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August 11, 2016

Terror and the Fear to Travel

by Chris Werren

As we run our ski programs in Gulmarg in Kashmir, I have already written a number of blogs on skiers’ safety in this part of the world. Due to the increased acts of terror also in our part of the world, the fear of traveling has once again risen, and people are reluctant to book trips, especially to areas with a majority Muslim population.

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Taj Mahal, India

In my opinion, life is too short not to do the things you love, and therefore I would like to begin my blog with a quote by the deaf-blind American writer Helen Keller:

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

For travelers, this means we either surrender to the perceived threats and stay at home living an uneventful life within our four walls, or we accept the challenge and refuse to become prisoners of the fear of potential terror acts executed by indoctrinated extremists and mad “mentally disturbed” psychopaths where ever they can.

I have started to write this blog in a period where terrorist attacks seem to have become normality also in our part of the world. It appears that the unrealistic expectations of many immigrants for a better life in their new countries of residence combined with the failed implementation of clear and binding assimilation rules with harsh consequences for those who do not comply, results in ever-growing parallel communities that are following a religion based totalitarian ideology which promotes terror and violence against all of us.

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Lake Fewa with Mt. Fishtail, Pokhara, Nepal

In other words, whether you go to a shopping mall in Munich, a night club in Orlando, a concert in Paris, a firework in Nice or you visit Kabul or Baghdad the risks today are the same!

The Risks of becoming Victim of Fatal Incidents

Many people today are afraid of becoming victims of terror incidents, even more, when in a foreign country than when at home. The question to be asked, however, is this fear justified?

People who are scared to become the victim of a life-threatening incident should know that the biggest risk of losing our life is still on the road. In the EU 26’000 persons lost their life in car accidents in 2015 and many more were injured.

Looking at the number of people killed in Europe in homicides we counted in 2015 a total of 22’000 victims.

Travelers may also be interested in knowing how many people are dying each year of airline accidents? It is reassuring to learn that during the past five years less than 1’000 persons per year found their death in airplane accidents.

Finally, I would like to compare the above numbers with the victims of terror incidents in Europe from November 2015 to March 2016. The statistics show that 194 people lost their life in 9 terror attacks in this period. Of course, the numbers have increased in the past few weeks, but the potential of dying in a car accident is still much higher than of being killed by a terrorist.

Worldwide we counted in the same period 236 terror attacks with 2’168 dead persons.

“We can, therefore, say that the probability to die in a car accident at home is still considerably higher than being killed by a terror attack abroad.”

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Paris, France

Thanks to the internet and social media we are finally getting the full and uncensored information on what is going on around us, not only in our community or our country but also in most parts of the world. It may be disturbing or reassuring to find out that globalization has had its impact on all aspects of life, not only on the economy but also on our culture, our way of life and our safety; and that we are gradually turning into look-a-like societies everywhere in the world!

Therefore, we can choose between staying in the perceived safety of our home territory and just exist or going on an adventure trip to discover new horizons, and enjoy the life to its fullest.  For me, the choice is clear – Life is an adventure, and we should take risks and enjoy all the opportunities it offers!

A few words on Skiers’ Safety in Kashmir in the Winter 2016 – 2017

As we run our Himalaya ski programs in Gulmarg in Kashmir people may also be interested in an update on the status of the terror danger that exists there. Before providing an up-to-date assessment of what visitors should be prepared for, I would like to point out that all the information I have provided in my previous blogs is still valid today. Dangers in Kashmir – My Point of ViewGulmarg Safety Considerationsskiers’ safety in kashmir

As I have mentioned many times before, visiting Kashmir is not more dangerous than visiting any other part of India. To substantiate this statement, I would like to provide the readers with some hard facts:

In 2015 a total of 20 persons were killed in shootings or terror encounters in Kashmir, thereof 4 were civilians.

In the period from 1991 to 2015 a total of 29 foreigners became victims of terror activities, 2 persons were injured in a hand grenade attack in Srinagar in 2011, 27 persons were taken hostage and later released unharmed, and 4 persons were unfortunately killed during this 15-year period.

If we look back over the past five-year period 2011 to 2015, we count a total of 3 foreign persons who have become victims of terror attacks, all as a result of the hand grenade attacks during a protest rally in Srinagar in 2011. 2 persons were injured, and 1 person was killed.

Ski Trip to Kashmir

Gulmarg – The Powder Ski Paradise in the Himalayas

It needs to be mentioned that for many years Kashmir has been suffering from regular public unrests and riots that were provoked by separatist organizations. These incidents harmed the tourism industry and resulted in the increase of travel warnings by the foreign offices of most western countries.

I want to point out that all these protests and clashes had so far only little to do with “Radical Islam” but were the result of some unfortunate incidents in the area which then were exploited by the separatists to raise public anger. In the next step a limited portion of the population, mainly youngsters in the age group 14 to 20, is motivated and used by separatist leaders to engage in protests and violent actions that are primarily directed at India and the local law and order forces.

Those uprisings usually take place in the summer and last from a couple of weeks to two to three months, and also cripple the life of ordinary citizens in Kashmir.

Unfortunately, these uprisings turn often violent, and the angry mob attacks the security forces mainly by pelting stones, throwing “Molotow” cocktails and to a smaller degree also with real guns. The security forces defend themselves with the means at their disposal; mainly pellet air guns, tear gas and water cannons, and when the army has to intervene guns with real bullets.

Regrettably, this summer Kashmir is going through a new period of unrest again. Up to now 60 persons were killed and approx. 6’000 injured while rioting against the security forces. More than half of the injured persons were security forces.

Tourists are generally not touched by the riots as it is well known where the protests take place, and only fools will go to these spots to observe what is going on. Usually, the risk zone or even the whole state is put under strict curfew, and only persons and vehicles with special permissions are authorized to circulate during fixed time periods and on well-secured roads and areas.

Kashmir – One of the best-protected Territories of the World

To start with I would like to mention that from 2006 onwards I have stayed in Kashmir for several months every year. In all these years, neither the participants in our programs or other visitors to Gulmarg nor I have been threatened or harmed by the local people!

Backcountry Skiing in Kashmir

Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir

Up to now, people were mainly reluctant to visit Kashmir because of it being a disputed area. However, due to the various attacks in recent month by “Radical Islamists” in our part of the world, an increased number of people hesitate to visit areas with a mostly Muslim population.

It cannot be denied that most terror attacks in the past few months were executed by “Radical Islamists” and therefore the fear to visit Muslim dominated areas is somehow justified.

On the other hand, when we look at the terror statistic in Europe from 1970 to 1995 we will find out that during the whole period we counted each year between 100 and 400 persons who were killed in terror attacks. These attacks were executed by groups like the IRA in Ireland, the RAF in Germany, ETA in Spain and the Red Brigade in Italy.

Nonetheless, it would be foolish to ignore or minimize the dangers “Radical Islam” presents to the world today. We should take note that in the past 2 months every 83 hours a Jihad inspired attack was executed worldwide, excluding all the attacks that took place in Syria and Iraq.

To substantiate why I feel that Kashmir is one of the best-protected areas in the world I would like to share some publicly available information on the size of the territory, the number of inhabitants and the size of the security forces in Kashmir. For a better understanding, I added the figures of Germany, France, Pakistan and India, and Switzerland which has a more or less identical territory size and topography as Kashmir. More details on the strength and equipment of the security forces can be found here: Global Fire Power

Security Forces Jammu + Kashmir

Comparisons of security forces strength and other key figures by country

As you can see the total number of security forces and police personnel in Jammu and Kashmir is identical to the number of security staff that Germany or France have at their disposal to protect their citizens, for an area that represents between 8% and 12% of the size of each of these two countries! And contrary to the security forces in our part of the world the troops in Kashmir have been dealing with terror attacks and civil unrest regularly for 70 years!

For good order’s sake, it should also be mentioned that Ladakh was not included in the territory size and population number (59’000 km2, 2,2% of the population). However, the size of the security personnel covers the whole state. Due to the small number of inhabitants of Ladakh and the shorter critical borderline it may be assumed that the bulk of the forces are stationed in the Jammu and Kashmir area.

Finally, we also should know that the 3 central European countries (Germany, France, Switzerland) have a combined Muslim population of approx. 13 Mio, which is identical to the total Muslim population in Kashmir. Going by the law of probability and the belief that at present only a small percentage of Muslims are radicalized the risks of terror attacks by some misguided people should, therefore, be more or less identical in both parts of the world. However, I consider the chances that radicalized elements will be identified before they can commit a terror act as higher in Kashmir than here at home.


Gulmarg’s backcountry terrain with runs of 800 to 1’000 vertical meters

To conclude, I would like to say that there is no absolute guaranty for not becoming victims of terror attacks or other life-threatening events, not at home and not abroad. In our life, only one thing is 100% certain – we will all die one day! When, how and where is decided by our destiny. We have to accept it and live with this fact, continuing to enjoy our life fully as long as it lasts.


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