A British company has launched a first international arms fair in Bahrain, ignoring rights groups’ criticism of Manama’s repression of dissent and participation in a Saudi-led coalition waging war on Yemen.
British company Clarion Events kicked off the so-called Bahrain International Defense Exhibition and Conference (BIDEC) 2017 on Monday.
The event is due to continue until Wednesday.
The exhibition drew condemnation from human rights groups and opposition MPs in the UK.
Leading anti-arms group Campaign Against Arms Trade said in a statement, “The UK public do not want our taxes to be spent promoting weapons sales to Bahrain and the other human-rights abusing regimes attending BIDEC.”
“The UK’s promotion of arms exports at BIDEC will be seen as a show of support for the Bahraini regime. As well as jailing and torturing human rights and pro-democracy activists, the government of Bahrain is part of the coalition currently bombarding Yemen, leaving millions of Yemenis on the edge of starvation and at risk of cholera,” the group added.
Since March 2015, Yemen has been under heavy military strikes by a Saudi Arabian-led coalition, which included Bahrain. Latest tallies show that the war has so far killed over 12,000 Yemenis and wounded thousands more. The Saudi-led aggression has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories.
Britain’s opposition Labour Party also slammed the exhibition.
Fabian Hamilton, an MP from Labour and the shadow minister for peace, said, “We should not be selling weapons to any state that uses, or could potentially use, weapons we supply for internal repression or for foreign wars.”
According to data from the Stockholm international Peace Research Institute, Britain has sold at least $85 million worth of arms to Bahrain between 2000 and 2016.
The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) has called on arms companies not to attend BIDEC.
“It is extremely concerning that companies could be content to advertise and sell arms to Bahrain, a member of the Saudi-led coalition whose bombing of Yemen has helped to create the world’s worst man-made humanitarian crisis,” Sophie Baggott, of BIRD, said.
“Not only could these weapons be used against Yemeni civilians, but also against Bahrain’s own citizens whose freedoms have been curtailed drastically over the past 18 months.”
Anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations in Bahrain ever since a popular uprising began in the kingdom in February 2011.
The Manama regime has harshly cracked down on dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were also deployed to Bahrain to assist Manama in the crackdown.