A high-profile British Muslim body writes an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May, urging her to broach Saudi war crimes and human rights violations in talks with the kingdom’s crown prince, who will arrive in London today.
The Muslim Association of Britain (MAB)’s President Anas Altikriti wrote the letter on Tuesday — on the eve of Mohammed Bin Salman’s first official visit to Britain — demanding that the premier press him on Saudi Arabia’s bloody military aggression in Yemen and its human rights record at home.
“The war in Yemen has turned into a tragedy of epic proportions for many reasons, but amongst the most important of those, is the role of Saudi Arabia – among several other regional states – since it began its campaign to reverse the Arab Spring and re-establish the grim, failed and tyrannical realities of the region which dominated the past 5 decades,” the letter read.
Saudi Arabia and its allies invaded Yemen in March 2015 to reinstall its former Riyadh-allied government. More than 13,600 people have died since the war began.
Bin Salman, also Saudi Arabia’s defense minister, is leading the military campaign with the help of the US and the UK.
The letter added, “Any eagerness to enter into trade with Saudi Arabia must not be at the expense of essential values, nor should it allow us to overlook tragic realities on the ground.”
“Our role in providing the shells and the bombs through incredibly lucrative arms contracts with Saudi Arabia cannot be denied, and history will condemn us,” the association said.
The UK has increased its weapons sales by around 500 percent since the onset of the deadly Saudi military campaign, The Independent reported last November. The military equipment sold to the kingdom ever since, including warplanes, precision-guided bombs, and missiles, are worth more than $6.4 billion.
The letter also touched on bin Salman’s so-called reforms inside the kingdom and said allowing women to drive, opening cinema multiplexes and holding musical concerts, among other similar measures, “do not mean that the construct of human rights is established, particularly when democracy is absent, political expression is banned and any form of dissent is punished to the maximum.”
“The issue of human rights must absolutely remain at the very heart of any discussion, trade or otherwise, with Saudi Arabia,” it added.
The MAB finally referred to a blockade imposed on Qatar by the Saudi regime and its allies last year, slamming Riyadh’s role in inflaming tensions with its neighbor as “inexplicable and unacceptable.”
Is it London or Riyadh?
While London is bracing for protests against bin Salman’s visit, UK officials have been preparing to give bin Salman a royal welcome.
The three-day visit will begin with a lunch with Queen Elizabeth,
Bin Salman’s stay in the UK will include two audiences with the British Royal family, a briefing with national security officials, and a visit to the prime minister’s country residence.
London has also been bedecked all over with portraits of the crown prince bearing complimentary messages.
The royal’s pictures have even been plastered on taxicabs, prompting social media users to say the British capital is now looking like Riyadh.
In a counter-measure by anti-Saudi activists, buses have spent two days touring London with banners accusing bin Salman of war crimes, with more planned for Wednesday.
Twitter frequenters have created #SaudiPrinceNotWelcome, and British rights groups, such as the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and the Stop the War Coalition have planned protests in front of Number 10 during Salman’s visit.
The Stop the War Coalition has called on its supporters to make clear the “chief architect of Saudi Arabia’s brutal war in Yemen” is not welcome in London.