by WorldTribune Staff, June 2, 2016
Post-sanctions Iran may have become a fashionable “hot spot” for tourists but it is still a brutal hellhole for many of its own people, particularly women, a UK columnist wrote.
“Scrolling through the hundreds of photos a friend took on a visit last year, I did feel a twinge of envy,” Rosamund Urwin wrote in London’s Evening Standard on June 2.
“The mirrored mosaics of the Green Palace; the shimmering blue tiles of the Shah mosque in Isfahan; the ruins and carvings in Persepolis: these are all wonders I would love to see.
“And yet, there’s something unsettling about our heralding Iran as the latest place to cross off your bucket list while our Government simultaneously tries to forge closer business ties with the country. Iran is reportedly planning hundreds of projects to attract tourists but it’s still a long way from the sun loungers of the Costa del Sol.
“Sanctions are now lifted, of course, but Iran remains a theocracy. And in March the UN special rapporteur for human rights said that at least 966 people were put to death in the republic last year, 10 times as many as were executed in 2005.
“Sodomy can still be punishable by death. Women have a series of bungee cords placed on their lives: they can go to university but can’t study certain subjects; they can leave the house but will be punished by fines or prison if they don’t wear a headscarf or a chador; they can get jobs but their husband can still ban them from working.”
Urwin also cited the plight of dual UK-Iran nationals including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is currently imprisoned in Iran.
“She works for a charity in London and was on holiday visiting her parents. She has both British and Iranian passports but has lived here for nearly nine years. Her family have been told her arrest was to do with national security, but she is yet to be charged and was initially kept in solitary confinement. Her daughter Gabriella, who is almost two, is British but her passport was seized as well, so she is now trapped in Iran.”
Another detainee is Kamal Foroughi, a 76-year-old grandfather who is a British-Iranian, who has been held for the past five years on spying charges. “His family are worried about his health,” Urwin wrote.
“The theory is that dual-nationals are treated with suspicion because they are seen to threaten the status quo. The belief is that they are where reform is likely to come from, as implausible as that may sound to us. But that paranoia hardly hints at a nation that will be swiftly reshaped by visitors (or investment) flooding in.
“There’s a line. For me, to hail Iran as an exciting tourism prospect now is to give support to a state that is currently holding a British toddler within its borders. Constructive engagement can be the right strategy for Western governments without us needing to embrace it for our travel plans. And why are some of us so fixated on seeing somewhere novel — is the joy of enviable holiday anecdotes that great?
“Should you check where countries are ranked on a human freedom index before you book flights? That’s up to you. But I have for Iran. And in a study released last year, it was ranked 152nd. That was out of 152 countries.”