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Opposition politicians and human rights activists against MBS’s visit

in EUROPE/MIDLE EAST by

The ongoing visit of Mohammad bin Salman in the UK is generating opposite reactions: the ruling Conservative Party and royal family are rolling out the red carpet for Saudi Arabia’s crown prince while opposition politicians and rights groups call on British Prime Minister Theresa May to use the trip to challenge the kingdom’s record on human rights. Boris Jhonson, british foreign secretary has underlined the importance of the social reforms put forward by MBS in Saudi Arabia (such as allowing women to drive and lifting a 35-year ban on cinemas). Furthermore, the minister praised the Saudi Vision 2030, in the light of possible economic investments in the project. However, human rights activists gathered outside Downing Street, calling to an end of arms selling to Saudis, responsible of huge bloodshed in Yemen. In addition, activists said the despite the economic and social reforms, Saudi Arabia still has a poor human rights records. On Tuesday, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, joined a chorus of activists, saying that May should tell the crown prince that Britain would no longer supply arms to Riyadh “while the devastating Saudi-led bombing of Yemen continues”. May should also “make clear Britain’s strong opposition to widespread human and civil rights abuses in Saudi Arabia”, he said. Caroline Lucas, former leader of the Green Party, tweeted on Tuesday: “Isn’t it time we stop giving the red carpet treatment to despots and dictators?” indeed, British arms companies are, mainly with the United States, the biggest suppliers of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the British government has approved billions of pounds in export licences over the past three years. Thus, by keeping the situation like this, the UK has been totally complicit in the abuse perpetrated in Yemen. Professor Paul Rogers from Bedford University’s Peace Department, told Al Jazeera: “The UK government recognises Saudi Arabia is very profitable for British arms exports and so the issue of human rights in the kingdom is not to the fore in current government thinking, in the sense of money talk.” It appears indeed easy to understand that UK government is willing to go along with the Saudis because there are good markets, thus, it turns a blind eye the human rights abuses and Yemen’s war.

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