Planning a Trip to Turkey or any of a dozen other countries?  Kent Barker says read this before you go as you may be paying for more than you realise …

Going somewhere nice this year? Plenty of sea and sun? But just how much do you know about your holiday destination’s political regime or human rights record? Are you in danger of contributing to human misery or even torture with your spending power?
Take Turkey as an example. The direct contribution of travel and tourism to the country’s GDP in 2016 was 29.1bn US dollars; that’s a substantial 4.1% of the total. And it was forecast to rise last year and to go on rising for the next decade.

But consider this. Every penny you spend on holiday there is propping up an autocratic government with an appalling human rights record … and one that is conducting a sustained campaign against journalists and freedom of speech.

50,000 people have been arrested in the crackdown since the failed 2016 coup and more than 150,000 have been sacked or suspended from their jobs. The Emergency Rule imposed by President Erdogan allows him
and his government to bypass parliament to suspend rights
and freedoms.  It has closed more than 2,000 private schools and colleges, 15 universities, 19 labour unions, and nearly 150 media outlets. Various politicians, including the former head of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition party, as well as the local Amnesty International chairman, have been jailed on ‘terrorism’ charges. 

But perhaps most worrying of all is the sustained campaign against the media in general and against journalists in particular. At least 187 journalists were detained by the Turkish government in 2017. Most are still in Turkish jails. Last year nearly 200 journalists were sued by public authorities. More than 80 were sentenced, fined or imprisoned.  Six journalists have been sentenced to life in prison for allegedly aiding the coup – charges they vigorously deny. One reporter was killed, another was kidnapped and threatened with death.

Globally in 2016, one third of all imprisoned journalists, media workers and executives were in Turkey’s prisons, with the vast majority waiting to be brought to trial.

But of course this is not just about Turkey. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch publish annual lists of the worst countries for Human rights abuses.  Some, like Syria, you are pretty unlikely to want to visit. Others remain relatively popular tourist destinations. Places like Egypt and Israel in the Middle East, China and Myanmar (formerly Burma) in Asia and, bridging Asia and Europe, Russia and Turkey.  All these are close to the top of the list of human rights violators, as is Hungary, actually in the EU, for its appalling treatment of migrants and refugees.

As an individual traveller you may not hold a great deal of economic power but as part of the your destination country’s tourism ‘industry’ withholding your joint pound, euro, dollar or lira could have considerable impact.


Amnesty International’s conclusions on the worst offenders

China
Last year executed more people than the rest of the world combined; saw a  ‘massive nationwide crackdown against human rights lawyers’; torture ‘widespread across the country’.

Egypt
Detainees tortured and executed following ‘grossly unfair’ trials; freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly arbitrarily restricted; draconian antiterrorism law imprisoned opposition leaders and activists – some ‘disappeared’.

Russia
Freedom of expression and peaceful assembly severely restricted; government domination of print, broadcast media, and internet; serious human rights violations continue in North Caucasus.

Israel
Unlawful killings of Palestinian civilians, including children; thousands of Palestinian protesters detained; torture and other ill-treatment ‘remained rife’.

Saudi Arabia
Severe restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly; human rights defenders and government critics arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned; torture and other ill-treatment of detainees common; death penalty used extensively – more than 150 executions.

Pakistan
Executions resumed; new military courts try civilians on terrorism-related offences; discrimination persecution and targeted attacks against religious minorities; human rights activists harassed and abused.


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