San Francisco Travel Agency: Go to Iran now!
In a previous blogpost UANI highlighted the astonishing claim by the Iranian embassy in Copenhagen that Iran was “as safe as Sweden.” Now the same ludicrous comparison is being parroted by an American travel agency on the West Coast. “In fact,” writes GeoEx of San Francisco, “our security consultants assess the majority of Iran as low-risk—the same level of risk as Sweden.” The identity of these ‘security consultants’ is unclear, but the reader is directed to another article by a GeoEx writer. ON her article titled ‘Iran Travel Advice & Safety,’ her breathless conclusion is to simply “Go there now!”
Would she have offered the same counsel to Michael White, Xiyue Wang, Baquer Namazi, Simak Namazi – American citizens all? Like them, detained foreigners from Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden are all right now suffering in Iranian custody, arrested on nonsense charges as part of Iran’s hostage industry.
As well as relying on so-called security consultants who assess that Iran is as safe as Sweden, GeoEx also “take[s] into account the travel advisories of the US Department of State, as well as those of other governments…”
But unfortunately GeoEx doesn’t appear to pay much attention to this source. The U.S. Department of State’s travel advisory is blunt: “DO NOT TRAVEL.”
What about “other governments”? Australia “recommend[s] you reconsider your need to travel to Iran due to the risk of arbitrary detention or arrests.” Canada warns of “arbitrary detention and arrest” France has “restricted all non-essential travel for diplomats.” Spain “cannot protect dual nationals.” Britain advises “British-Iranian dual nationals against all travel to Iran [and] there is a risk that British nationals, and a significantly higher risk that British-Iranian dual nationals, could be arbitrarily detained or arrested in Iran.” Switzerland has “no possibility to support Swiss-Iranian dual citizens who have difficulties with Iranian authorities.” Apart from the Islamic Republic itself, there is not a single government on the planet that would subscribe to GeoEx’s optimistic take.
GeoEx is by no means the only agency painting the “safe as Sweden” portrait (although we have yet to find one quite as gushing). Dozens of other travel agencies also fail to mention the real risks of arbitrary arrest and detention, and all couch the idea of Iran, euphemistically, as a journey into the unknown…
Thus Australia’s Intrepid Travel coyly tells us Iran tours are “unconventional” and “don’t fit into any easy pigeonhole.” Abercrombie & Kent, ‘the world’s foremost luxury travel company’, says “Iran is a destination veiled in mystery among American travellers.” Yomadic’s Iran ‘Untour’ is for those who “really wouldn't enjoy a typical "corporate" group tour.” And Steppes Travel from the UK (accurately) states, “A private tour of Iran requires more advanced planning and preparation than most countries - but those willing to make the effort will be rewarded many times over and find a warm and hospitable land that is blissfully free from visitors.”
Indeed. But aside from the almost risible understatement, there is a remarkable absence of cautionary words, especially for dual-nationals, which masks the realities as clearly stated by governments in every corner of the world.
Of course, travel agencies highlight the attractions of the places they market, and there is little doubt of the spectacular culture of Persian heritage and generosity of ordinary Iranians. But equally, they have a duty to share the full picture and be honest about the risks. This surely precludes making immoderate claims comparing Iran to Sweden and exhorting clients to ‘go there now!’