Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Arabia’

15th June 2019

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021

Grenfell protest at Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Saturday 15th July was one of those days when my local station has no trains. I don’t think it used to happen, or at least only very rarely, before we privatised the railways, but it seems to be happening on quite a few weekends every year now. At first when these weekends began there was complete chaos, with unmarked rail replacement buses where the only way to find out if they were going the right way for you was to ask the driver, who usually knew, though often didn’t know how to get there and had to send a call out to passengers asking if anyone knew where the station was.

Closed Fire Station in Ashford

One one memorable occasion a passenger directed a double-decker down a road that, although it was the route I might have walked, narrows halfway down to rather less than bus width. After a very tricky and lengthy reverse we got back to the main road and drove on, past the correct turning. I and other passengers jumped out of our seats to tell the driver. He drove on, looking desperately for somewhere to turn the bus in busy narrow streets, finally doing a 3 or 4 point turn where the main road widened a little almost a mile on. This time as we cam back we made sure he turned left at the correct point.

Grenfell – 72 Dead and still no arrests How Come?

After a few such incidents, things did get sorted out more, but still too often the rail replacement bus arrived a couple of minutes late and missed its supposed connection – apparently no one had the authority to hold it for the bus. A journey that usually took 35 minutes often ended up close to two hours (and I’d face similar chaos on the way home.) So unless there was something really important to photograph I often stayed home.

Yvette Williams demanding the Truth and Justice For Grenfell

My alternative was to take a bus to Heathrow or Hatton Cross where I could join the Underground, and this became more viable once I could simply swipe a credit card to pay for the ride. It was still a slow journey, but more reliable than the rail replacement lottery. And on Saturday 15 June I took the bus and made a few pictures on the way from the upper deck.

It was the day after the second anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire in which 72 people died, and Justice For Grenfell had organised a solidarity march, starting and finishing at Downing St. After some speeches at Downing St, we marched to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government offices in the Home Office building to protest there, with a few more speeches before leaving to march back to Downing St for a final rally.

The event was supported by housing and building safety campaigners including Defend Council Housing and by branches of the Fire Brigades Union from around the UK.

As I walked through Parliament Square on my way to take the tube to another protest, I stopped briefly to photograph two events there. One was ‘We are the Love’ for Idlib inspired by the Black Eyed Peas song Where’s the love? to raise awareness about the massacre currently unfolding in the province of Idlib in Syria. Just along from this line of people holding large cards each with a letter of their message, and a drummer and a piper, was a small and quieter protest about the wrongful conviction of Brendan Dassey and his uncle, Steven Avery for the murder of Teresa Halbach in Wisconsin in 2005. The long and convoluted case which reflects badly on both the local police and the US legal system was the subject of a lenghty TV series.

By now I thought I would be too late to join the Hands Off Sudan march at its start at the UAE Embassy and guessed they might have got as far as the Egyptian Embassy, but when I arrived found just a few there waiting for the march. So I began to walk back on what I thought might be their route. I heard them before I could see them as I walked across Hyde Park corner, and the large and noisy crowd emerged from Grosvenor Cresecent as I turned down Grosvenor Place.

They were protesting after 124 peaceful protesters were massacred by Janjaweed militias (Rapid Support Forces) in Khartoum. Protests had begun in December and appeared to be causing a peaceful transition to democracy, removing corrupt president al-Bashir, until the heads of the ruling military council visited Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, all countries opposed to a democratic Sudan – and today’s march was going to each of their embassies.

The marchers seemed to be stopping every few yards around Hyde Park Corner and singing and dancing and shouting slogans. Half an hour after I met them they had only moved on a few hundred yards are were slowly making their way up Park Lane. I felt I had taken enough photographs and went back to Hyde Park Corner for the slow journey home via Hatton Cross.

Hands off Sudan march
‘We are the Love’ for Idlib
Grenfell Solidarity March
Staines, Heathrow, Bedfont


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Defending the Indefensible

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

It just hadn’t occurred to me that there would be protesters defending Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, hereafter MbS, the man responsible for sending a team of assassins to kill and then dismember with bone saws the body of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2nd 2018.

Of course their state-sponsored posters and placards – including two large electronic screens strapped to two men didn’t mention the killing, nor MbS’s other purges, including the 2017 arrest of business leaders and other prominent Saudi figures in what he called an anti-corruption campaign, the kidnapping of former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in 2017 and more – including recent arrests of yet more leading Saudi figures who he sees as possible rivals.

So when I first walked up to their noisy protest I misunderstood their reason for being there. I couldn’t of course understand what they were shouting, and it was only after I read the posters that I realised they had come to support MbS and not to protest against a cruel dictator.

Of course some of them may have had good personal reasons for supporting MbS. Saudi businessmen operating in the UK may well be profiting from his economic reforms and support his Vision 2030 for a Saudi Arabia that in some respects will modernise, largely in the interests of business. Some of those taking part will be working for the Saudi government and companies such as Saudi Aramco, supposedly the most profitable company in the world, though this position is perhaps under threat by MbS’s current oil war with Russia. And some may have been paid for their evening’s work.

Certainly if you are a Saudi citizen and have any intention of returning to that country in the future, being seen as a supporter of MbS rather than an opponent will be vital for your health – as the brutal Khashoggi murder testifies. You need to be seen (and filmed) to be on the right side.


Justice for Jamal Khashoggi

On the anniversary of Khashoggi’s death, a small group of protesters on the opposite side of the road stood in a quiet line in front of the Embassy garden holding posters, and later burning nightlights, in a silent vigil for the cruelly murdered journalist. It was a small but dignified and rather more impressive display than the PR event taking place opposite.


More on both events:
Saudis support killer Prince MBS
Justice For Jamal Khashoggi


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

Merchants of Death

Thursday, November 28th, 2019

At the end of the month that this protest tour took place, the UK government issued its UK Defence & Security Export Statistics for 2018. These revealed that UK arms sales in 2018 amounted to £14bn, making the UK the world’s second biggest arms exporters, with around half the sales of the USA. Britain had 19% – almost a fifth of global arms sales – well ahead in 2018 of competitors Russia at 14% and France with 9%.

Most UK sales are to the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE in particular purchasing large quantities of UK arms. Over the 10 year period covered by the report, the Middle East accounted for 60% of UK arms sales, though in 2018 it was around 77%. One factor in that increase was the war in Yemen.

According to CAAT (Campaign Against Arms Trade),

The UK has licensed over £4.7 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the bombing began in March 2015.

The weapon categories include approximately:
£2.7 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
£1.9 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)

https://www.caat.org.uk/campaigns/stop-arming-saudi/arms-sales

UK weapons used in Yemen include Typhoon and Tornado aircraft and ALARM missiles from BAE systems, Paveway bombs from Raytheon, PGM500 bombs and Brimstone and Storm Shadow missiles from MBDA as well as UK-made cluster bombs which were exported from the UK in the 1980s. There are more details about the companies currently exporting arms to Saudi Arabia on the CAAT site.

As well as protesting, CAAT took the government to court over British-made arms being used in Yemen, and on 20th June 2019 the Court of Appeal ruled that UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen was unlawful. The government are fighting this decision, taking it to the Supreme Court but had to apologise in September for “inadvertantly” breaking the ban over two export licences.

I joined the tour late after being held up by overcrowding led to a slow queue to get into the tube station and then down to the platforms due to Pride, and the crowds around Lower Regent Street made it impossible for the tour to visit the offices of Lockheed Martin. But I was present for the visits to G4S, Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems, as well as for the speeches about Lockheed Martin – with each company being presented with a ‘blue plaque’ for their sins.

The highlight of the tour was the stop outside Buckingham Palace, where the plaque (complete with spelling mistake) was simply for their support of King Hamad in his violent repression of the people of Bahrain. But in the speeches we heard how the Royal Family played an important role with their visits backing arms sales around the world. Prince Andrew has been in the news recently for other reasons, but here was singled out for his services, in arms sales to corrupt regimes. Since it wasn’t possible to approach Buckingham Palace more closely, the blue plaque for the palace was left on the Victoria Monument facing it.

More from the tour at London’s Sinister Arms Trade


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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