When the British Museum announced that it would hold an Assyria exhibition sponsored by BP we were instantly alarmed. Few companies have done as much damage in the region as BP!
We worked together with Iraqi activists and our friends at BP or not BP? in addressing why this exhibition is inappropriate and offensive, to say the least. The role of the British Museum and BP in war, environmental destruction and social and economic inequality needs to be addressed, so we planned a quick direct action at the press launch of the exhibition.
It was important for us to highlight that:
- According to UK government documents released in 2011, BP were ‘desperate’ to get into Iraq before the 2003 invasion, as it was ‘the big oil prospect’. BP’s centering of its interests renders it complicit in a war that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and the displacement of millions.
- BP and other oil companies are guilty of environmental injustice, in their continued extraction of fossil fuels during a climate crisis, and via the pollution of water in Iraq.
- BP have exacerbated the socio-economic situation in Iraq – the oil sector accounts for 89% of the state budget and 99% of Iraq’s export revenues, but only 1% of jobs, as the majority of posts are filled by workers brought in from elsewhere. The oil industry makes billions of dollars, but most Iraqis feel little benefit from it.
- The British Museum is facilitating the whitewashing of BP’s actions in Iraq by allowing it to sponsor of an exhibition that presents as a benevolent guardian and gatekeeper of Iraqi heritage.
You can also watch a video of the action on the 6th November below!
It’s crucial to understand that the arms trade is closely linked to other oppressive structures, and militarisation and climate change are closely interconnected.
Watch this space for more coming up on our collaborative work!
In the meantime, Rodney Kelly, an indigenous Australian campaigner, along with BP or not BP, will be holding a tour of British Museum stolen goods on Saturday 8th December. More information here.
If you’re interested in getting involved, drop us an email.