What Were They Thinking? Forbes Encourages Women to Travel Solo to Pakistan

Karachi, Pakistan (Image credit Greg, CC BY 2.0 via Wikipedia)

“I’ve never been one for ‘easy’ travel,” says “vlogger and content creator Eva zu Beck” in an adoring piece in Forbes Friday, and you can say that again: Eva zu Beck, Forbes reports, “thinks Pakistan could be the world’s #1 tourism destination.” And that raises a question: what on earth compelled Forbes to run such a palpably ridiculous and potentially dangerous piece?

Eva zu Beck thinks such concerns are wildly exaggerated, and based on misconceptions. It’s all the media’s fault, you see, but she is understanding about it: “It’s very hard to extract yourself from all the common preconceptions about Pakistan as a person living in the Western world and consuming Western media. After all, the one single image of the country we are given is that of an unsafe, unwelcoming place – which is of course very wrong.”

Of course it is. And so women, says Eva zu Beck, should flock to Pakistan and travel around it alone. What is there to worry about? “There is this idea,” she says, “that traveling solo as a woman in Pakistan is dangerous.” Now how could anyone have gotten that idea? It conflicts with Eva zu Beck’s experience:

But see, on the contrary, I’ve found that whenever I traveled alone, people really went out of their way to help me, make me feel secure and comfortable, without me ever asking for help. I think there is a cultural force at play here: not many women travel solo in Pakistan, so one that does immediately becomes a kind of ‘sister,’ and people are very conscious about making you feel welcome. There is definitely a sense of protectiveness towards women in general here – and while this isn’t necessarily always a good thing, in the specific context of travel it has meant that I’ve always felt safe.

That’s wonderful for Eva zu Beck. But it’s anecdotal evidence, the experience of one person. It is no more illustrative of general tendencies in Pakistan than an uneventful stroll through a bad neighborhood in the United States would be. To balance Eva zu Beck’s experience in Pakistan, consider that of an Australian woman named Lara Hall. Hall went to Pakistan to attend the wedding of her lover’s brother, and ended up trapped there. “Sajjad,” she said of her formerly courteous and caring lover, “raped me and his brother attempted to rape me on multiple occasions. I was a kept woman, I was denied feminine hygiene products and had to bleed freely, I was starved over long periods of time – on one occasion up to 14 hours. I was made to present myself naked after a shower. One time I had a bit of shampoo still in my hair after showering and Sajjad grabbed me, telling me I was an idiot and slammed my head into the basin. I was once made to lay naked in the bed with my legs open. One time I was ill he thought it was ‘hilarious’ – as I was vomiting – to come up and try to rape me while I was hurling. I had come all the way to Pakistan to be a prisoner.”

Again, anecdotal evidence. But general tendencies show that Hall’s experience is more common than Eva zu Beck’s. Last April, the “outdoor travel blog” Atlas & Boots published a list of the “Most dangerous countries in the world 2019 – ranked.” Pakistan came in as the 11th most dangerous country in the world.

Then on May 9, Karachi-based novelist Mohammed Hanif wrote in the Guardian that he had “noticed that I could pick up my newspaper and almost every day find news about a murdered woman. I thought maybe it’s a coincidence, maybe Karachi is a huge city, these things happen. But it went on and on. It became so routine that I could pick up the paper, open the exact same pages, just like you can bet that you’ll find a crossword or letters to the editor, and it was always there.” Hanif noted that “in 2016 more than 1,100 women were killed in Pakistan; the year before that more than a thousand. These figures are compiled from police and newspaper reports and we are still working on compiling the last two years’ figures. It’s safe to say that there are many more cases which are not reported to the police or by the newspapers.”

Even worse, wrote Hanif, this common occurrence was largely passed over in silence: “Given these dreadful numbers and Pakistan’s rating as the sixth most unsafe country for women in the world, you would think there would be an urgent debate on the issue. You would expect parliamentary committees, thinktanks trying to figure out why are we killing so many women. But sadly, it’s not on the national agenda.”

Pakistan is a ghastly, dangerous place for women. How could Forbes not have known that? Or more precisely, did Forbes get paid for running this article? If so, how much, and by whom? If not, what else led Forbes’ editors to take leave of their senses to this degree?

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.