Owen Jones slams a top museum for hosting ‘one of the most extreme regimes on Earth’

Owen Jones and children injured by Saudi violence
Fréa Lockley

Owen Jones has slammed the Natural History Museum (NHM) because, on 11 October, it’s hosting an event for “one of the most extreme regimes on Earth”. The Saudi Arabian embassy has booked the museum for a reception to “celebrate Saudi Arabia Day”. But the event has caused outrage from many who oppose the brutal dictatorship.

Saudi dictatorship

Jones sent out a series of tweets highlighting the event:

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In response to demands that the NHM cancel, it claimed the event was “an important source of external funding”:

Jones isn’t alone, because many others also condemned this event. In a press release seen by The Canary, Andrew Smith from Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said:

The Natural History Museum is a very prestigious venue, and should not be hosting a regime which has been accused of killing journalists and is inflicting a humanitarian catastrophe on the people of Yemen. 

The Saudi authorities have a contempt for human rights, and events like this will undoubtedly be regarded as an endorsement. It’s time for the Museum to take a stand.

And as Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD), explained:

Hosting the Saudi embassy so soon after the alleged murder of a dissident journalist will taint the museum’s reputation. Conducting business as usual with the Saudi regime normalises its crimes and emboldens it to continue its policy of repression and abuse.

Jamal Khashoggi

Smith and Alwadaei are referring to Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who recently vanished. There are widespread fears that he was murdered inside the Istanbul Saudi Arabian consulate. But as many commentators have noted, he’s not the first journalist to vanish; and sadly, he’s unlikely to be the last.

Because Khashoggi worked with the Washington Post, however, his absence is more ‘visible’:

As Middle East Eye reported, Saudi Arabia is infamous for its human rights abuses:

Thousands languish in jail. Human rights activists branded as terrorists are on death row on charges that Human Rights Watch says “do not resemble recognised crimes”. I know of one business leader who was strung upside down, naked and tortured. Nothing has been heard of him since. In Saudi, you are one social media post away from death.

And in a savage twist of irony, the NMH currently has an “interactive murder-mystery” exhibit:

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Yemen

A brutal Saudi-led war against Yemen is, according to the UN, the “worst humanitarian crisis” in the world. And on 9 August alone, a Saudi-led coalition bomb hit a school bus in Yemen, killing 40 children and 11 adults. Yet UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and the government still defend the Britain’s links to Saudi Arabia.

MPs, meanwhile, were also reportedly invited to the NMH event:

The Saudi dictatorship is a key Western ally. Heavily linked to terrorism and the escalation of the war in Syria, Riyadh has also faced allegations of war crimes in Yemen. Despite denials by the Saudi foreign minister, a UN report in 2017 stated that:

Coalition airstrikes continued to be the leading cause of child casualties as well as overall civilian casualties. 

And the UK is also complicit in this violence through arms sales to the regime. In a press release, CAAT explained:

The regime is also the world’s largest buyers of UK arms, which it is using in the ongoing bombardment of Yemen. Since the bombing of Yemen began in 2015, the UK has licensed £4.7 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia.

BIRD, CAAT, Jones, and many others planned to protest outside the NHM from 6.30pm, because the Saudi Arabian regime deals in death.

No excuses, no justification. Enough is enough.

And now, the NHM is tainted with the blood of innocents too.

Get Involved!

– Write to your local MP about British military assistance to Saudi Arabia.

– Support Campaign Against Arms Trade.

– Read more of the Canary’s coverage of Saudi Arabia and the crisis in Yemen.

– Join The Canary, so we can keep holding the powerful to account.

Featured images via Marc Lozano/Flickr and screengrab

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Fréa Lockley