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Over recent weeks and months, government ministers have takenpart in a whistle-stop tour of brutal dictatorships and repressive regimes. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and the Philippines are among those that have been graced by high profile visits from Liam Fox, Boris Johnson or Theresa May herself.
These regimes are among those that will be sending delegations to London this September for the Defence and Security Equipment International arms fair (DSEI), an event that brings some of the world’s most oppressive governments together to do business with the biggest arms companies.
Events like DSEI are crucial to the smooth-running of the arms trade. They promote weapons sales by giving arms dealers the chance to meet military delegations, government officials, other arms companies and a host of individual visitors.
The deals made at DSEI aren’t just numbers on a spreadsheet — the impact can be deadly. The weapons sold at the fair fuel the death, destruction and injustice perpetrated by armies and police forces around the world.
As I write this, Saudi forces are flying Britain-made fighter jets over Yemen and dropping Britain-made bombs.
None of it would be possible without the active support of government ministers and civil servants. Much of the co-ordination is undertaken by the Defence and Security Organisation (DSO) a 130-strong unit based in the Department of International Trade.
DSO exists for one reason only — to promote arms sales. DSO officials will be responsible for inviting buyers and will use it as a chance to lobby on behalf of British arms companies.
DSEI has always been met with a loud and vibrant protests and this year Stop the Arms Fair aims to mobilise the biggest opposition yet. A full week of events and actions have been called to stop the set-up. These will bring together hundreds of campaigners from across a wide range of social issues and movements.
Monday September 4 — A day of creative action against the ongoing occupation, and in support of the campaign to Stop Arming Israel.
Tuesday September 5 — No Faith in War; faith groups of all kinds will come together for a day of worship and non-violent action against the arms trade and war profiteering.
Wednesday September 6— Antinuclear action; a day of creative direct action against nuclear weapons companies.
Thursday September 7 — Solidarity Without Borders; many of the companies at DSEI are among those that profit from the refugee crisis and the militarisation of borders. Make links between the issues to build solidarity without their borders.
Friday September 8 — Conference at the Gates; academics, students and others will come together for a day of workshops and panel discussions exploring the militarisation of our education.
Saturday September 9 — Big day of action; a colourful and powerful carnival of resistance, with music, art, drama and creative action to celebrate our movement.
The preparations are already under way with activists coming together to start turning their audacious, artistic, inspirational and downright cheeky ideas into reality.
This Saturday, April 22, activists will come together for the next planning meeting. Participants will hear from the working groups planning actions and see how they can get involved. Others will spend the afternoon making props and helping with some new ideas for action.
This is just one of a series of important preparatory events planned for the months preceding the fair.
Saturday April 22 — Shut Down DSEI: This is how we stop it. 1.30pm- 4.30pm, Friends Meeting House, 173-177 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BJ.
Saturday May 6 — Stop the Arms Fair Manchester workshop, 10am – 5pm, Bridge 5 Mill, 22A Beswick St, Manchester M4 7HR. This event is to co-ordinate activists from across the north of England.
July 22-23 — It Starts Here. 10am- 5.30pm Amnesty International Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London, EC2A 3EA.
Events like DSEI can never be legitimate or acceptable. Not only do they strengthen Britain’s ties to dictatorships and entrench the government’s role as a global arms dealer, they also provide credibility for some of the most authoritarian states in the world.
Most importantly, they put weapons and surveillance equipment in the hands of abusive despots and send out the message that human rights and democracy are less important than arms firms’ profits. War, conflict and injustice are fuelled at DSEI, let’s stop them there.
DSEI will be held at the Excel Centre, One Western Gateway, Royal Victoria Dock, London between September 12-15 2017. Activists are already working to stop it.
- For more information about how you can take action against DSEI, visit stopthearmsfair.org.uk
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