Ban BAE Systems from advertising on London Underground

Ban BAE Systems from advertising on London Underground

22 January 2022
Signatures: 455Next Goal: 500
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Why this petition matters

Started by London CAAT

London Underground is a publicly owned service run by Transport for London, whose purpose is to, in TfL's own words: 'keep London working, growing and to make life in London better'. TfL's revenue comes from public funds - largely from tax payers - and they claim that 'every penny' is reinvested in running or improving transport. 

London Underground is, however, full of commercial advertisements. TfL actually describe our public transport systems to potential commercial partners on their website as their very own 'advertising estate' useful for 'targeting millions of customers everyday'. 

One of TfL's customers is BAE Systems: a leading manufacturer of weapons and military equipment. They currently have a long-standing advertisement proudly displayed on the billboard of Westminster underground station, marketing themselves as providing leading technology for the UK's security and economy.

TfL's own branded posters, as seen on London Underground, state that they 'stand against hate directed at someone based on race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or gender identity' - and rightly so. We support fully this campaign against discrimination of all forms. However, this should not stop at protecting customers travelling on their trains: the commitment should be extended to being rigorously selective about commercial partners they choose to advertise for and work with.

BAE Systems has a long history of weapons sales to human rights abusing regimes, along with arming actors responsible for gross violations of international humanitarian law. The company has been heavily involved in supporting and upholding the Saudi Arabian regime's internal security and military forces for decades [1], during which it has overseen the brutal suppression of women and journalists, and mass executions of political dissidents and homosexuals. 

In 2018, the Saudi government conducted mass arrests of women's rights activists as part of a wider process of repression.  One of the most prominent activists, Loujain al-Hathloul​​​​​​​, was only recently released from prison in February 2021, but reportedly remains banned from travelling under anti-terrorism laws which define her activism as criminal offense. She was subject to torture along with others who remain imprisoned or in exile. Human Rights Watch have also documented the torture of Saudi women activists in unofficial detention centres, including by 'administering electric shocks, whipping the women on their thighs, forcible hugging and kissing, and groping'.

In 2020, Yemeni blogger Mohamad Al-Bokari, whilst living in Saudi Arabia, was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment and deported to Yemen for supporting LGBT rights [2].The Saudi government have led the coalition which have conducted countless airstrikes killing innocent civilians in the Yemen war: BAE have made £20 billion in revenue from arms sales to Saudi Arabia during the period of the war [3]. 

The company have a strong record of lobbying and corruption, and we know that they have significant and strong influences over the government for which they are not held accountable. This makes the fact that they are advertising themselves at Westminster especially worrying. 

As members of the British public, it is our right to be concerned about such a company operating in partnership with publicly funded services like TfL. Such advertisements are not actually advertisements: BAE do not sell commercial products which everyday British people can buy. We should not be treated as 'targets' for private arms corporations to flaunt their propaganda. 

The London Underground is a public space for the British people to go about their everyday lives, and we should be able to do so without being so grossly marketed to by companies like BAE. This advertising service in no way contributes to keeping transport services running well or making London 'better'. If TfL are serious about standing against hate as their own marketing claims, then advertising for such a company who operate on behalf of regime's responsible for detaining; harassing; prosecuting; and even torturing women’s rights activists, human rights defenders, homosexuals and other minorities is an unforgiveable violation of this commitment. 

We are calling on the Mayor of London, and TfL, to remove any advertisements currently displayed for BAE Systems or other arms corporations, and to put an end to any other commercial links they might have.


[1] BAE are the primary contractors in multi-billion-pound projects like SANGCOM and MOSDAP - supplying defence equipment and management services for the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG). SANG is an internal security force which is responsible for protection of the Saudi royals.

[2] Before his trial, Al-Bokari was reportedly held in solitary confinement for six weeks in a 'hot and humid cell with no windows, no air-conditioning, and insufficient ventilation' and received no legal counsel. Al-Bokari had been living as a migrant in Saudi after fleeing Yemen due to being at risk by armed groups threatening to kill him.

[3] BAE are responsible for the coordination of the Royal Saudi Air Force's weapons systems and have been reported to have over 6,000 employees working in Saudi Arabia, without legal protection for whistle-blowers. British workers have reportedly faced instances of harassment and have reported having their passports withheld in order to prevent them speaking out against wrongdoing within the company.

[4] BAE System's spyware surveillance systems have been sold to multiple totalitarian states with track records of using spyware against their own citizens.

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Signatures: 455Next Goal: 500
Support now