What impressed about his article was his discussion about mortality of traveling to certain counties. He correctly asks, "it becomes reasonable to question whether your money spent as a tourist is going to support a government that abuses human rights."
As Matthew writes, Azerbaijan is a country in transition. By definition the country is a democracy since it holds elections except those elections tend to be rigged. The current President of the country won reelection with 85% of the vote. The Azerbaijan Election Commission was so confident about the results of the elections that they announced that the current President the winner the day before the election occurred. Opps! Matthew correctly points out that "Human rights organizations accuse the government of severe beatings, torture, arbitrary arrests, indefinite detentions, and forced disappearances."
He goes on to ask, "Does the money you spend in airport taxes, hotel taxes, and to visit historic state-run sites underwrite the abuses that many allege?" As a tourists, we rarely take the moment to think how the money we spend at a restaurant, a hotel or at a gift shop effects the lives of the locals. In many countries, tourism is a main stay of the local and countries' economy. In certain countries, every dollar that you spend strengthen the hands of the rulers to oppress their citizens further.
In other countries, the oppression occurs on those who come from other countries to work. As Ben from One Mile At Time noticed on his first trip to the United Arab Emirates. He wrote afterwards:
"But here’s what’s depressing about the UAE — it’s the first place I’ve honestly felt sorry for the people serving me, be it in a restaurant, hotel, taxi, or elsewhere. I’ve been to a ton of third world countries, but I’ve never felt “sorry” for the average person there. That’s simply because I don’t think there’s a connection between wealth and happiness. You see families in India living in poverty that are happy because they value what’s important in life (health, family, etc.), while you see depressed billionaires in the US. That’s actually probably one of the first lessons I ever learned from traveling — there’s not much of a correlation between wealth and happiness.
But the UAE is an exception, because no matter which person in the service industry you talk to, the story is identical. They’re here on a temporary work permit (usually 2-5 years), and work 12+ hours per day, 6-7 days per week. But what makes the UAE different than most other places in the world where people work “hard” is that they’re separated from their family. They’re literally bused to work, work all day, bused back to their “compound,” sleep, and start the cycle all over again."This begs the questions are we enablers. Does our desire to travel the world and visit unique and different countries continue the oppression? Its a questions that I have pondered for a few years. Should I only visit countries that strive to protect the rights of their citizens or should I visit countries regardless of their human rights record?
Matthew answer to this question was the best I have ever read:
"But if no one ever visits Azerbaijan will the situation ever change? I do not believe in boycotting countries: studying past boycotts, the Cuban Embargo in particular, is an examination of failure and a government determined to abuse its citizens will find a way to do so, at least for a time. Sanctions rather than boycotts seem to be a more effective strategy for compulsory change, though the jury is still out on that too."He is correct. By not visiting countries, we are turning a blind eye. We are turning a blind eye to what is occurring within a country. Every time that we visit a country and report back what we see, we start the slow process of helping ensuring human rights are upheld within a country. While I wouldn't speak up while visiting the country, let people know about your experience when you get home.
The worst happens when we turn a blind eye.
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