UK’s £1bn in aid to Yemen is worthless when it’s sold £6.5bn of weapons to the countries bombing it

Campaigners have accused the UK government of having “dangerous and immoral priorities” ahead of a House of Commons debate on Yemen.

The Saudi-led war on Yemen has created what is known as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. After five years of brutal conflict, 20 million people are suffering from hunger and malnutrition, while 2 million children are acutely malnourished. More than 112,000 people have died as a direct result of the war.

Saudi Arabia was the world’s biggest importer of weapons between 2015 and 2019. By providing arms to Saudi Arabia and its coalition, the UK – and the private arms companies around the country creating the weapons – are complicit in every death.

Giving aid while providing the bombs

On 17 September, the government showed its blatant hypocrisy by announcing that it was giving:

£5.8 million of new UK aid to help avert a famine in Yemen, taking the UK’s total contribution since the conflict began to over £1 billion.

But according to Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT):

The most recent government statistics show that the UK has licensed at least £6.5 billion worth of arms to the Saudi-led Coalition since the start of its ongoing bombing campaign in Yemen. The figure covers the period from March 26 2015, when the bombing began, until March 26 2020.

By providing aid to Yemen, the UK is attempting to cover up its role in supporting war crimes.

Putting arms company profits first

The UK is one of the biggest arms exporters in the world. And key companies in the UK continue to pocket billions in weapons deals, arming the Saudi-led coalition. According to Amnesty International:

Saudi Arabia’s allies put economic interests and security links before human rights. They refuse to publicly criticise the country, effectively giving it a free pass to do what it wants. They also shamelessly back the Kingdom’s repression in the name of the so-called ‘war on terror’. Both the UK and US governments are providing weapons, logistical support and intelligence to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen.

Typhoon and Tornado aircraft, made by BAE Systems, have been key in attacking Yemen. BAE is the UK’s largest arms company, and the seventh biggest weapons manufacturer in the world. Meanwhile, UK-made precision-guided missiles, produced by companies Raytheon, BAE and MBDA, have also been extensively used to bomb Yemen.

The government continues to act unlawfully

In 2019, the Court of Appeal ruled that the government acted unlawfully by licensing the sale of UK-made weapons to Saudi-led forces for use in Yemen. Despite this, in July 2020, the government announced that it was resuming arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The government’s blatant disregard for the lives of the people of Yemen is disgusting.

Andrew Smith of CAAT said:

The fixation on arms company profits ahead of human lives exposes the dangerous and immoral priorities of Boris Johnson and his colleagues when it comes to Yemen.

Keep the pressure up

In 2017, two activists broke into a BAE airbase in an attempt to disarm a fighter jet bound for Saudi Arabia, to be used in its war on Yemen. The pair were acquitted on charges of criminal damage after arguing their actions were justified because of the “the imminent and immediate use of the aircraft in the Saudi’s conflict in Yemen”.

Today, CAAT is continuing to put pressure on the UK government, and is considering all legal options to challenge its position on resuming arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, protesters continue to demonstrate on the streets, arguing that the government has blood on its hands.

As the crisis in Yemen rages on, it’s up to all of us to keep putting pressure on the UK government and arms companies like BAE Systems. War starts here, where the weapons are made. We can stop it here.

Featured image via Felton Davis / Flickr

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