourism is currently one of the few areas that is not affected by
the global sanctions that have been imposed. Like almost everything else in the country... It is therefore extremely important to boost tourism in the country. Many people can no longer work in
the jobs they had before the war. Tourism is a potential new mainstay. The motivation to travel to Syria should not be politics. Make sure yourself is not being photographed in front of ruins and
walls that have been shot through. Your motivation to travel to Syria should be the grounded human-to-human relationships, the everyday encounters on the street, at the bus stop, in the café,
through which you experience the country in a simple human and approachable way!!
Another important aspect: Even if your trip is booked through an agency, you have the opportunity to actively help shape it. You can decide where to eat, where to buy your souvenirs, where to spend your money - and you will see with your own eyes that the money goes where you want it to go. Read more about Group Tours in my FAQ article.
In fact, community-based responsible tourism is a powerful tool to establish an unbiased cultural exchange between locals and foreign visitors. In Sri Lanka, the figures even show that tourism has further stabilized peace in the country: a 20% increase in the tourism sector has reduced all conflicts in the country by 15%.
Some say: “A trip to Syria gives a false impression of the security situation in Syria”
Fact is that millions of Syrians in exile are not yet able to return to their home country and maybe never will. There are different reasons for this. If they enter the country, these people face rejection and even arrest. But Syrians who come back may no longer be welcome in their neighbourhoods or their property no longer exists. Also, Syrian who have gained residence in new countries, might lose this status if they enter Syria.
Furthermore, many Syrians are likely be forced into the military as soon as they cross the border - as per country law. In this case, they cannot leave the country again if they want to.
General statements such as “Syria is completely safe” should therefore be treated and used with caution and may-be avoided out of respect for Syrians living in exile. Whenever I talk about
safety, I will therefore make it very clear that I subjectively perceived the situation as safe. I am travelling on a German passport. The travel agency obtains permits for every excursion and
knows exactly where we can go. I never stay in one place for long. So you always have to be aware that tourists have completely different starting point to say: Syria is
Before my trip, I spoke to three people from Syria (now living in Jordan) about this topic. Because if my presence as a tourists would really bother Syrian people, I would not have travelled...
However, they all agreed: “If you have the opportunity to visit Syria, do it! It is such a wonderful country.”
General conclusion about travelling to Syria
You will surely have your own reasons why you want to travel to Syria. Additionally, there are a few general conclusions travelling to Syria is perfectly justifiable:
- Travel breaks prejudices and stereotypes. And above all in post-war societies like Syria, about which there is very little and one-sided information in the media.
- You contribute to an exchange between cultures and religions on an equal footing.
- You correct assumptions you had and experience positive surprises.
- You show interest in the local people and their history. This is exactly what a society in the process of rebuilding wants!
- You learn that Syria is not only a nation of war, but a source of origin of mankind. You'll learn about culture and history like almost no other country in the world can offer!
- People are welcoming and warm-hearted! They love to see tourists come back to Syria.
- As a tourists, with your tour agency and the tour guide as your support, it is absolutly fine to travel beauitiful Syria!