Alwaght- The Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) called on prime minister Theresa May to broach Saudi war crimes and human rights violations in talks with visiting Saudi crown prince, who will arrive in London on Wednesday.
The high-profile British Muslim body’s President Anas Altikriti wrote an open 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.
Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia and some of its Arab allies have been carrying out deadly airstrikes against the Ansarullah movement in an attempt to restore power to fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh.
Nearly 14,000 Yemenis, mostly women, children and the elderly, have been killed since the onset of Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against the impoverished state. Much of the Arabian Peninsula country's infrastructure, including hospitals, schools and factories, has been reduced to rubble due to the war.
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 purge 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.”
"As you [May] will be receiving the crown prince, hundreds, possibly even thousands of Saudi society’s most revered figures, will have been locked up for their sixth month without any official charges, nor legal representation, family visitation, or any hope of seeing the inside of a courtroom in the foreseeable future" it added.
The MAB finally referred to a blockade imposed on Qatar by the Saudi regime and its allies on Qatar last year, slamming Riyadh’s role in inflaming tensions with its neighbor as “inexplicable and unacceptable.”
While London is bracing for protests against bin Salman’s visit, UK officials have been preparing to give bin Salman a royal welcome.
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.
It is not known whether MbS plans to meet with leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn, who has been a long-term critic of Saudi Arabia.
In a statement to MEE, Corbyn said that May should be using the visit to raise human rights abuses with the prince and to call a halt to arms supplies to the kingdom.
"Theresa May should use this visit to announce the UK will no longer supply arms to Saudi Arabia while the devastating Saudi-led bombing of Yemen continues and make clear Britain's strong opposition to widespread human and civil rights abuses in Saudi Arabia," he said.
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.
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.
Vast majority of Britain opposes arms sales to Saudi Arabia: Poll
Only six percent of the British public support UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia, a new poll has revealed on the eve of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's three-day trip to the country.
According to the survey, commissioned by Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), there is very little British support for the multi-billion-pound arms sales to the Arab kingdom, despite the thousands of jobs in the UK that are reportedly reliant on the trade.
The polling carried out by Populus also indicated that 37 percent of people in the UK opposed the visit of the crown prince to the UK, with only 21 percent in favour. Twenty-seven percent expressed no opinion.
Activists have been highly critical of the visit by MbS, which takes place as the Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen continues unabated, with over 10,000 people thought to have been killed in the war.
"The regime has carried out atrocities against Saudi people for decades, and has inflicted a terrible humanitarian catastrophe on the people of Yemen. It is time for Theresa May and her colleagues to end their shameful support for this appalling autocracy," said CAAT spokesperson Andrew Smith, in a statement.
He added that recent reforms implemented by MbS - which are expected to see women allowed to drive for the first time and cinemas reopened in the conservative kingdom - were a smokescreen for a harsh crackdown on dissent.
“The overwhelming majority of people in the UK do not share Theresa May’s political and military support for the Saudi regime," he said.
Since Saudi began its air strikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen, the UK has licensed £4.6bn worth of arms to the kingdom.
There have been repeated calls by campaigners for the UK to halt the sales over reports of massive civilian casualties and a spiralling humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
A legal challenge to the arms sales brought by CAAT in July was dismissed by the UK High Court after it ruled that the Saudi-led coalition was not directly targeting civilians in Yemen and that there were adequate procedures in place for investigating claims of civilian deaths.