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Monday, November 21, 2022

What my undercover investigations at arms fairs reveal about how the west supports military dictatorships

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COP27 has among the most authoritarian safety of any of the COP summits. Set within the walled resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, it’s surrounded by 36km of concrete and razor wire, overseen by new surveillance applied sciences and a “safety observatory”.

Protesters are additionally restricted to a distant web site within the desert. Protest has been successfully prohibited in Egypt for the reason that 2013 coup when the retired army basic, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, overthrew his nation’s democratically elected Islamist President, Mohammed Morsi, amid mass protests in opposition to his rule. Donald Trump as soon as referred to the Egyptian president as his “favorite dictator”.

Like Egypt, Qatar, the host nation for this 12 months’s World Cup, additionally has a protracted historical past of human rights abuses. Certainly, the choice to carry the World Cup in Qatar has been criticised by many, particularly LGBT+ teams as homosexuality may be punishable by loss of life.

Each Qatar and Egypt are nations which can be categorized as “not free” by Freedom Home, a US government-funded human rights group. And but, regardless of civil liberties, together with press freedom and freedom of meeting, being tightly restricted, over the previous decade, each nations have obtained weapons licensed by the UK authorities.

Certainly, 2021 evaluation from the Guardian and Marketing campaign In opposition to Arms Commerce (CAAT), a UK-based organisation working to finish the worldwide arms commerce, discovered that 21 out of 30 nations on the UK authorities’s record of repressive regimes had obtained UK army gear. And that between 2011-20, the UK licensed £16.8 billion of arms to nations which were criticised by Freedom Home. The federal government didn’t reply to the Guardian’s investigation.

Bombs, fighter jets and tanks

Arms manufacturing is an unlimited world enterprise. And lots of governments are implicated, internet hosting arms gala’s, brokering worldwide offers and issuing export licenses.
France, for instance, is one among Egypt’s largest suppliers of weapons, exporting warships, fighter jets, armoured autos and surveillance methods appropriate for intercepting communications and controlling social actions.

Britain has additionally offered Egypt and Qatar surveillance gear, machine weapons and fight autos.

I’ve visited arms gala’s for over ten years. I get by way of safety by describing myself as a defence marketing consultant, then draw and gather advertising and marketing materials. The newest one I went to, Eurosatory, was held in June 2022 in Paris. It is likely one of the world’s largest arms gala’s and a world gathering of politicians, dictators, civil servants and firms.

A teargas rep straightens his tie.
Creator offered

Arms gala’s could obtain much less press consideration than COP conferences or the World Cup however they maybe give a clearer indication of governments’ world priorities.

At Eurosatory, arms firms from all over the world show missiles, bombs, fighter jets and tanks to a world clientele. Because the Arab spring, there has additionally been a bit for crowd management euphemistically known as “much less deadly” weaponry.

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A hostess with teargas.
Creator offered

Mannequins tower over the guests, carrying armour, digital helmets and gasmasks, aiming weapons, batons, shields and grenades. Cupboards show teargas, rubber bullets and stun grenades in neat medical rows. One cupboard has the curiously named “ethical impact grenades”. There are additionally drones, armoured police vehicles, surveillance methods and listening applied sciences. Gross sales employees show merchandise and supply wine.

Batons, shields and grenades

Like all commerce present, arms gala’s have complimentary presents – pens, sweets and stress-balls, besides right here they’re based mostly on weapons.

This 12 months, there have been stress-balls within the form of grenades, camouflage geese, catalogues exhibiting crowds operating away from police spraying teargas, and alongside this, key fobs with metallic representations of individuals operating. Trapped on the ring, metallic glinting below spotlights, the operating figures present how arms firms deal with repression as a gross sales alternative.

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A model in a masks.
Creator offered

The UK Defence and Safety Exports Division has recognized each Egypt and Qatar as “key markets” and the UK authorities often invitations each nations to the London arms honest, DSEI (Defence and Safety Gear Worldwide).

As a substitute of tightening arms export controls for nations with dire data on human rights and civil liberties the UK authorities plans to calm down them. I visited DSEI in September 2021 and listened because the defence secretary Ben Wallace promised nearer ties between the federal government, arms firms and their shoppers.

“We’re making it simpler so that you can get an export licence by unblocking the approval bottlenecks,” Wallace mentioned. He additionally promised, that “they are going to be underpinned by strong accountability and at all times put the wants of the client entrance and centre”.

Each guarantees appear rash when prospects embody leaders like Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Certainly, there may be no world safety whereas governments are within the thrall of an business that makes use of repression as a supply of revenue. Or whereas they proceed to promote arms to nations that imprison activists somewhat than take heed to them.

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