Twickenham residents don’t expect to see armoured vehicles – complete with gun turrets – on the streets of their town. But people in some countries are not so fortunate. For one week in January 2015, the Twickenham Rugby stadium has been playing host to an international conference on armoured vehicles. But protesters are asking the stadium chief executive not to hold arms trade events there in future.The conference guest list included delegates from many repressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. In 2011 the Saudi government used (British made) armoured vehicles to enter neighbouring Bahrain and help its rulers suppress protesters calling for more democracy.
As local resident and TRAKNAT supporter Mary Holmes explains: “All too often these vehicles are used against civilians and peaceful protesters by authoritarian rulers. Armoured vehicles are weapons and the UK should not be helping repressive regimes to upgrade their stock.”
Twickenham Rugby Stadium is a world famous sporting venue and should not be playing host to arms trade events. The arms industry loves to hold its events in such prestigious locations: as well as purchasing a “unique and exclusive” venue, by buying into public institutions it is also buying itself the appearance of public respectability.
Prestigious venues like the National Gallery have ended their links with the arms industry. Guildford Cathedral also recently cancelled a booking for the Security and Policing arms fair after deciding it was “not appropriate” for the event to go ahead at the Cathedral. Campaigners engaging with local people found they agreed that the Twickenham Rugby stadium should not be used to lend a veneer of legitimacy to the arms trade, and campaigners are calling on the stadium to follow suit and refuse to host future events.