A demonstration outside Downing Street has been planned for this afternoon in protest of the first official UK visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.
The protest has been organised by a coalition of human rights organisations, including Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK, Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy, Human Rights for Yemen, Stop the War Coalition and War on Want. The event is expected to feature speeches from a range of MPs and campaigners, highlighting the numerous human rights abuses in the Kingdom.
“Theresa May might believe the Crown Prince’s ridiculous claims that he is a reformist and a force for liberalism, but people in the UK are not so easily convinced. This visit is being done to legitimise a brutal dictatorship and to sell arms,” CAAT Media Coordinator Andrew Smith said in a statement.
“The Crown Prince is the public face of a regime that routinely tortures and abuses its own citizens and has killed thousands of people in Yemen. We are protesting to send the message loudly and clearly that he is not welcome.”
The British government has regularly come under criticism for their close ties with the Saudi monarchy, with a recent poll conducted by CAAT finding that only six per cent of people in the UK support arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom has been particularly criticised for its military campaign in Yemen, which is now facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world with 20 million people, out of a population of 25 million, requiring humanitarian assistance.
Despite this, statistics show that the UK has licensed some $4.6 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the bombardment of Yemen began in 2015. Britain has also openly sought to woo the Kingdom, ahead of the expected stock market listing of state oil company Saudi Aramco, which could be the largest such offering in history.
Today, British NGO Save the Children has also unveiled a life-size statue of a child outside Parliament as “a reminder of the dangers that Yemeni children face every day and the risks of British-made bombs fuelling the violence.” The charity is calling on the British government to help bring about a political solution to the conflict in Yemen.
“Britain is providing welcome and life-saving aid to Yemen – but it also provides diplomatic cover. It is time for the Government to use this diplomatic relationship to push for an end to the conflict – and to demand our allies stop bombing children,” Head of Conflict and Humanitarian policy James Denselow said in a statement.
Yesterday, the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) wrote an open letter to UK Prime Minister Theresa May, calling on her to address the ongoing human rights abuses in the country, including the arrests of thousands of activists and religious clerics, as well as the war in Yemen.
“A relationship must be established on the grounds of the universal values of humanity which are shared by all fair-minded people rather than on mere crass heartless political, commercial and strategic interests,” MAB President Anas Altikriti concluded.