You’ll Never Believe the Most Hated Countries in the World

If you have even an elementary knowledge of world history, you probably know that everybody doesn’t always get along. Some countries have lots of friends. But others have many enemies. Likewise, some countries have great reputations worldwide. Other countries — not so much. You could describe some countries as universally loved, and others as widely hated. But interestingly enough, the most hated countries may not be the ones you’d assume.

The Reputation Institute offer a fascinating look at which countries are the most and least popular. The group reports that people around the world form their perceptions of each country “through direct experience, [their] own communication, third parties’ perspectives, and generally accepted stereotypes.” The most loved countries have a positive reputation for factors like quality of life, quality of institutions, and level of development. But countries with a poor reputation — the most hated countries — make a negative impression in those arenas.

Read on to learn which nations make the list of the most hated countries. You can even find out whether the United States makes the list.

15. Qatar

Doha, Qatar

The country is associated with terrorism. | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

At fifteenth place on the list of the most hated countries is Qatar. The report indicates that Qatar has a “weak” reputation worldwide. Part of Qatar’s reputation problem? The wealthy country’s supposed ties with terrorism. Six Arab countries — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, and Yemen — severed their ties with Qatar in 2017 because of the government’s links to terrorist groups.

These countries accused Qatar of “supporting ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as Shia rebels in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.” Additionally, Qatar is a country where men dramatically outnumber women, and many workers face exploitation and abuse.

Next: This Middle Eastern country, currently embroiled in a conflict with a neighbor, is approximately the size of New Jersey.

14. Israel

Old town of Jaffa and the modern skyline of Tel Aviv city on sunrise, Israel

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict affects its image. | Xantana/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Next on the list of the most hated countries? Israel. This nation has a long and complex history. But the conflict that currently impacts the world’s view of Israel is its conflict with Palestine. As Vox explains, “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is over who gets what land and how it’s controlled.” Palestinians, the Arab population that hails from the land Israel now controls, want to establish a state on that land.

Several parties have suggested a “two-state solution.” That would establish Palestine as an independent state in Gaza and the West Bank and leave the rest of the land to Israel. But the two sides don’t agree on how to make it work in practice. Clashes between Israelis and Palestinians still happen frequently. Plus, both groups blame each other for terror attacks that routinely kill civilians.

Next: This country has had a long series of PR problems. 

13. Romania

Transfagarasan Highway in Romania

It’s one of the most corrupt countries in Europe. | iStock/Getty Images

Most Americans probably don’t know much about Romania, the largest of the Balkan countries. So what lands it on the list of the most hated countries in the world? The BBC reports that Romania has had “a long line of public relations problems.” It doesn’t help that Romania remains one of the most corrupt countries in Europe. Plus, the country has faced criticism for its prejudicial treatment of the Roma ethnic community.

Many Europeans look down on Romania as a source of immigrants who “steal” their jobs. Plus, news stories about horse meat coming from the country’s slaughterhouses played into prejudices against the country. Romania’s recent past as a Communist dictatorship also looms large in the public imagination. As the BBC notes, “For many people in the West, images of children abandoned in Soviet-era orphanages are the first thing they associate with Romania.”

Next: You’ve likely only heard of this former Soviet republic because of a movie.

12. Kazakhstan

New centre of Astana capital city of Kazakhstan

International organizations are concerned about the country’s protection of civil liberties. | cosmopol/iStock/Getty Images

Kazakhstan was the last of the Soviet republics to declare independence when the Soviet Union fell apart. But this young nation’s poor reputation makes it one of the most hated countries in the world. Kazakhstan has vast oil, gas, and mineral resources. But international organizations have expressed concern about the country’s observance of human rights, protection of civil liberties, and adherence to democratic procedures.

Most Americans have probably only heard of Kazakhstan because of the movie Borat. The movie may have damaged Kazakhstan’s international image, but Slate reports that “Borat’s Kazakhstan bears little resemblance to the real Kazakhstan. Little resemblance, but not no resemblance.” Kazakhstan is a majority-Muslim country, and anti-Semitism isn’t prevalent in the country, despite what Borat might suggest. Plus, the movie’s portrayal of prostitution is “wildly exaggerated,” though prostitution does remain a real problem in the country.

Next: This Eastern European country has only been independent since 1991.

11. Ukraine

Kiev protesters Ukraine

Ukraine has a reputation for restricting media freedom. | Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images

Next on the list of the most hated countries? Ukraine, another young nation that has only been independent since 1991. Newsweek reports that Vladimir Putin’s decade-long media campaigns turned Russians against Ukrainians and the Ukrainian state prior to his 2014 annexation of Crimea. Thanks to Putin, Russians hate Ukraine as both a country and as a people, and Moscow has subjugated or ruled Ukraine for generations. But it’s not just Russians who hate Ukraine.

Anti-Ukrainian sentiment has reportedly swelled in Poland, thanks at least in part to what Ukrainians call the “‘tabloidization’ of the painful chapters in history between the two nations, particularly the Volyn massacres in 1943-1944.” Additionally, 1.5 t0 2 million Ukrainians moved to Poland after the 2014 Maidan uprising, which has exacerbated the situation. Plus, Ukraine’s reputation for restricting media freedom doesn’t help.

Next: You’ve probably heard about a coup in this country. But you likely don’t know everything about its aftermath.

10. Turkey

City of Istanbul

It has a reputation for human rights violations. |

Turkey lands in 10th place among the most hated countries in the world. One major reason why? Its reputation for human rights violations. You’ve likely seen headlines about Turkey’s struggles, as relations have soured between Turkey and the United States in the months since an attempted coup against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But human rights issues also impact Turkey’s reputation in the U.S. and worldwide.

After the coup, Erdogan’s government jailed thousands of soldiers and “embarked on a wholesale purge of public officials, police, teachers, judges, and prosecutors.” The government also passed decrees “that conflict with basic human rights safeguards.” The government can now confiscate property. It can also dismiss public employees without an investigation. And it can hold people in custody for up to 30 days. The weakening of safeguards coincided with increased reports of torture and other abuses. Plus, Erdogan’s government has become notorious for censoring what Turkey’s citizens can see on the internet.

Next: This country has become a major world power, but has some work to do on human rights. 

9. China

ancient Chinese architecture

People don’t see China as an “ethical country.” | hxdyl/iStock/Getty Images

It seems that everybody hates China. That makes it unsurprising to see China on the list of the most hated countries. The Reputation Institute reports that as China gains relevance as a national leader, its reputation has slowly improved. But China’s reputation is still “weak,” and it saw a pretty major decrease in perceptions that it’s an “ethical country.” And, if nothing else, people around the world likely object to China’s blatant racism and sense of cultural superiority.

Public Radio International reports that growing Chinese nationalism and China’s assertion of claims in the South China Sea have garnered global criticism. Those factors have also disrupted China’s relationship with the U.S. Additionally, many Chinese people want more freedom. But the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t want to “change its authoritarian posture.” The result? What the Human Rights Watch calls a “dire” outlook “for fundamental human rights, including freedoms of expression, assembly, association and religion.”

Next: This country has a terrible reputation thanks to its drug trade and 50-year-long war.

8. Colombia

bogota colombia

Its reputation is getting better as it becomes more peaceful. | Guillermo Legaria/AFP/Getty Images

The Reputation Institute reports that Colombia’s reputation has seen a positive trend “since the peace process started,” referring to the efforts to end the decades-long war between the government and rebel groups. The recent Panama Papers scandal had little effect on Colombia’s global reputation. (However, the scandal did have an effect on some attributes of the country’s reputation. In its aftermath, fewer people consider Colombia a “responsible participant” in global affairs or an “ethical country.”)

Nonetheless, Colombia consistently makes the list of the most hated countries because of its massive drug trade and the crime associated with it. The Guardian reports that Colombia is producing more cocaine than ever. During the decades-long conflict, rebel groups like the FARC financed their fight through the drug trade. The war spanned more than 50 years and resulted in the deaths of more than 220,000 Colombians, but peace remains fragile.

Next: This North African country has been ravaged by civil war. 

7. Algeria

Algiers the capital city of Algeria, Northern Africa

War has tarnished its reputation. | muha04/iStock/Getty Images

Algeria is another nation that makes the list of the most hated countries thanks to a long war and numerous human rights violations. NPR reports that the country’s “black decade” of civil war still weighs heavily on Algerian memories (and likely on global perceptions of the country, too). During the 1990s, the government brought a brutal civil war against an Islamist insurgency. The government eventually won, but 200,000 civilians died in the process.

The Human Rights Watch reports that the Algerian government promised reforms in 2011. However, Algeria has made little progress since then. Authorities still curtail free speech. They also impede Algerians’ rights to freedom of association, assembly, and peaceful protest. Additionally, the government arbitrarily arrests and prosecutes activists. And perpetrators of torture, murder, and other abuses during the civil war still enjoy impunity.

Next: Americans know this country for its oppression of women and gender segregation.

6. Saudi Arabia

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Kingdom tower

Women face oppression in Saudi Arabia. |

Few Americans will feel surprised to see Saudi Arabia on the list of the most hated countries in the world. That’s because most Americans have heard of this Arab state’s centuries-old attitude toward women. The austere Wahhabi form of Islam has shaped Saudi Arabia’s culture, and the conservative religious kingdom only recently declared that it would allow women to drive. But Saudi Arabia still oppresses women in many other ways.

The World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Gender Gap Report ranked the kingdom 141 out of 144 countries on gender parity. A Saudi Arabian woman can’t marry, divorce, travel, or get a job without permission from a male “guardian.” (Usually her father, husband, brother, or even her son.) She can’t eat at restaurants that don’t have a designated “family” section. Nor can she enter through the same door as male patrons, as the country segregates by genders. And she can’t get a fair hearing in court, because the Saudi Arabian legal system holds women as legally equal to minors.

Next: You often hear about this country in the news.

5. Russia


Many people feel Russian President Vladimir Putin is destabilizing Europe. | Sergei Ilnitsky/AFP/Getty Images

Anybody who pays attention to the new could probably have guessed that Russian would land on the list of the most hated countries worldwide. The Reputation Institute reports that Russia’s reputation got worse in 2017 after a peak in 2016. In particular, consumers worldwide grew a lot less confident in Russia’s status as an “ethical country” and a “responsible participant in the global community.” As The Chicago Tribune reports, “the world hates Russia, and Russia hates it back.”

People almost everywhere in the world have an unfavorable opinion of Russia. Many of them cite concerns with Russia’s foreign policy, such as Vladimir Putin’s efforts to destabilize Europe or his choice to support Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Russia has also attracted criticism for human rights violations, including its treatment of LGBT citizens. The country classified homosexuality as a crime until 1993 and a mental illness until 1999. More recently, it passed a law banning “gay propaganda,” and hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens surged.

Next: Many factors, including Ebola, have hurt this African country’s reputation.  

4. Nigeria


It has had a reputation for corruption. | AFP/Getty Images

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, as well as Africa’s largest economy thanks to large oil reserves. But the nation lands on the list of the most hated countries in the world for a few reasons. For decades, Nigeria has had a reputation for corruption. Nearly a third of Nigerian adults who had contact with local public officials reported cases where bribes were solicited or paid to a public official, according to a recent survey. On average, Nigerians pay such bribes six times per year.

Nigeria’s reputation also took a hit thanks to the Ebola outbreak. The rise of the Boko Haram terrorist group didn’t help, either. About 2.5 million Nigerians remain displaced by Boko Haram attacks. Even worse? The government’s humanitarian response has been criticized as insufficient. Displaced Nigerians often don’t have access to adequate food, shelter, education, or healthcare. Most also lack sufficient protection for harm or freedom of movement. Displaced women and girls also suffer rape and sexual exploitation.

Next: This South Asian country has a very violent reputation. 

3. Pakistan

Rooftop view from the Wazir Khan Mosque in Pakistan

It has a violent reputation. | gaborbasch/iStock/Getty Images

Pakistan lands in third place among the most hated countries in the world. As the only nuclear power in the Muslim world, Pakistan plays an important role in the international community. But this South Asian country has a violent reputation that’s only been exacerbated by concerns over human rights violations.

As the Human Rights Watch explains, militant violence routinely kills people through bombings targeted at courts and mosques and carried out by the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and their affiliates. Law enforcement and security agencies don’t stand accountable for human rights violations, and secret military courts sentence people to death. The government also curbs Pakistanis’ freedom of expression, and has cracked down on peaceful speech on the internet. Pakistan also fails to protect women, religious minorities, and transgender people from violence.

Next: You’ve probably heard about a nuclear deal with this country. 

2. Iran

Ancient city of Yazd in sunrise lights. Iran

Its nuclear program has caused concern. | silverjohn/iStock/Getty Images

Though Iran has a fascinating history as a home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world, its instability makes it one of the most hated countries in the world. Donald Trump has repeatedly insulted the nation as a “dictatorship” of “murderous” leaders, whom he accused of spreading “death, destruction, and chaos all over the globe.” Trump’s insults haven’t helped the situation, but the Human Rights Watch does express some major concerns about the country’s lack of respect for civil and political rights and the government’s choice to punish many crimes with death.

Iran’s human rights abuses aren’t the only factor to cause national concern. Its nuclear program has also caused some serious concerns (again, from Trump, but also from other players on the international stage). Iran’s behavior — from testing ballistic missiles to funding violent militia groups throughout the Middle East — troubles leaders worldwide. As Vox notes, Iran has made a policy of undermining America’s allies by supporting their enemies.

Next: This country is the most hated country of all. 

1. Iraq

Hayat Mosque, Arbil, Kurdistan, Iraq

The country is known for being a war zone. |

Nobody will feel surprised to see Iraq among the ranks of the most hated countries in the world, particularly because of its status as an extremely high-profile war zone. The longstanding conflict between ISIS and government forces has ravaged the country. As the Human Rights Watch explains, “ISIS used civilians as human shields, fired indiscriminate weapons into civilian areas, carried out car bomb and other suicide attacks, and planted landmines.”

ISIS hasn’t been defeated yet. And Iraq’s government isn’t innocent, either. Government forces destroyed civilians’ homes and engaged in looting. They also committed other abuses against civilians such as enforced disappearances, torture, and executions. Government forces have even used child soldiers.  That alone seems enough to solidify Iraq’s status as the most hated country in the world.

Next: What about North Korea?

What about North Korea?

Kim Jong Un giving a statement at a desk with books behind him

North Korea didn’t make the cut. | STR/AFP/Getty Images

Are you wondering “Where’s North Korea?” We have a couple of answers for you. First, the unexciting one: The Reputation Institute tracks only the 55 largest economies by GDP. North Korea’s economy experienced record growth in 2016, but the isolated country’s per capita gross national income was just 1.5 million won, or roughly $1,342. That’s not enough to land North Korea on the list of the largest economies.

Nonetheless, people around the world have found plenty of things to criticize about North Korea. For one, it remains a repressive authoritarian state. Kim Jong Un forces North Koreans to obey through public executions, arbitrary detention, and forced labor. Tight travel restrictions prevent North Koreans from leaving. The government commits numerous human rights violations including murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortion, and other sexual violence. And, of course, North Korea’s nuclear program is a source of anxiety.

Next: How about the United States?

What about the United States of America?

white house

The U.S. has a “moderate” reputation. | Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

Finally, a note for those worried that they’d see America among the ranks of the most hated countries. The United States doesn’t land among the 15 most hated countries. But it sits just three spots above Qatar — number 15 — with only a “moderate” reputation worldwide. Additionally, the Reputation Institute characterizes the United States as the country with the highest reputation drop in 2017.

The world regards the U.S. highly for its “well-known brands,” its technology, and its culture. But America loses out on some other factors. Consumers worldwide give the U.S. poor ratings for its status as a “responsible participant” in world affairs and its enactment of “progressive social and economic policies.” Perhaps even worse? They also don’t show a lot of confidence in the United States as an “effective government” or as an “ethical country.” The perception of the U.S. as an effective government dropped dramatically in 2017, a dip that Forbes termed “the Trump effect.”

Read more: These Insane Conspiracy Theories About North Korea Will Blow Your Mind

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