Be a Responsible Traveler
Excerpts from Lucy Popescu’s latest book, The Good Tourist: An Ethical Traveler’s Guide
Some of the most beautiful places in the world come with a history of civil injustice, often masked by the tourist industry. Lucy Popescu has worked with English PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) from 1991 to 2006.
She also writes for Tribune and has a monthly column in Literary Review called “Silenced Voices.” Her most recent book The Good Tourist. are accounts of human rights violations, violence and civil unrest in countries ranging from Mexico to Australia to the United States.
It is a different kind of travel guide; the most attractive attributes of the country are still highlighted in the beginning, but a brief but passionate overview of the tumultuous history of the country is included. The book makes it clear that travelers, as human beings, have a responsibility to educate themselves on the different problems that persist in the world.
The chapters are divided by country. At the end of each chapter, Popescu provides reading suggestions as well as steps that you can take to help make a difference. Below are some excerpts from her new book.
“But for me it is Istanbul, the former capital of three successive empires – Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman – that holds the most fascination. Part of the city’s appeal is that it straddles two continents, Europe and Asia. You can palpably feel the difference; it seeps under your skin, into your nostrils, and assails your ears, depending on which side of the Bosphorus you are residing.”
“For Turkish writers and intellectuals, the 1990s was an inescapably bleak period. Most of them were imprisoned for various stretches of time as a means of intimidating them into silence. In 1995, Turkey’s most famous writer, Yasar Kemal, was charged under Turkey’s anti-terror law for his article, “Campaign of Lies,” describing the oppression of fellow Kurds in his country.”
“The Kurds of Turkey currently make up around twenty per cent of the population. Following World War I, when the Ottoman Empire’s territories were being divided up by the victorious European powers, the Kurds were promised an independent homeland in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres. This dream was crushed following the creation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. The subsequent treatment of Kurdish citizens has often been a subject of international criticism.”
The United States
“In December 2007, under the headline, ‘Slave Labour That Shames America,’ the Independent exposed the human cost of producing cheap food when it highlighted how migrant workers are being abused and exploited in the US. Focusing on a group of Florida fruit pickers, it described how many are chained, beaten and forced into debt. The migrants were not only forced to work in sub-human conditions but were locked up at night and had to pay for sub-standard food. If they wanted to take a shower with a garden hose or bucket, they were charged five dollars.”
“The public perception of sex-trafficking is crucial in order to effect change. Unfortunately when it is masked as prostitution the general public does not feel outraged at this appalling trade in human beings. Often child victims of trafficking are perceived as criminals, sexual deviants or just victims of circumstance who have ‘chosen’ to sell their bodies for profit. The reality is very different. Violence against trafficked children is routine, keeping them in such a ‘state of terror’ that they are too frightened or traumatized to seek help or attempt to escape.”
“Iran, the cradle of Western Civilization, and some say of religion, is becoming increasingly popular as a holiday destination. Whether you are interested in its early Islamic architecture, soaking up the profusion of cultural influences, or just brousing the bazaars, the country boasts an array of unexpected pleasures for a variety of tastes. As well as being a nation deservedly proud of its heritage, the hospitality of Iranians is legendary.”
“In September 2007, there was another furor when Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on a visit to Colombia University in New York, claimed that homosexuality did not exist in Iran: ‘In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country,’ he told a questioner who had accused his government of executing gay people. ‘In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I do not know who has told you that we have it.’
His statement was met with incredulity worldwide, particularly because Iran appears to actively encourage transexuality. It is a global leader for gender-change operations, carrying out more than any other country with the exception of Thailand. In fact, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini actually authorized sex-change operations in the 1980s.”
“Visiting this ochre-colored city, we discovered for ourselves the warmth of its people and the various ways that the country gets under your skin. What delighted us most was being constantly surprised by its splendor, just when you least expect it. Moroccans seem to delight in hiding away their treasures. Frequently, walking down the winding, dimly lit, back alleys that all look the same, we would pass through an unassuming door in a wall, or under an unadorned archway of peeling plaster, to find ourselves in the centre of a magnificent courtyard, in the most stunning surroundings conceivable. In this way we stumbled, many times, on an oasis of calm away from the hurly-burly of the souks and the fairground feel of Marrakesh’s main square, the Jemaa El Fna.”
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