There’s now a blue plaque to acknowledge the UK’s role in Yemeni bloodbath

A Yemeni child running through a bombed building
Fréa Lockley

On 26 November, protesters gathered for a candle-lit vigil outside the Department for International Trade Defence & Security Organisation (DIT). People met to commemorate the lives lost in Yemen and to oppose the UK government’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which is leading the bombing of Yemen. They also gave the department a powerful new plaque, while labelling the government “war criminals”.

“War criminals”

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) hosted the vigil. The DIT is the “government body responsible for promoting arms exports to oppressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia”, so protesters placed a blue plaque on the building to acknowledge its role in the ongoing deaths in Yemen. As it stated:

By supplying… weapons to the Saudi regime (£4.6bn since the war started), our government bears responsibility for the crisis.

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The plaque is a powerful reminder of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the rising number of deaths.

Campaigner Sam Walton also called the DIT “war criminals”:

In another poignant act of solidarity, one protester read out the names of each child killed when Saudi Arabia bombed a school bus in August:

News of the vigil soon reached Yemen, and freelance Yemeni journalist Ahmad Algohbary sent messages to those outside the DIT:

Government statistics show Saudi Arabia is the UK arms trade’s largest customer. And its airstrikes in Yemen have faced accusations of “deliberately attacking civilians and infrastructure in rebel-held areas”.

Yemen: the world’s “worst humanitarian crisis”

Over 56,000 Yemenis have reportedly died since 2016 in what the UN has called the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis”. But there still appears to have been no attempt to regulate arms sales. As Counterpunch reported:

The number is increasing by more than 2,000 per month as fighting intensifies around the Red Sea port of Hodeidah. It does not include those dying of malnutrition, or diseases such as cholera.

Andrea Carboni, from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), told Counterpunch that he predicts the number to be closer to 70,000 or 80,000 casualties. But it’s difficult to establish accurate numbers because of Saudi Arabia and its coalition allies restricting “foreign journalists and other impartial witnesses” from working in Yemen. This in itself is telling:

Loss of life from fighting should be easier to record and publicise, and the fact this has not happened in Yemen is a sign of the lack of interest by the international community in the conflict

Saudi Arabia has been leading an assault on Yemen since 2015. Eight million people are now on “the brink of famine”. And the UN has warned this may rise to over 12 million.

Complicit and responsible

Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Finland have announced that they will end arms sales to the authoritarian Saudi regime. But so far, the UK government shows no signs of stopping.

A blue plaque won’t solve the crisis, of course. But it is a powerful reminder of our government’s responsibility in this tragedy. It has blood on its hands, and the protests won’t stop until the complicity ends.

Featured image via Felton Davis/Flickr

Get involved

  • Write to Theresa May and your MP. Ask them to push for peace talks in Yemen.
  • Until that happens, tell them to cancel and stop approving arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
  • You can also support Campaign Against Arms Trade to help make that happen

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