“Iran is as Safe as Sweden” -- Regime Propaganda Reaches New, Farcical Heights

If you’re considering travel to Iran, you would be wise to check on your country’s travel advisory. Regardless of nationality, the same stark warnings appear: Canadians “risk arbitrary detention and arrest;” the Spanish government “cannot protect dual nations;” France has “restricted all non-essential travel for diplomats” due to bomb plots; Australia “now recommend[s] you reconsider your need to travel to Iran due to the risk of arbitrary detention or arrest (see Safety and security);” New Zealanders should “exercise increased caution due to the potential for civil unrest and the regional threat of terrorism.” Even the Swiss, through which the U.S. conducts its Iran engagement, concede there is “no possibility to support Swiss-Iranian dual citizens who have difficulties with Iranian authorities.” And two months ago, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs warned its fisherman working on foreign vessels to stay away from Iranian shorelines because they “had been detained/arrested by Iranian Authorities.”

The message is clear and consistent: going to (or close to) Iran is an incredibly dangerous enterprise.

But that’s not how the Iranian regime paints it. In their upside-down world, a visit to the Islamic Republic is as untroubled as a weekend sojourn to Stockholm. Literally. Without a flicker of irony or shame, the Iranian Embassy in Copenhagen states, “Iran is as safe as Sweden when it comes to security.”

This ludicrous slice of bluster comes courtesy of a map produced by International SOS. Of course, the crucial piece of information that is omitted is the likelihood of arbitrary arrest and detention, trumped-up charges of “spying” or collusion with a criminal regime. There are so many cases of innocent foreign civilians locked up on such bogus allegations: Baquer Namazi, Siamak Namazi, Jason Rezaian, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Xiyue Wang and Nizar Zakka to name but a few.

This shoddy and deceptive splicing of information is woven into the fabric of Iran’s authoritarian top-down state-controlled society. As a repressive authoritarian regime with zero respect for freedoms that Westerners take for granted, it’s no surprise. It is unlikely there is a single Iranian website that has not been subjected to censorship or selective editing. For instance, hundreds of Iranian business sites profess to have ties with Western firms in a concerted nationwide bid to show Iran as an “open” and business-friendly place. On closer inspection, of course, the claims are simply fabricated – as confirmed by the responses UANI has received from Western companies. And reading Iran’s daily news and economic articles is truly an Orwellian experience. While Americans on all sides argue about the existence of “fake news” in the U.S., there would be almost unanimous consensus about Iran’s press.

It seems that even in the interests of encouraging foreign travel and pretending to the world that it is a perfectly normal country like Sweden - rather than the reality of being world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism - Iran is quite willing to put the lives of foreign nationals at risk with these lies.  Were they able to speak, all those unjustly imprisoned in Tehran would have a far different story to tell.