For current political commentary, see the daily political notes.
RMS's Bio | The GNU Project
This page lists countries that regularly or admittedly apply surprising repressive laws to visiting foreigners, or egregiously violate the rights of people accused of crimes.
We do not try to mention all the repressive regimes that punish people for criticizing the regime in a serious way while there. There are too many of those to mention here, and you're not likely to do that without thinking about it. That sort of repression would not be such a surprise.
This page was not made through a systematic study. Some countries not listed may be worse than some countries that are listed.
Why risk a visit to these countries? Why spend any of your money there? Stay away!
The United Arab Emirates
Australia may consider modifying its law that authorizes it to secretly menace any software developer in the world with punishment for refusing to insert a backdoor on Australia's command. The decision not to menace employees individually would remove one of the many menacing aspects of this law.
Nonetheless every free software contributor would still be a target.
For this reason, I urge all free software developers to stay away from Australia.
A country willing to prosecute a whistleblower secretly and conceal his name cannot be trusted to respect the rights of anyone accused of a crime.
For those accused in China, there is no meaningful trial.
Clearly China is not interested in whether Spavor really committed a crime.
This confirms that China is intentionally using visitors as hostages.
China is disappearing labor-activist students.
Reportedly just being in a place where they hand out leaflets can get you arrested.
Human rights activist Huang Qi is dying in Chinese prison, denied medical care. His grandmother campaigned to free him, and she has now been jailed after arriving in Beijing to appeal to officials to release him, and has been held incommunicado.
China has jailed an employee of the UK consulate in Hong Kong, and is holding him incommunicado.
In China in 2020, if you don't carry a portable phone with a special malicious app, you are almost under house arrest.
Hazem Hamouda was imprisoned without charges in Egypt for 400 days.
When he was ordered released from prison, thugs grabbed him and put him in a cell again. Then the authorities took his papers, and told them he couldn't leave without those papers.
Egyptian officials are frothing at the mouth with fanatical prudery. Since they can't jail the people who made a nude video on top of the Great Pyramid, they want to jail everyone who helped them make the climb.
Whenever prudery takes itself seriously, it threatens repression.
An Egyptian is being prosecuted for saying that the water in the Nile is not safe to drink.
I am sure that statement is true, but it is no shame to Egypt. How could any large river that flows past cities be safe to drink from?
What is a shame to Egypt is that it prosecutes people for stating unpleasant facts.
Egypt is arresting people and disappearing them; often that means killing them.
Egyptian TV hostess Doaa Salah has been sentenced to three years in prison for discussing the possibility of single women's having babies.
British Woman Languishes in Egyptia Jail for Carrying Painkillers.
Egypt put 500 protesters on trial and sentenced most of them to life in prison. 52 of them were released after 4 years waiting in prison.
Egyptian thugs arrested dozens of people at a concert, making silly charges that are a front for "being homosexual."
It is part of the increasing general repression directed at gays in Egypt.
Amal Fathy posted a video criticizing sexual harassment she experienced at a bank in Egypt. She received an absurd assortment of criminal charges and has now been sentenced to two years in prison.
A political trial in Egypt sentenced hundreds of protesters to prison and 75 to execution.
Anything that is exposed to the view of thousands of people is no secret.
After facing international pressure, Egypt freed Abulkasem.
China has taken full control over Hong Kong, so everything said above for China goes for Hong Kong also.
Every aspect of the June 2020 "security" law, and the way it was imposed, has been designed to show that China's repression will be arbitrary and unlimited. The flower of Hong Kong may still be attractive, but the wasp inside has a deadly sting.
Leaders of the Hong Kong democracy movement are now being tried for advocating democracy.
Of course, the repressive government has other names for it, which are designed to disguise repression.
Modi's repressive regime has expelled a German student who compared his regime to the Nazi regime.
His sign said, "1933-1945 — We have been there".
India plans to follow China's example, with a nationwide system of face-tracking surveillance cameras.
Don't be distracted by the discussion of data protection laws. If India had them, they would make little difference to the injustice that such a system would enable.
India has published a tracking app, and seems to be planning to require many people to carry it. It may even impose house arrest on anyone that does not carry it.
The imprisonment of climate activist Disha Ravi epitomizes the Indian government's readiness to outrage the world in order to crush dissent.
Perhaps it was because they were driving an American make of car, which Iran has prohibited. But that seems unlikely.
Two of three Australian visitors recently imprisoned in Iran have been freed. The third has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
I give roughly the same advice as the Australian government about visiting Iran: "reconsider your need to travel", and stay away.
Many governments repress political dissidents, usually by falsifying nonpolitical charges against them. For instance, India does this.
However, overtly attacking foreign comedians is an extreme form of censorship.
Unmarried couples should avoid tourism in Morocco.
The president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria has been sentenced to 24 years in prison for "blasphemy"
He had been told that his relatives would be threatened unless he pleaded guilty, and that he'd get a short sentence if he did so.
The victims of these instances of repression were Pakistanis, but there is no reason to assume you are safe there from similar treatment just because you're a foreigner.
Two Pakistani Christians, Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Emmanuel, face execution for "blasphemy" on account of text messages they may not even have sent.
The two are married but imprisoned separately in solitary confinement for 7 years so far.
Any law against "blasphemy" expresses contempt for freedom of expression. I was invited once to Pakistan, but I decided it is not safe there — not for me, nor for anyone.
A Pakistani man has been sentenced to death for a statement that supposedly insulted Muhammad on facebook.
Religious fanatics in Pakistan protested to demand explicit repression of minority Muslim sects, effectively barring them from public office. The protests were so big that the government gave in.
Pakistan has bowed to fanatical Muslims by stopping Asia Bibi from leaving the country. This will give the fanatics what they demand: a chance to murder her.
She was allowed to leave, a long time later.
Qatar's thugs strip-searched passengers searching for the mother of an abandoned baby. It appears that the mother had flown out already, and that she was compelled to abandon the baby and flee, lest she be punished severely for sex outside of marriage.
But they seem to have found her and will now charge her with attempted murder.
You do not want to be in Qatar.
She complained about this on Twitter, and the monstrous authorities charged her with a political crime and jailed her for talking about what they had done to her.
Don't take the risk of going to Salafi Arabia. Don't even trust a flight connection in its airports.
*American[/Saudi dual] citizen tortured in [Salafi Arabian] prison for tweets he made in Florida criticizing Saudi government.*
In Thailand, it's not just criticizing the current king that might lead the generals to put you in prison. Simply doubting stories told about a king that lived 400 years ago is enough to send them on a rampage.
And even if you did this outside Thailand, you're not safe.
Hakeem al-Araibi condemned Bahrain's repression 2011, and was tortured for it. He fled to Australia. Now Thailand has grabbed him and is determined to send him to Bahrain for more torture.
A Thai has been sentenced to 43 years in prison for forwarding audio clips that criticized the monarchy.
Turkish football fans are accused of being "Gülenists" because they carried a poster from the film, Rocky.
People in Turkey have been threatened with prosecution for repeating rumors
Turkey has laws that make insults a crime.
Defaming women in general is also a crime.
In Turkey, even laughing at politicians can be a crime.
A court released the head of Amnesty International Turkey until his trial for "terrorism", but he was arrested again a little while after.
Journalists from the former Turkish newspaper Zaman have been sentenced to 8 years in prison for "terrorism".
Turkey warned that people who participate in rallies in Germany in support of Kurds could be imprisoned if they visit Turkey.
The United Arab Emirates: I don't even make a flight connection in the UAE.
The UN accuses the UAE of permitting Iranian agents to kidnap exiled dissident Jamshid Sharmahd from Dubai airport. Iran has announced plans to execute him.
Human Rights Watch warns dissidents from other countries not to transit through Dubai, because the UAE might jail them or worse.
I have no reason to think I am important enough that the UAE might bother to harass me, but why take the chance? I never even consider such flight itineraries. Not all the victims listed here for the UAE were famous.
If rejection for this reason hurts the business of Emirates airlines, that by itself is a good thing.
Countries that support human rights should reject and denounce all plans to hold important international conferences (for instance, climate conferences) in the UAE or other similar repressive countries.
Matthew Hedges visited Dubai for two weeks and was then arrested and charged with spying. He has been kept in solitary for 5 months and is now being tried, effectively without a lawyer.
My guess is that some of the questions he asked for academic purposes were somehow sensitive to the rulers of Dubai, and they reacted in typical Dubai fashion.
He will have to face a bogus trial represented by a lawyer he cannot communicate with.
Matthew Hedges: I was detained in the UAE. I learned that Britain puts trade before its citizens. He reports being tortured and drugged.
The article lists other foreigners that were imprisoned there for absurd reasons.
What the used car company did was not the government's fault. Jailing him was.
Dubai has accused a tourist of "public indecency" after his hand brushed another man's hip in a bar.
The court changed his hearing date, didn't tell him, and sentenced him to 30 days in jail for not being clairvoyant. Evidently, Dubai is run by mad., sadistic clowns.
One day later, the ruler of Dubai released him. I am glad he did this, but you should still stay away from Dubai.
A Danish woman accepted a complimentary glass of wine on an Emirates flight to Dubai. On account of this, she has been jailed there for a year awaiting trial.
Dubai dropped charges against Ellie Holman, and allowed her to leave.
Aside from great stress, the experience cost her tens of thousands of dollars. Why take a crazy risk? Stay away!
Holding Hands, Drinking Wine and Other Ways to Go to Jail in Dubai. Also: getting raped, being pregnant, or giving someone the finger.
jails people for gestures such as giving someone the finger.
People passing through Dubai airport are imprisoned for having microscopic amounts of marijuana in their pockets or even on the soles of their shoes.
A princess from Dubai planned for seven years how to escape her life of captivity. The plan almost succeeded, but commandos grabbed her from a yacht when she had almost reached India. One must suppose that the commandos were sent by her father, the emir.
No one has heard from her since, and she might have been killed, or killed herself rather than be captured. Or she may be imprisoned in permenant solitary confinement (see Princess, by Jean Sasson, for another instance of this).
A visitor from Britain in the UAE went to a football match in which Qatar was playing Iraq. He put on a shirt that supported Qatar, and was arrested for it.
Ali Issa Ahmad says that he was stabbed by thugs and imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates, and the thugs beat him and knocked out one of his teeth. His wounds substantiate the claim.
The UAE repression officials claim he is not being prosecuted for wearing a Qatar shirt, but I wouldn't believe a word they say.
I hope he will not be forcibly sent back to the UAE.
*Man smokes legal weed in Nevada, gets arrested in Dubai, could face 3 years [in prison].*
If they are reasonable about applying their laws, they will recognize that he did not commit any crime in Dubai. But one can't count on that — and they might keep him in jail for months while deciding.
British expat Billy Hood made the mistake of living in Dubai. A friend visited him and then sent him a message about having left behind some CBD vaping fluid. The thugs of Dubai saw the message, arrested Hood, and tortured him into signing a confession he could not read.
Why torture and lie to imprison someone for what they knew was unintentional possession? Is it that the emir of Dubai set them an example of sadistic brutality? Is it that they have to meet a quota of convictions per month?
Copyright (c) 2017-2022 Richard Stallman Verbatim copying and redistribution of this entire page are permitted provided this notice is preserved.