From a few recent articles promoting and marketing Iran as a viable, safe and even “chilled” travel destination for millennials on the prowl for excitement, one can get the impression that Iran is “misunderstood”. They voice displeasure at the fact that instead of writing about its hospitable culture, its breathtaking views, its culinary delights, the adventures to be had there – in other words, the “cool” stuff – the media writes only about nuclear talks, ballistic missiles, and terror.
For months and even years now, we have been coming across blog posts such as Chasing the Unexpected’s “10 reasons to travel to Iran now” – suggesting that if you think that “spices are only available in India,” or that “ancient history can only be experienced in Rome,” it’s time for you to hop on the next flight to Tehran. Why, you ask? Because it is, apparently, a “very safe country” (if you aren’t a dual citizen, a member of a religious or ethnic minority, a woman, LGBT, secular, Sunni, or anyone who doesn’t agree with the regime’s ideology, that is), because a “never-ending” tourist boom in Iran is impending, because it’s very “authentic,” and because “the atmosphere in Iran is very chilled out.”
The adjective ‘misunderstood’ – ascribed, of course, to Iran’s “polarized” depiction in the media – features prominently in these articles, which describe bread-buying rituals, spontaneous homestays and bonding over bicycles, alongside minor run-ins with the authorities illustrating to the Western backpacker just “how it feels to live under a repressive regime” (clearly, the travelers were released to tell the tale, unlike their compatriots held to this day in Evin Prison). In these articles, Iran is often described as a “fascinating,” “exotic” and “paradoxical” destination, where numerous adventures await. As for the dangers, they are downplayed to the point of describing regime officials and chums of Ayatollah Khomeini as “generous” and “jovial” characters.
Read in the ominous context of the continued captivity of Western nationals in Iran, the oppressive, strictly-policed reality faced by Iranians every day, this advice seems not only questionable and irresponsible, but utterly surreal; leading us to wonder why it is still being circulated and reposted on various outlets without a shred of criticism. We can only wonder what interests hide behind these misleading articles.