Eleven years after the 9/11 attacks, and the day after Muslim mobs assaulted American diplomatic missions in Egypt and Libya and killed the US ambassador to Libya, State Department travel warnings highlight concerns for Americans’ safety in many parts of the Muslim world.
Of 32 standing US State Department travel warnings, 22, or 69 percent, are for Muslim-majority countries.
While 10 non-Muslim countries are also on the list — the new breakaway republic of South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Kenya, Haiti, the Philippines, Burundi, Colombia, Mexico and North Korea — the reasons offered in the travel warnings there are varied and mostly disconnected, such as recent conflict, lack of democratic freedom, or extreme poverty.
Muslim states, on the other hand, share the threats of terrorism, anti-American sentiment and political violence.
The most recent travel warning, issued Tuesday for Libya, “warns US citizens against all travel to Libya,” and explains that all “non-emergency US government personnel” had already been ordered out of the country, and notes that “the airports in Benghazi and Tripoli are open and US citizens are encouraged to depart by commercial air.”
Any US citizens choosing to remain in the country should “use extreme caution and limit nonessential travel within the country, make their own contingency emergency plans,” and enroll in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which enables US authorities to keep tabs on travelers and contact next of kin in case of emergencies, the State Department noted.
Similar travel warnings exist for broad swaths of the Arab world, including Sudan, Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iraq, Algeria and Yemen, and many countries with Muslim-majority populations, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Guinea and Nigeria. Many of these travel warnings specifically cite recent experiences of anti-American sentiment in these countries.
Travel warnings for Sudan, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Yemen and the Gaza Strip specifically cite the activities of terrorist organizations — including Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Gaza’s ruling Hamas — in explaining why US citizens should avoid travel to those countries.
When it comes to Iran, the State Department explains that “some elements in Iran remain hostile to the United States,” and that “dual national Iranian-American citizens may encounter difficulty in departing Iran.” It relates that Iranian authorities have “unjustly detained or imprisoned US citizens on various charges, including espionage and posing a threat to national security,” and goes on to warn that Iran “continues to repress some minority and ethnic groups,” leading to tensions in areas where these groups live.
“Former Muslims who have converted to other religions, as well as persons who encourage Muslims to convert, are subject to arrest and prosecution” in the Islamic Republic, the State Department notes. It further cautions that “the US government does not have diplomatic or consular relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran and therefore cannot provide protection or routine consular services to US citizens in Iran.”