In Saudi Arabia, LGBTQ people are routinely locked up, tortured and killed.
And what about the people who supply arms to their killers? Well, they're sponsoring LGBTQ Pride marches in the UK.
BAE Systems, one of the world's largest arms companies, are known particularly for their supply of weapons to the Saudi regime - although they happily sell arms to dozens of other governments and forces around the world. In 2019, BAE Systems sponsored at least three Pride marches in the UK.
BAE are not committed to LGBTQ rights or any other human rights. But in recent years, arms companies and armed forces in the UK have tried to misuse the LGBTQ movement to pinkwash their image and present themselves as ethical:
- Arms dealers such as BAE Systems are sponsoring Pride marches. In 2019, BAE sponsored Pride in Surrey, Blackpool and Portsmouth.
- Armed forces are staging military marches by parading at the front of Pride marches.
- Armed forces are running recruitment stalls at LGBTQ events, claiming to LGBTQ-friendly as they desperately try to hit the recruitment targets that they have been missing for years.
- LGBTQ organisations such as Stonewall are giving awards to arms companies and armed forces for their supposedly LGBTQ-friendly employment practices, even while armed forces are exempt from most legislation on workers' rights.
In response, LGBTQ members of the Peace Pledge Union have teamed up with other LGBTQ people, peace groups and human rights campaigners to form the No Pride in War campaign.
What's the problem?
Pinkwashing allows arms companies and armed forces to present themselves as ethical. Nothing could be further from the truth. Whatever the intentions of the forces personnel marching in Pride parades, militarism is fundamentally incompatible with queer liberation and human rights. Armed forces suppress personal identity and conscience and rely on obedience to authority.
Further, the UK's armed forces are directly complicit in homophobic repression, through their support for homophobic regimes such as Saudi Arabia. Saudi forces are trained by British forces: for example, Saudi pilots who are bombing Yemen are being trained by the Royal Air Force in North Wales.
Nobody objects to individuals who are in the armed forces, or who are employed by arms companies, attending Pride events as individuals. What we object to is the celebration of armed force and arms companies when LGBTQ events and organisations accept sponsorship, offer awards and welcome military marches.
This involves the acceptance of values utterly at odds with LGBTQ liberation and is an insult to LGBTQ people who are oppressed, tortured and killed by the regimes that are supplied and trained by multinational arms companies and UK armed forces.
The campaign so far
No Pride in War is an informal alliance bringing together LGBTQ activists, peace groups and human rights campaigns. It includes the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), Lesbians and Gay Support the Migrants (LGSM), the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), London Bi Pandas and many LGBTQ activists involved as individuals. All of these groups, including the PPU, also comment and campaign on these issues in their own right.
There were several campaign successes in 2019:
- In August 2019, BiCon, the UK's national Bisexual Convention, voted overwhelmingly to adopt a policy ruling out arms trade sponsorship and armed forces stands.
- In July 2019, Bristol Pride turned down a request for a stall from the Ministry of Defence, following protests the previous year.
- In June 2019, Diva magazine dropped BAE Systems from its awards shortlist after criticism from No Pride in War and other human rights campaigners.
- There was no official military presence at York Pride in June 2019, following protests against a military march and army recruitment stand at York Pride in 2018, organised by York No Pride in War (pictured above).
- Over 5,000 people signed a petition, started by gay pacifist Tim Rosson, urging Pride in Surrey to ditch BAE Systems as the lead sponsor for their parade on 10 August 2019. There was outrage when people with anti-BAE banners were removed from the event.
What can I do?
- You can raise the issue with friends and allies in LGBTQ movements.
- You can check if your local Pride or similar event is accepting sponsoring or involvement from arms dealers or armed forces, and raise your concerns with organisers.
- You can sign the petition urging Pride in Surrey to ditch their deal with BAE Systems.
- You can ask for copies of the PPU's No Pride in War postcards, to give out at an LGBTQ event or display in an LGBTQ venue.
- Take part in the PPU's new project for 2020, with new resources and training events to help you tackle militarism in your own context.
- You can let us know what you're doing, or want to do, and what we can do to help! Please feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 020 7424 9444.