One of the world’s largest arms companies took to Twitter to try and show how progressive it is. May 17 is the international day against homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia. It’s ‘a worldwide celebration of sexual and gender diversities’ and this year’s social media campaign used the hashtag #BreakingTheSilence.
So BAE Systems took to Twitter to show its support for the day:
We’ve been working with @stonewalluk to help ensure everyone feels they can truly be themselves at work. 🇬🇧
Our employee group have also launched important initiatves including our allies programme. 🏳️🌈
— BAE Systems (@BAESystemsplc) May 17, 2020
Except it didn’t end well for the arms company. Especially given that it’s known for supplying arms to governments that suppress and punish people from the LGBTQI+ community.
“You’re a fucking arms company”
Corporate Watch called out the company:
You're a fucking arms company! People tend not to 'truly be themselves' when your weapons are used to bomb the shit out of them. And does your allies programme include people under the boot of the repressive regimes you support? This kind of #pinkwash is absolutely abhorrent
— Corporate Watch (@CorpWatchUK) May 17, 2020
And Declassified journalist Phil Miller highlighted exactly why the company’s tweet is so problematic.
BAE supplied 200 armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia's National Guard, a ruthless internal security unit which keeps the Kingdom's homophobic rulers in power #breakingthesilence https://t.co/MKdlPoIWBs https://t.co/xtIIB8TIOQ
— Phil Miller (@pmillerinfo) May 17, 2020
Between 2015 and 2019, the company made £15bn in deals with Saudi Arabia. Its weapons were used in the deadly assault against Yemen. And despite the Court of Appeal ruling that the government acted unlawfully when it licensed the sale of UK-made arms to Saudi forces for use in Yemen, BAE Systems is still providing logistical support to the regime.
Speaking about this revelation, Andrew Smith from Campaign Against Arms Trade stated:
UK-made fighter jets have played a key role in the devastating Saudi-led bombing of Yemen. The war has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, and, especially at this time, further military support for Saudi forces can only make it even worse.
Despite the terrible humanitarian crisis and the outbreak of COVID-19, the war is still raging. There must be a meaningful ceasefire from all sides. The suffering of Yemeni people will be made far worse by the air strikes that Saudi fighter jets are being used for.
We are in unprecedented times, and this should not be happening. Fighter jet maintenance is not essential work, whether it is for the UK or any of the human rights abusing regimes and dictatorships that BAE sells its arms to. Our common security is not advanced by these arms sales or the wars they may be used in.
Furthermore, Saudi Arabia is listed as the fourth most dangerous place in the world for LGBTQI+ people, where homosexuality can be punished with the death penalty or whipping.
Not in my name
Social media users expressed disgust at BAE Systems using the hashtag:
You don't speak for me. You arm regimes that oppress LGBTQ+ people, wipe out their own indigenous populations, bomb families and hospitals. You are the lowest of the low.
You do not speak for me. How DARE you use that hashtag 😡
— Blocker of the hateful. Lover of tea. (@KeithFarnish) May 17, 2020
And others questioned Stonewall for working with the weapons giant:
Dear @stonewalluk, please explain why you are working with a company that profits from murder. It’s raisin d’etre.
The largest arms co. in the UK, one of largest in the world, responsible for death & destruction on a global level. #BAESystems. https://t.co/Axe0HkqIH7
— downlander (@downlanda) May 17, 2020
This is not the first time the company has been called out for pinkwashing. As The Canary reported in 2019, Surrey Pride was criticised after it made the sickening decision to accept BAE Systems as its main sponsor.
BAE Systems deals in death and destruction. Its weapons are used to kill and repress people and it makes billions out of deals with regimes that are happy to murder LGBTQI+ people. No amount of pinkwashing will ever clean its blood-drenched hands.
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