Let’s talk about ‘legitimacy’, Science Museum

The Science Museum justified its plans to host a ‘welcome reception’ for arms dealers from Farnborough International by telling us that Farnborough International was a ‘legitimate organisation’.

So I went to Farnborough this week and saw what ‘legitimate’ looks like.

It was the most surreal and chilling day I have ever experienced. But for the arms dealers and military buyers attending, it was just business as usual.

I stood by the glossy stands of Israeli arms companies, promoting ‘battle-tested’ weaponry with slick videos of missile strikes and drone attacks, while outside, in the real world, the death toll in Gaza mounted.

Elbit stand at Farnborough 2014
Israeli drone manufacturer Elbit Systems at Farnborough 2014.

I passed the displays for Rosoboronexport, advertising the weapons it has supplied to Assad in Syria, and watched it invite customers into its private rooms to discuss more deals.

Rosoboronexport stand at Farnborough 2014
Rosoboronexport is the main weapons supplier to Assad in Syria

And I came face-to-face with a member of Bahrain’s royal family, as he was ushered into BAE’s display area to browse its warplanes.

Bahraini military delegation outside BAE Systems' display area
Bahrain’ military delegation had a lengthy meeting with BAE Systems. BAE Systems’ armoured vehicles were used to support the repression of democracy protests in Bahrain. The UK government should be speaking out against Bahrain’s human rights abuses, but instead it is prioritising promoting BAE’s weapons sales

I thought of the Bahrainis I have met in London – shot, imprisoned, tortured and exiled by their government because they dared to call for democracy.

Later that evening, it was an honour to stand alongside these activists and tell the Science Museum that its support for this event is not OK.

Protesters, some in lab coats confront arms dealers outside the Science Museum
Taking action in solidarity with Gaza, Bahrain, Syria and those suffering from conflict and human rights abuses everywhere
Saeed explains why the UK must stop arming Bahrain’s tyrants
Esan, holding Syrian flags, blockades a Science Museum entrance
Esan told us she had ‘lost everything’ in Syria
The Director of exports for the arms industry trade body, ADS, was not best pleased with the start to his evening
Police lined up across Science Museum entrance
Not a good look for the Science Museum

Now we need your voice to send that message home.

We know our action works.

We’ve already got more than 2800 signatures on our petition – and the Museum has been inundated with comments on social media and by letter.

When the Bahraini delegation saw our protest it turned tail and left, and our action eventually forced the Museum to turn some arms dealers away from the event.

And we’ve just had some great news: we campaigned to stop the Natural History Museum hosting arms dealers two years ago and it worked!

The Museum confirmed this week that it had been asked to host this year’s welcome reception for Farnborough International – and that it had refused.

Dinosaur protest at the Natural History Museum
CAAT campaigned against the Natural History Museum hosting arms dealers in 2012. in 2014 it turned them down!

Please help us do the same for the Science Museum.

If you haven’t already, please sign the petition, then spread the word.

Our action matters.

The arms dealers at Farnborough exist in a bubble, divorced from the human consequences of their work.

But they need public support to continue – and the prestige of using our public spaces is one of the most important ways they seek to normalise their business.

When we shut them out, as we have done at the National Gallery and now at the Natural History Museum, we are one step closer to shutting them down.

Protester with placard: we're protesting until the arms dealers argon
We can’t get enough of the science puns

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