This September’s DSEI arms fair will once again give authoritarian governments and dictatorships the opportunity to stock up on what is fast becoming the weapon of choice for repressive regimes- tear gas.
Some of the world’s leading suppliers of tear gas will be exhibiting, including British arms company Chemring, Brazil’s Condor, the US firm Non-Lethal Technologies and the joint German and South African-owned company Rheinmetall.
Tear gas made by these companies has recently been used to help crush protests in Bahrain, Egypt, Turkey and Brazil.
On this day, two years ago, a group of Bahraini citizens gathered at the “Pearl Roundabout” to call for democratic freedoms and equal rights for the majority Shia population. They were part of the “Arab Spring”, the wave of protests that swept the region in 2011.
The ruling regime responded with violence. Peaceful protesters were met with bullets and teargas. Some of the weapons used by the police and military came from the UK.
The Natural History Museum is not the most obvious place to have an anti-arms trade protest – but then again it’s not the most obvious place to have the official welcome reception for an arms fair either. Yet it was under ‘Dippy’, the Museum’s famous diplodocus, that delegates from Farnborough International were to be found nibbling canapes and ‘networking’ on the evening of Monday 9 July.
Symon Hill reports from the Annual General Meeting of the world’s second-largest arms company.
Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of the BAE Systems Annual General Meeting. Shareholders were today welcomed into the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, to be greeted by plush carpets, free coffee and glamorous posters featuring BAE staff saying how great it is to work for one of the world’s largest arms dealers (they don’t quite put it quite like that).
Afterwards, the AGM itself was underway, with presentations and displays about “total performance” and “a culture of responsible behaviour”. A brief film attempted to demonstrate the diversity of BAE’s staff (not reflected on the board of directors), with gender, age and ethnicity very varied. None of them mentioned what BAE really does. The worker on the film with a visible mobility impairment did not mention how much cheaper mobility equipment would be if those who produce it were to receive the same subsidies that go to arms companies.
Since the New Year, at least ten people have been killed by security forces in Bahrain. Three were killed in custody. Others suffocated on tear gas, which has been fired into people’s homes where they can’t escape.
We have known of Bahrain’s horrific human rights abuses since a year ago when the crackdown on protest began, but the UK continues to arm the kingdom regardless. In Vince Cable’s words last week: “We do business with repressive governments and there’s no denying that.”
Anti-arms trade activists had discovered that a gala reception for delegates would be hosted at London’s National Gallery. After a ‘die-in’ (everyone lying around in the throes of mock-death) outside the nearby offices of BAE Systems, activists made their way to the entrances to the Gallery to provide their own reception as delegates arrived. Continue reading “Action at the arms fair”
Kaye Stearman asks: “Why do MPs care so passionately about animal rights while failing to tackle issues like the arms trade?”
One night in June as I was drifting off to sleep, I was galvanised by the passionate debate being played out on the normally soporific Today in Parliament on Radio 4. The programme is noted for its erudition in the explanation of arcane bills and ministerial soundbites but to hear genuine anger and passionate advocacy is rare.
Even more surprising was that the debate was led by backbenchers and cut across partly lines. Who, I wondered, were these MPs and what was their cause. Surely it must involve an issue such as violation of human rights, poverty, famine, war or the arms trade.
I attended the presentation given by the arms company Thales a few months ago as a personal interdisciplinary exercise. The problem was as follows.
Given a group of thoroughly decent academics listening to a presentation of some highly technical problems posed by an organisation devoted to the production, inter alia, of tools of repression, mass slaughter, and arbitrary execution, I was interested to learn how such individuals would cope with a certain cognitive dissonance which they might be expected to experience.
Rhiannon Rees wrtes of her experiences as a member of a CAAT delegation presenting an anti-arms trade petition at the office of the Prime Minister.
On Wednesday, 9 March, I went with Anne-Marie, Henry and Sarah from the CAAT office, and Azeldin El-Sharif, of the British-Libyan Solidarity Campaign, to present CAAT’s ‘This is not OK’ petition at 10 Downing Street.
Nearly 4,000 people had signed the petition and posted their comments to tell the Government that selling tear gas, firearms and crowd control ammunition to Bahrain and Libya, promoting arms exports to corrupt and repressive regimes and holding one of the world’s largest arms fairs in London next September are NOT OK. Continue reading “The day I went to Downing Street…”