On Wednesday 25 January, anti-arms trade campaigners will present a petition at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) calling on the UK government to end arms sales to repressive regimes. The day marks the first anniversary of the beginning of the popular uprising in Egypt which resulted in the overthrow of the Mubarak government, despite a violent crackdown by military and security forces.
Figures published last week reveal that the UK licenced over £1.5 million worth of military exports to Egypt in the third quarter of 2011. This included thermal imaging equipment, components for military combat vehicles and military helicopters, and military communications equipment. In the past year, at least 846 civilians have been killed in the government crackdown on protesters.
The petition, signed by over 7,000 people, is part of Campaign Against Arms Trade's (CAAT) continuing campaign "This is NOT OK", highlighting the government's promotion of arms sales to repressive regimes and countries in conflict. The petition includes thousands of personal messages, with signatories expressing their outrage that the UK government continues to sell weapons to Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, even as British weapons are being used against democracy activists.
The petition will be presented to the FCO at 11.30am by a delegation of CAAT staff and supporters. The delegation will then join demonstrators outside the Egyptian Embassy.
Sarah Waldron, CAAT campaign co-ordinator, said:
"The government makes great play of the fact that it cancelled some arms licences in early 2011 but their own data reveals the true situation. The government continues to issue arms export licences to Bahrain and Egypt even though human rights abuses continue on the streets.
"We should heed a callout from Tahir Square: "The army and police rely on tear gas, bullets and weapons from aboard... We ask you to take action... Shut down the arms dealers. Do not let them make it, ship it."
She added: "The Egyptian revolution was a landmark event, showing that oppressed people can rise against their entrenched and violent rulers. These rulers are supported by western weaponry. We take action today in solidarity with those who are brave enough to push for democracy even in the face of repressive military rule in Egypt."