Most Britons oppose UK arms role in Yemen - poll

The majority of the British public think the UK should suspend the approval of arms sales to countries fighting in Yemen, a new poll by Yougov for Save the Children reveals today.

Friday, 8 September 2017 - 9:35am
Save the Children survey reveals majority of British adults oppose approval of arms sales to Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen.
Findings come ahead of major London arms fair, in wake of bloodiest week in Yemen for months
6-year-old girl left orphaned and badly injured after airstrike in Sana’a
 
Buthaina, 6, was orphaned and badly injured when her family home was destroyed by an airstrike in Sana’a on August 25, 2017. Her mother, father, four sisters and brother died in the attack.
 
 
51% of Britons oppose approving any arms sales to nations involved in the conflict, which includes British ally Saudi Arabia. Just 11% support Government policy and think sales should remain unchanged. 
 
Britain has approved £3.8 billion of arms licences to Saudi Arabia, the leader of a multinational coalition in Yemen, since the conflict escalated in March 2015. 
 
Exports include Paveway IV guided bombs and Typhoon fighter jets. 
 
Nearly three in five (59%) of the 1,658 British adults surveyed by YouGov described the approval of arms sales as “unacceptable” if they risk being used in Yemen – compared to 15% who said they are “acceptable”.
 
44% of Britons said the UK should also either cut back (6%) or completely sever (38%) its political support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, against just over a fifth who said it should be maintained (15%) or increased (6%).
 
More than half of British adults (51%) said they had been unaware the UK Government was approving the sale of arms which could be used in the conflict in Yemen before taking the survey.
 
George Graham, Save the Children’s Director of Humanitarian & Conflict Policy, said:
 
“It is clear from this poll that the public believes weaponry built on the British Isles is casting a dark shadow over our standing in the world. 
 
“All sides have killed and maimed thousands of children in this brutal war – but the fact remains that only one side, the Saudi-led Coalition, is dropping bombs supplied by Britain. The UK must urgently suspend arms sales until there is a proper international investigation and our allies stop blocking vital humanitarian aid.
 
“Britain has much to be proud of – we are one of the biggest donors of aid to Yemen. But our bombs are also being sent to countries which are killing Yemeni children, bombing schools and hospitals, and impeding aid access.”
 
The findings come as military buyers head to Britain for a major arms fair.
 
The Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition, which runs from September 12-15, is the largest arms and security fair in the world and is held every two years in London. 
 
In 2015, buyers from Saudi Arabia were reportedly among more than 60 foreign military delegations invited by the British government.
 
The survey results also come in the wake of one of the bloodiest weeks in Yemen’s war this year. 58 civilians were killed between 17-24 August, a higher level than the death toll for the whole month in either June or July. The number of airstrikes in just the first half of this year surpassed the total for 2016, according to the UN Human Rights Office.
 
More than 4,000 children have been killed or maimed by all sides since the conflict escalated in 2015. Airstrikes continue to be the leading cause of child casualties.
 
Buthaina, 6, was orphaned and badly injured when her family home was destroyed by an airstrike in Sana’a on August 25, 2017. Her mother, father, four sisters and brother died in the attack.
  
Six-year-old Buthaina was the only surviving member of her family after a missile destroyed her home in Sana’a on August 25. Her parents and five siblings died in the attack. 
 
The airstrike killed at least 12 people, six of them children, according to reports.
 
Buthaina was pulled from the rubble with bruised eyes, concussion and fractures to her skull. She is unable to walk as a result of her head injuries.
 
In the days following the attack, photographs of her swollen face went viral, with social media users sharing pictures of themselves closing an eye in solidarity with her plight.
 
Buthaina’s uncle Waheed* has now stepped in to look after her. Save the Children is funding her treatment and providing her with long-term psychological counselling through the charity’s support programme for children harmed in the conflict. The programme has reached more than 400 children who have been victims of grave violations by all sides in the war.
 
Buthaina’s uncle, Waheed*, recalled the horrific aftermath of the attack: 
 
“When I first saw the house, I fainted and fell on the floor. They gave me some water. I regained consciousness…I pulled myself together because I was hoping I could get at least one of them out alive. 
 
“The first body we pulled out was my cousin’s…Then came my brother Mohammed’s wife, then her eldest daughter Alaa. When I saw Alaa, I was in pieces. Then came Aya. I took Aya to the hospital.
 
“Her body was warm so we thought she was still alive. We took her to the hospital and checked her pulse…but there was no pulse. I tried to feel near her heart and I felt a hole. Under her vest, I felt the shrapnel above her heart.
 
“I was completely paralysed in my place in the ambulance. They put her in the freezer. I couldn’t move. We went back to where the massacre took place, and then we pulled out the rest of the bodies.
 
“Buthaina is like a daughter to me and more. She is what’s left of my brother.”
 
ENDS
 
For more information or to arrange interviews with spokespeople in London or Yemen, please contact r.villar@savethechildren.org.uk or +442070126841
 
 
NOTES TO EDITORS:
 
All survey figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,658 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 30th - 31st August 2017.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
 
Respondents were asked the following questions:
 
Arms sales to foreign countries need to have an exporting license from the UK government.
 
Thinking about the UK government’s position on selling arms in Saudi Arabia…
 
Generally speaking, which one of the following statements best reflects what you think the UK government should do? The government should approve more arms sales to Saudi Arabia (5%); The government should approve fewer arms sales to Saudi Arabia (10%); The government should approve about the same level of arms sales to Saudi Arabia as they currently do (14%); The government should not approve any arms sales to Saudi Arabia (45%); Don’t know (26%)
 
How much do you currently know about the conflict in Yemen? I know a lot about the conflict in Yemen (3%); I know a little about the conflict in Yemen (22%); I have heard about the conflict in Yemen but know very little (49%); I have never heard about the conflict in Yemen (14%); Don’t know (11%)
 
Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has been involved in the conflict in Yemen. Before taking this survey, were you aware that the UK Government is approving the sale of arms which could be used in the conflict in Yemen? Yes I was aware (40%); No, I was not aware (51%); Don’t know (9%)
 
Generally speaking, do you think it is acceptable or unacceptable for the UK Government to approve arms sales that may be used in the conflict in Yemen? It is acceptable for the UK Government to approve arms sales that may be used in the conflict in Yemen (15%); It is unacceptable for the UK Government to approve arms sales that may be used in the conflict in Yemen (59%); Don’t know (26%)
 
Which one of the following statements best reflects what you think the UK government should do? The government should not approve any arms sales to any government involved in the Yemen conflict (51%); The government should approve about the same level of arms sales to any government involved in the Yemen conflict (11%); The government should approve fewer arms sales to any government involved in the Yemen conflict (8%); The government should approve more arms sales to any government involved in the Yemen conflict (4%); Don’t know (27%)
 
Thinking about the UK government’s position on selling arms used by Saudi Arabia-led groups in the Yemen conflict… Which one of the following statements best reflects what you think the UK government should do? The government should not approve any arms sales to Saudi Arabia-led groups in the Yemen conflict (52%); The government should approve about the same level of arms sales to Saudi Arabia-led groups in the Yemen conflict (10%); The government should approve fewer arms sales to Saudi Arabia-led groups in the Yemen conflict (6%); The government should approve more arms sales to Saudi Arabia-led groups in the Yemen conflict (4%); Don’t know (28%)
 
And which of the following statements do you think best reflects what you think the UK government should do in terms of political support to the Saudi Arabia-led groups in the Yemen conflict? Should provide more political support (6%); Should provide less political support (6%); Should provide about the same level of political support (15%); Should provide no political support at all (38%); Don’t know (35%)
 
Arms export licence figures are calculated using this tracker from Campaign Against the Arms Trade.
 
According to the UN Human Rights Office, in the week from 17 to 24 August, 58 civilians were killed, including 42 by the Saudi-led Coalition. Unknown armed men killed 12 civilians and the Popular Committees affiliated with the Houthis killed four civilians. That week’s total is more than the number of civilians killed in the whole of June, when 52 were killed, and in July, which saw 57 civilian deaths.
 
According to UNICEF’s latest Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) figures, between 26 March 2015 and 30 June 2017, at least 1,676 children were killed and 2,760 others maimed. These verified cases are just considered to be the “tip of the iceberg”.
 
The OHCHR says between March 2015 and 30 August, at least 5,144 civilians have been documented as killed and more than 8,749 injured. Children accounted for at least 1,184 of those who were killed and 1,541 of those injured. Coalition airstrikes continued to be the leading cause of child casualties as well as overall civilian casualties. Some 3, 233 of the civilians killed were reportedly killed by Coalition forces.
 
Sign Save the Children’s Petition to Boris Johnson here: https://action.savethechildren.org.uk/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=7&ea...