A packed out public meeting organised by Stop the War demanded an end to Britain's complicity in the war on Yemen, reports Chris Nineham
The campaign to end British arms sales to Saudi Arabia is gaining strength fast. In easily the biggest meeting on the subject so far, over 250 people packed into the National Education Union's HQ on Tuesday to hear a wide range of speakers condemn the government.
Speakers - including Yemeni activist Ahmed Almoaiad - outlined the traumatic impact of the Saudi led war on Yemen, which has already led to the deaths of 85,000 children under five. But they also repeated the UN's warnings that if the war continues it is likely to lead to the death by starvation of millions of people in short order. We are on the brink of the worst humanitarian catastrophe anywhere in the world for perhaps a hundred years.
One of the central messages of the meeting, emphasised by Stop the War's Lindsey German and journalist Owen Jones, was that Britain and the US are not just guilty by association with Saudi Arabia, they are active participants in the war. Britain is training Saudi pilots, has advisors sitting in Saudi bomb control centres and target selectors on the ground. Shockingly, as rapper activist Lowkey outlined, British arms sales to Saudi Arabia have dramatically spiked since the start of the war.
Despite the appalling impact of the war, despite the killing of Jamal Khashoggi and Mohammed Bin Salman's shocking human rights record which were outlined at the meeting by Richard Norton Taylor and Ameen Nemer, British involvement in the killing continues. Recent western calls for a peace process appear to have been cosmetic. After a brief pause, the fighting around the crucial port of Hodeida is raging once again.
Because of Britain's deep complicity in the slaughter in Yemen and strategic support for Saudi Arabia, what this country does now matters. If Britain followed Germany and Denmark in banning arms sales and called for a proper investigation into Mohammed Bin Salman's role in the butchering of Jamal Khashoggi, it would be a double blow to a regime that is already reeling.
Tuesday's meeting marked a big step forward in the campaign. Amongst the audience here were groups of students from most of the central London colleges, all committed to taking the campaign into the universities. The meeting ended with a call to everyone to get involved in by using the petition in work or at college, passing the model resolution in trades unions, student unions and Labour party groups and building the protest at Downing Street this Friday.
Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.
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