Yemeni and Bahraini activists are calling on the UK to turn away Saudi delegates from one of the world’s largest arms fairs this September.
The DSEI arms exhibition, which lays out its deadly wares in the ExCel Centre in east London’s Docklands, hosts political delegates from around the world, who then network with arms companies and UK officials to facilitate arms deals.
‘Saudi Arabia’s military leadership should be investigated for war crimes, not welcomed to arms fairs,’ says Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei of the Institute for Rights and Democracy in Bahrain, where Saudi troops helped repress anti-regime protests in 2011.
Since the Saudi-led coalition attacked Yemen in March 2015, local rights group the Legal Centre for Rights and Democracy has documented some 12,000 fatalities. During that time frame, Britain granted at least £3.3 billion worth of arms export licences to Saudi Arabia.
‘The British government should be ashamed of its complicity in selling arms and deflecting UN inquiries into Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the Emirates’ pointless war in Yemen, which has caused so much suffering,’ says Alwadaei.
More than 21 million people are in need of emergency assistance in Yemen as a result of the much-criticized Saudi military intervention – which is deploying airstrikes, a naval blockade and ground troops to restore the ousted President Abdrabbuh Hadi and assert Saudi dominance in the region.
‘Britain has made huge arms deals with the Saudi government,’ says Safa, who left Yemen for Britain after the conflict began. ‘This is enough to make the UK an essential partner in Saudi’s killing of the Yemeni people. The exhibition should not take place.’
Activists are planning a week of action – including a colourful Carnival of Resistance – to disrupt DSEI, which runs from 12-15 September.