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Britain must stop arming Egypt, campaigners demand on ‘Arab Spring’ anniversary

ANTI-ARMS campaigners demanded that the British government stop arming repressive forces in Egypt today, 10 years on from the so-called Arab Spring uprising.

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the “day of anger,” which saw a brutal crackdown on mass pro-democracy protests in Egypt.

January 25 2011 was the first of 18 days of protest preceding the resignation of president Hosni Mubarak.

More than 800 protesters were killed by the Egyptian police during the course of the uprising, according to a leaked government report, and between July and August 2013 at least 1,300 people were killed during a new wave of protests. 

Since then, hundreds of people have disappeared, either killed or imprisoned by the police or army, and tens of thousands of people have been imprisoned. 

Despite the repression and abuse, Britain has continued to supply Egypt with a range of military equipment and the government has designated it a “core market” for future arms sales, along with other regimes that are known to crack down on protesters including Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States.

Britain has licensed at least £218 million worth of arms to Egypt since January 2011, though the actual figure is expected to be larger as it does not include arms sold using the secretive and opaque “open licence” system, which permits weapons to be transferred without a total value being published. 

Britain has also provided training to the Egyptian police as recently as 2019, as well as military training for the armed forces, according to the response to a Freedom of Information request by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

Andrew Smith of CAAT said: “Ten years ago, millions of people across Egypt took to the street in protest against the violent repression of the Mubarak regime. 

“The UK was among the arms-dealing governments that had ignored the atrocities until then, just as it is willingly ignoring them today.

“The Egyptian authorities have an appalling record of torture and other abuses. 

“The arms sales need to stop, and so does the hypocritical foreign policy that has allowed Boris Johnson and his colleagues to talk about the importance of human rights while providing an uncritical political and military support for [current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi] and his brutal forces.”

A Government spokesperson said: “The UK operates one of the most comprehensive export control regimes in the world.

“The Government takes its export responsibilities seriously and assesses all export licences in accordance with strict licensing criteria. We will not issue any export licences where to do so would be inconsistent with these criteria.”

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