You Ought to NOT Go to Syria Proper Now

One of the many damaged buildings in Syria
Posted: 2/27/2020 | February 27th, 2020

When you’re like me, you affiliate journey with constructive feelings: the sensation of the solar in your shoulders midway all over the world, of breaking bread with folks from cultures completely different than your personal, and the inside pleasure of constructing your approach 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 change into in recent times, journey remains to be a privilege afforded solely to some.

That’s very true of conflict zones, the place residents are extra involved about residing via the day than seeing the wonders of the world. Matters we take as a right — the flexibility to activate a faucet and get drinkable water, to flick a change and get gentle, to stroll to the shop and discover meals on the cabinets — are uncommon or absent for these struggling via such conflicts.

Whereas there many locations on this planet which can be like that, immediately I need to discuss one specifically: Syria.

Currently, I’ve seen quite a lot of people go to Syria as vacationers. When requested why, they normally discuss attempting to spotlight the nice folks within the nation and the way such locations aren’t “simply what you see within the media.”

And whereas each of these matters are virtually 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 exhibits an entire lack of empathy and respect for the folks struggling via the horrors of conflict. It’s self-centered. It doesn’t truly assist in any possible way. It normally creates a distorted image of the scenario. It’s a misuse of Western privilege.

Nobody doubts there are fantastic folks and locations in Syria. Actually, considered one of my biggest journey regrets will not be having visited Syria earlier than the battle, as a result of buddies waxed poetic about how the hospitality and openness of the locals had 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 conflict happening in Syria the place hundreds of thousands proceed to be displaced and dying. Whereas bloggers or vacationers are there taking footage, a whole bunch of 1000’s are freezing.

The nation has been in a civil conflict 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 the whole inhabitants of locations reminiscent of Iceland, Belize, the Bahamas, or Malta.

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

And virtually 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 because of Trump, there’s additionally now an inflow of each Turkish and Russian troops. (And that’s solely inflicting extra chaos.)

As hundreds of thousands endure via ongoing conflict, 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. “Effectively, I simply actually need to see the nation, so fuck those that are struggling!”

Battle zones should not vacationer sights. Bombed buildings that was once full of life should not backdrops for Instagram pictures.

Whereas hundreds of thousands endure and die simply hours away or are displaced and can’t return dwelling, bloggers or vacationers shouldn’t be frolicking within the locations the place they used to reside and giggle and spend time with their kids, snapping footage 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 serious disconnect.

If somebody needs to go there and report as a journalist to coach the world and attempt to mobilize motion to cease the battle, that’s one matter.

However I’ve but to see one one who wasn’t an precise journalist from the mainstream information media do this. As a substitute, I hear discuss how “sophisticated” the scenario is, how matters are being rebuilt, and the way everyone seems to be joyful and matters are secure, whitewashing the conflict crimes of President Assad. When you 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 significantly 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 take pleasure in 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 citing, mentioned, and I quote:

I do know that Syria has been in a relentless state of conflict 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 conflict and politics usually. Actually, I can’t even inform you a matter 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 matters that make me joyful. I assume 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 possibly going to a conflict zone will not be a good suggestion are haters. And right here he admits to not realizing a lot in regards to the conflict or caring an excessive amount of in regards to the topic.

How are you going to go to a rustic torn by conflict and never need to be taught extra about it?

How are you going to have a platform and search to coach folks and never speak in regards to the battle? It’s a fairly necessary matter!

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

I feel journeys like these to conflict zones or repressive regimes are additional examples of the lack of ethics within the on-line journey trade, in addition to “have a look at me” vs. “be taught from me” writing that places the reader second to the influencer’s personal ego. Slightly than utilizing this go to as a teachable second to develop folks’s data, educate, and discuss a dire scenario, they go to with out eager about that deeper influence.

However towards the backdrop of conflict, egos should wait.

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

Lots of the Syrians I spoke to had even fewer form phrases for individuals 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 lively conflict happening and tens of civilians being killed each 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 dwelling the place half of us are forbidden from going to, as we’re pressured into displacement and in exile, to stroll above our reminiscences and wounds with the intention to get some further views, is inhuman.

Their blogs step on our trauma as they take smiling footage in our streets, with our destroyed houses 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 primary rights.


I feel journey boycotts are dumb. Persons are their governments. However when conflict is occurring and hundreds of thousands are dying and displaced, our want to journey should wait. When Syria and these different nations are performed preventing and have to be rebuilt, tourism {dollars} are an exquisite approach to assist make that occur.

Take Afghanistan or Iraq. Whereas turmoil nonetheless exists there, these nations try to select 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 lively battle with different nations rolling tanks via a part of the nation. (Turkey and Russia are in battle there, and Israel just lately despatched missiles into Damascus). Wait till the battle is over, folks aren’t dying and ravenous within the streets, and there’s (hopefully) some form 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 solution to finish the battle. Give to help organizations like these:

However don’t go go to. Don’t give Assad his propaganda wins. Don’t make folks assume the whole lot is ok and the world ought to transfer on. Don’t go to a spot the place a lot struggling is occurring simply since you need to see it. It’s simply the mistaken matter to do.

Journey enriches the thoughts and expands the soul.

But it surely loses its appeal 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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