Every year, CAAT activists attend the Annual General Meeting of the UK’s biggest arms company, BAE Systems. We do this so that we can challenge the Board face to face and expose the hypocrisy and greed at the heart of the arms trade. One campaigner who attended this year was Arabian activist, Ameen Nemer. Here he reflects on his reasons for going and how he found the experience.
I attended because I wanted to provide a voice for Arabian people. The absolute monarch does not represent the people in Arabia. The House of Saud tries to kidnap our voices. BAE has fallen for the propaganda and presents the regime as a liberating force. I attended so that I could tell the Board and shareholders about what is really happening to my people and land.
I am sure the BAE AGM will be happy not to have that voice which reminds them of the dirty job they are doing. No matter how nice they present themselves using polite language and advance technology, criminals are still criminals. They need to be exposed, and CAAT is doing a great job.
Shareholders got to direct questions to BAE’s Chair, Roger Carr. He was obviously well-briefed and had prepared answers for questions about the bombing in Yemen. His words may have been delivered with confidence, but they were morally bankrupt.
Every time somebody spoke on behalf of Yemenis or people from Saudi Arabia, Carr disregarded them. He had absolutely no shame about parroting the lies and distortions of the Saudi Arabian regime.
He told us how happy he was that there was such strong growth in terms of sales to the dictatorship. The way he was speaking, you could be forgiven for thinking that he was selling medicine or ice cream. But he is selling weapons! The sales might be good news for shareholders, but the profit comes from the misery of Yemeni people.
Carr talked about his desire to see peace, but BAE’s arms sales have enabled the terrible war on Yemen to continue for the 5th year. They have also empowered the authorities. The stronger the regime feels, the more repressive the situation will become.
We cannot separate the Saudi dictatorship’s aggressive foreign policy from its domestic repression. Those who empower such a regime are not simply business partners, they are partners in crime. They are complicit in the abuse, even when they pretend to be horrified by it.
Since Mohammed Bin Salman came to power there has been a significant increase in executions, yet BAE still maintains the lie that he is a liberal and a reformer.
BAE and the UK Government claim that by selling weapons they can gain influence and push for change. But, even if we accept the logic of their argument, it clearly isn’t working. I believe that one of the main reasons why the Middle East is a “dangerous place”, as Carr described it, is because of this intervention.
If the UK wants to promote peace and democracy then it must stop empowering such regimes and listen to people who seek peace and dialogue instead of war and conflict.
Contrary to BAE’s delusions, you cannot bring peace through wars. George Orwell would have been laughing if he had been there to hear Carr saying things like “to be protected you need strength. We provide that strength” and his insistence that the provision of the arms is distinct from the act of using them.
It might be simple for Carr, but for people in Saudi Arabia and Yemen it is impossible to separate the people who sell the weapon from the ones that use them.
Ameen Nemer is an Arabian activist. You can follow him on Twitter at @AmeenNemer.