Russian company Megapolis, Ltd. has applied to trademark the phrase “Assad Tour” to sell tourist trips to Syria, which may include visits to battles in the civil war.
“Megapolis expects to launch tours from Moscow to Syria next year with the possibility of a trip to the front lines,” declared Anatoli Aronov, the president of the First Patent Company. “Trips will last four to five days and intended for groups of three to five people.”
Megapolis, Ltd. sent a letter to the Embassy of Syria about these possible vacations. They also reached out to hotels and transportation companies.
“Despite the crisis in the tourism industry, there are always people who are willing to combine the cognitive goals with the opportunity to see natural disasters or visit places located near the fighting,” he said.
Izo Arakhamiya, head of the Russian Federal Tourism Agency’s legal department, denied seeing any application for an “Assad tour.”
“There is no Assad Tour in the register and they haven’t filed an application. Therefore they are not authorized to sell these trips,” she explained.
Over the summer, the Syrian state news agency SANA encouraged its followers to show off their summer vacations on Twitter with the hashtag #SummerInSyria.
— SANA English (@SANA_English) June 22, 2015
The social media move backfired, as many shared photos of the hardships of the civil war, including photos of casualties and neighborhoods leveled by airstrikes.
— Fadi Al-Qadi (@fqadi) June 22, 2015
The civil war broke out in 2011, so far killing over 200,000 people. The country has lost 4 million people, and more than 7.6 million inside Syria are displaced.
In 2014, Megapolis Kurot offered trips to eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces have fought against pro-Russian rebels and Russian soldiers for two years. That conflict has killed almost 7,000 people. The company sold four-day trips to the war zone for $3,000.
Aronov criticized the sale of tourist trips to war zones.
“You’re asking how many crazies will show up? All tourists are crazy — they pay money to see things they could watch for free on television,” he claimed.
Irina Tyurina, spokeswoman for the Russian Travel Industry Union, said it is against the law to send “tourists to conflict zones.”
Russia began airstrikes in Syria on September 30, just a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama met in New York. Russian officials claim they only target the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) during missions, but evidence shows the warplanes have targeted non-ISIS Syrian rebel groups fighting against President Bashar al-Assad.