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Destroyed house in the south of Sanaa, Western Yemen

Stop Arming Saudi! A Hastings Against War talk

With the war in Yemen continuing, and a prediction from the UN that this small Arab state could face the worst famine in 100 years, (1) there was a timely talk in Hastings on 4 June about the background to the current war and Britain’s involvement. John Enefer writes.

The speaker at an informal meeting at the Grand Rue De Pera cafe in Queens Road was Wendy Horler from Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT).

The conflict began after a failed political transition, which was intended to stabilise Yemen in the wake of an uprising during the Arab Spring of 2011 (2). Initially a civil war, the conflict widened and its impact on civilians worsened with the start of a bombing offensive led by Saudi Arabia.

The UN has estimated that 65% of civilian deaths in Yemen since 2015 have been caused by the bombing campaign (3). OCHA – the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs – reported: ‘The escalation of the conflict in March 2015 has dramatically aggravated the protection crisis in which millions face risks to their safety and basic rights.’ (4) Oxfam, Save the Children, the British Red Cross and UNICEF are all mounting urgent appeals because of the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

With the Saudi-led bombing campaign being such a factor in the humanitarian crisis, those companies equipping the Saudi Kingdom have come under the spotlight. UK companies are among the main suppliers to the Saudi military, companies such as BAE Systems (5). This is in spite of UK arms export license controls insisting that arms should not be sold in cases where the sale might ‘provoke or prolong armed conflicts’ (6). Wendy Horler remarked that the licence controls are strong. but they’re simply not implemented.

She mentioned the protests planned in September against the ‘Defence and Security Equipment International’ arms fair in East London, in which weaponry is sold to, among other governments, those with poor human rights records like Saudi Arabia (7). The protests planned for this year’s arms fair in September promise to be among the biggest yet (8).

Also discussed was General Dynamics, one of the biggest global arms companies and one with premises in Hastings which produce among things avionics for the Eurofighter Typhoon (9), a warplane used to bomb targets in Yemen (10).

After the meeting Wendy Horler said she was ‘gratified by the enthusiasm of the participants.’ She observed that people should oppose the arms trade because ‘it is corrupt and damaging to all our welfare, causing unnecessary conflict.’

The meeting was organised by Hastings Against War, a local campaign group which has been active since 2003.

References:

  1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-middle-east-45857729/yemen-could-be-worst-famine-in-100-years
  2. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-29319423
  3. https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/02/1033401
  4. https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/02/1032811
  5. https://www.ft.com/content/7ebf7d4a-9944-11e3-b3a2-00144feab7de
  6. https://www.caat.org.uk/campaigns/stop-arming-saudi/breaking-the-rules
  7. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/09/arms-sales-repressive-regimes-saudi-arabia
  8. https://www.stopthearmsfair.org.uk/
  9. https://www.generaldynamics.uk.com/about-gduk/about/
  10. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/11584269/Saudis-UK-made-war-jets-outnumber-RAFs.html

Posted 08:48 Tuesday, Jun 11, 2019 In: Politics

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