You Ought to NOT Go to Syria Proper Now

One of the many damaged buildings in Syria

Posted: 2/27/2020 | February 27th, 2020

For those who’re like me, you affiliate journey with optimistic feelings: the sensation of the solar in your shoulders midway around the globe, of breaking bread with folks from cultures completely different than your individual, and the inside pleasure of constructing your method throughout unknown lands safely.

Journey improves our lives, broadens our horizons, and helps us perceive the world we inhabit.

But these are experiences few people will ever have.

As widespread because it has turn into in recent times, journey remains to be a privilege afforded solely to some.

That’s very true of struggle zones, the place residents are extra involved about dwelling by way of the day than seeing the wonders of the world. Issues we take with no consideration — the power to activate a faucet and get drinkable water, to flick a swap and get mild, to stroll to the shop and discover meals on the cabinets — are uncommon or absent for these struggling by way of such conflicts.

Whereas there many locations on the earth which might be like that, as we speak I wish to speak about one specifically: Syria.

Currently, I’ve seen a variety of people go to Syria as vacationers. When requested why, they often speak about attempting to spotlight the great folks within the nation and the way such locations aren’t “simply what you see within the media.”

And whereas each of these issues are nearly at all times true, I don’t assume one ought to go to battle zones as a vacationer — whether or not you’re a author, blogger, or on a regular basis Joe or Jane. I feel it’s reckless and reveals a whole lack of empathy and respect for the folks struggling by way of the horrors of struggle. It’s self-centered. It doesn’t really assist in any possible way. It often creates a distorted image of the state of affairs. It’s a misuse of Western privilege.

Nobody doubts there are great folks and locations in Syria. In reality, one in all my biggest journey regrets isn’t having visited Syria earlier than the battle, as a result of pals waxed poetic about how the hospitality and openness of the locals have been second to none.

And the media is at all times extra “doom and gloom” than the truth on the bottom.

However that doesn’t change the very fact that there’s a persevering with struggle occurring in Syria the place thousands and thousands proceed to be displaced and dying. Whereas bloggers or vacationers are there taking photos, tons of of 1000’s are freezing.

The nation has been in a civil struggle for near 9 years. Over 400,000 civilians have been killed (some estimates put that quantity as excessive as 585,000). That’s greater than your entire inhabitants of locations equivalent to Iceland, Belize, the Bahamas, or Malta.

On high of that, over 13 million folks have been displaced — with half of these being pressured to go away the nation fully. And plenty of can by no means return as a consequence of retaliation from authorities forces in opposition to them or their households.

And nearly half of the faculties within the nation have been affected, with one in three kids unable to attend.

And whereas ISIS has been pushed again, they nonetheless have management of some areas, and due to Trump, there’s additionally now an inflow of each Turkish and Russian troops. (And that’s solely inflicting extra chaos.)

As thousands and thousands undergo by way of ongoing struggle, chemical assaults, and displacement, visiting as a vacationer and having a enjoyable time is a horrifying thought to me. It makes those that go appear extra involved with their ego than the plight of the nation. “Nicely, I simply actually wish to see the nation, so fuck those that are struggling!”

Battle zones usually are not vacationer sights. Bombed buildings that was once stuffed with life usually are not backdrops for Instagram pictures.

Whereas thousands and thousands undergo and die simply hours away or are displaced and can’t return residence, bloggers or vacationers shouldn’t be frolicking within the locations the place they used to stay and giggle and spend time with their kids, snapping photos and having enjoyable whereas giving lip service about the way it’s unhappy to see what is occurring to the nation. That to me looks like a significant disconnect.

If somebody desires to go there and report as a journalist to teach the world and attempt to mobilize motion to cease the battle, that’s one factor.

However I’ve but to see one one who wasn’t an precise journalist from the mainstream information media try this. As an alternative, I hear speak about how “difficult” the state of affairs is, how issues are being rebuilt, and the way everyone seems to be blissful and issues are protected, whitewashing the struggle crimes of President Assad. For those who observe these accounts, you get the impression the worst is behind the nation. (It’s not. And the preventing in Idlib is getting extremely worse, with kids being tremendously affected.)

However that’s as a result of these bloggers are (a) in government-controlled territory and (b) doubtless speaking to Assad supporters or these too afraid to talk out.

Then there’s willful ignorance. Take the instance of Drew Binsky. I’ve by no means met him, although I do get pleasure from his movies. And I’m certain he’s a well-intentioned man. However he went to Syria and, when challenged about this for a similar causes I’m mentioning, mentioned, and I quote:

I do know that Syria has been in a relentless state of struggle for almost a decade and I select to not make {that a} focus. Why? It’s a lose-lose for me, as a result of A) it’s a sensitive topic and B) I don’t know a lot in regards to the struggle and politics basically. In reality, I can’t even inform you a factor about American politics cuz I don’t actually care! I’ve spent the final eight years on the street and I’ve purposely separated myself from any politics as a result of I select to spend my time doing different issues that make me blissful. I suppose the underside line right here is that extra eyeballs on my movies means extra haters, and everyone knows that haters are gonna hate!

Apparently, individuals who deliver up the notion that perhaps going to a struggle zone isn’t a good suggestion are haters. And right here he admits to not realizing a lot in regards to the struggle or caring an excessive amount of in regards to the topic.

How will you go to a rustic torn by struggle and never wish to study extra about it?

How will you have a platform and search to teach folks and never speak in regards to the battle? It’s a reasonably necessary factor!

And he’s not the one one who has carried out this, simply essentially the most well-known. There have been many others. (It might be onerous to hyperlink to all of them, however they’re simple to search out by way of a Google or Instagram search.)

I feel journeys like these to struggle zones or repressive regimes are additional examples of the shortage of ethics within the on-line journey business, in addition to “have a look at me” vs. “study from me” writing that places the reader second to the influencer’s personal ego. Fairly than utilizing this go to as a teachable second to develop folks’s data, educate, and speak about a dire state of affairs, they go to with out interested by that deeper impression.

However in opposition to the backdrop of struggle, egos should wait.

A go to to government-controlled territory throughout an ongoing battle is just taking part in into the propaganda that claims that the information is exaggerating the plight of the folks. What gassing by the Assad regime? What struggle crimes? What factionalism? There’s nothing to see right here, proper?

Lots of the Syrians I spoke to had even fewer type phrases for many who go there. They talked of those that go to now as “taking pleasure in others’ distress,” whitewashing Assad’s crimes, and Western privilege. This quote from Zaina Erhaim, an exiled Syrian journalist, sums up what I heard from Syrians I spoke with:

Moreover the energetic struggle occurring and tens of civilians being killed every day, beside whitewashing Assad as [someone] who has introduced life and safety again, utilizing their privileged background [to get] launched if stopped at checkpoints, above all that, to cross to our residence the place half of us are forbidden from going to, as we’re pressured into displacement and in exile, to stroll above our recollections and wounds so as to get some further views, is inhuman.

Their blogs step on our trauma as they take smiling photos in our streets, with our destroyed properties and favourite eating places within the background, whereas we’re prevented from going again to as a result of we merely did our work and protested for fundamental rights.


I feel journey boycotts are dumb. Individuals are their governments. However when struggle is occurring and thousands and thousands are dying and displaced, our need to journey should wait. When Syria and these different international locations are carried out preventing and should be rebuilt, tourism {dollars} are a beautiful method to assist make that occur.

Take Afghanistan or Iraq. Whereas turmoil nonetheless exists there, these international locations try to choose up the items and rebuild. There are new governments, and the society is attempting to maneuver previous the battle. There’s a functioning economic system and civil society. Now is the time to go to these locations.

However Syria? There may be nonetheless an energetic battle with different nations rolling tanks by way of a part of the nation. (Turkey and Russia are in battle there, and Israel not too long ago despatched missiles into Damascus). Wait till the battle is over, folks aren’t dying and ravenous within the streets, and there’s (hopefully) some kind of brokered truce or long-lasting cease-fire.

That’s when folks will want our tourism {dollars}.

If you wish to assist these in Syria, foyer governments to attempt to discover a technique to finish the battle. Give to assist organizations like these:

However don’t go go to. Don’t give Assad his propaganda wins. Don’t make folks assume all the pieces is okay and the world ought to transfer on. Don’t go to a spot the place a lot struggling is happening simply since you wish to see it. It’s simply the mistaken factor to do.

Journey enriches the thoughts and expands the soul.

However it loses its attraction when a spot that’s nonetheless shattered like glass and people round you might be mired in a battle with out finish.

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