7 thoughts on “African refugee women against London arms fair

  1. Friday 8th September 2017

    posted by Morning Star in Features

    The arms industry doesn’t like exposure. But it must be exposed, writes ANDREW SMITH

    IF YOU look at the Excel Centre website, then it should be a very quiet time in the London Docklands.

    No events are listed between now and September 21st when hungry visitors will descend on Lunch 2017, an event that boasts it is “the UK’s leading and multi award-winning trade show for the food-to-go industry.”

    However, the empty slot on the Excel’s calendar isn’t because it’s closing its doors for the next two weeks. On the contrary, it will host 34,000 visitors next week.

    The reason for the gap can surely only be because even the Excel Centre feels at least a little bit ashamed of the event it’s holding.

    Next week it will host Defence & Security Equipment International 2017 (DSEI), one of the biggest arms fairs in the world. The venue may rather that it kept a low profile, but, for the arms industry and the British government, it is the single most important date in the arms trade calendar.

    For them it will be a glitzy and expensive production. It is one that will bring 1,600 arms companies together with civil servants, government ministers and representatives and military delegations from some of the most brutal and repressive regimes in the world.

    DSEI certainly isn’t something the government is ashamed of. In fact, it’s something it sees as a priority.

    That is why senior government ministers will be on hand to give keynote speeches and welcome delegates, including the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox.

    For them, there is no shame in peddling arms sales and trying to impress the roll-call of human rights abusers that are almost certain to be in attendance.

    The guest list for this year’s event has yet to be published, but in 2015 the government sent invites to the regimes in Bahrain, Egypt, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, among others.

    While there, delegations will be able to browse almost any kind of weapons they could possibly want.

    There will be fighter jets, naval vessels, tanks and guns among the equipment on display. It’s like a very dangerous “pic ’n’ mix” for those with big military budgets and very bad morals.

    There is no way of knowing how the weapons being promoted might be used, and there can be no such thing as arms control once weapons have left these shores.

    At present UK fighter jets and bombs are playing a central and devastating role in the ongoing Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen. What will be the next atrocity they are used in?

    This won’t be of concern to those buying or selling weapons. You would be hard pushed to find an industry in which those who buy and sell the equipment live lives so remote from those they might be used against.

    Nobody from BAE Systems, Raytheon or any of the other companies profiting from the destruction of Yemen will ever have to spend a day amid the destruction they are spreading. To them, and to the civil servants and ministers who are supporting them, it’s just business.

    That is why thousands of people are taking action this week, with protests taking place every day outside the venue.

    Campaigners and activists from across the country have used their bodies, their props and their determination to stop the hundreds of lorries full of military equipment that have been trying to get in.

    We want to send a message loud and clear that arms fairs like DSEI can never be acceptable.

    They fuel and facilitate war and repression. They are the oil that keeps such a brutal and deadly industry running. They are also opposed by the clear majority of the British public — recent polling shows that over two thirds of the country oppose arms sales to human rights abusers.

    With that in mind, it is understandable that the Excel Centre would rather people didn’t know what it is hosting, or who it has invited to the event. No doubt the management would rather people associated it with non-controversial events, like Lunch 2017.

    The arms industry doesn’t like exposure; it prefers to act in secrecy, behind giant fences and ranks of security guards.

    That is why we want to draw as much attention to DSEI as possible; the more people know that this awful event is taking place the better.

    Andrew Smith is a spokesperson for Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT). You can follow CAAT at @ CAATuk.



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