- Save the Children has launched an ad campaign targeting British arms sales to Saudi Arabia
- Hundreds of civilians have died in Yemen as a result of a Saudi-led bombing campaign
- The advert was launched as representatives from several repressive regimes are gathering for a major arms fair in London
- The UK has approved arms sales of nearly $5bn to Riyadh since the Yemen war began
by Rosie Alfatlawi
“Is this an export we can be proud of?” asks the caption of a new Save the Children advert decrying the continued sale of British weapons to Saudi Arabia.
The jarring video, released Tuesday, is an eye-opening parody of car or mobile phone adverts.
“Sleek and fast, unstoppable machine, symbol of our engineering might,” the voiceover begins, accompanied by close-up shots of a metal object.
“Made in Britain,” it continues, mirroring the campaign’s title.
“Dropped on children,” the narrator adds matter-of-factly, as the camera zooms out to reveal what The Drum identified as a Paveway IV laser guided bomb, a weapon used in Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen.
Far from advertising vehicles, the minute-long clip is an appeal to the British public to demand their government suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which “are fuelling the [Yemen] conflict”.
Speaking about the ad, narrator Dominic West said: “Weapons supplied by British manufacturers have been used by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen”, The Drum reported.
“We know the coalition has killed or injured thousands of children and bombed dozens of schools and hospital. For me, as a proud Brit, this is completely unacceptable."
In its first 24 hours, the "excellent" and "powerful" video has received praise on social media. @LangeMichaell was among those to tweet the ad, writing: "Stop selling weapons to tyrant regime[s] such as Saudi Arabia!"
Britain's arms trade shame
The international NGO launched the campaign as London hosts the self-styled “world leading event” for buying weapons.
Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) is a four-day biennial arms fair which began Tuesday.
As in previous years, DSEI has faced protests, with more than 100 demonstrators arrested in the run-up to the event for attempting to prevent the arrival of arms.
And with good reason.
According to a recent report in The Guardian, the UK has approved arms sales of nearly $5bn to Riyadh since the beginning of the Saudi-led coalition's campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen in March 2015.
These, the report said, were mainly bombs and fighter aircraft.
In that time, the World Health Organization estimates, at least 10,000 civilians have died.
Many of those deaths, rights organizations and UN reports have attested, were a result of coalition airstrikes.
Amnesty International said in March that it had identified “at least 34 airstrikes by the Saudi Arabia led-coalition that appear to have violated international humanitarian law.”
“Some of these airstrikes used arms manufactured in the USA and the UK,” it added.
A UN draft report last month found that at least 349 children had been killed by the coalition in 2016 alone.
The war has also created an ongoing humanitarian crisis, leaving an estimated 18.8 million relying on aid, according to Amnesty International, with over half-a-million cholera cases in four months.
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In spite of this, the British government continues to turn a blind eye.
In late 2016, four British ministers issued a statement rejecting calls to halt arms sales, despite two parliamentary committees recommending their suspension.
In July this year, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) demanded a judicial review of the British government’s decision to carry on granting licenses for arms exports to Saudi Arabia.
The High Court ruled that the Saudi-led coalition does not deliberately target civilians and properly investigates civilian casualties, despite the weight of evidence to the contrary.
Still unabashed, Britain’s defense and international trade ministers, as well military chiefs of staff, will be in attendance at the fair, according to The Guardian. Meanwhile, the UK has no ministerial representation at this week’s arms trade treaty conference in Geneva, which will discuss a landmark 2014 agreement to regulate weapons sales.
A July report in Middle East Eye indicated a reason for this. Many in Britain rely on the arms trade for their job: around 7,000 people, it said, work at a BAE systems factory in Lancashire.
But, it also pointed out, the company made up less than one percent of Britain’s exports in 2013, undermining claims that the industry is vital to the economy.
As Andrew Smith from CAAT told the news site: "Arms companies enjoy a huge influence in the corridors of power, which has bought them a lot of power".
"We want to see an industrial strategy that puts the skills of industry workers to good use and focuses on positive, sustainable jobs and not those dependent on war and conflict."
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