Pride in Surrey, drop BAE Systems as a sponsor!

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Pride is standing in opposition to discrimination and violence to LGBTQ+ people and celebrating visibility, dignity, equality and safety from harm. We should be proud to stand up against discrimination and violence in all its forms, and in favour of human rights in general.

BAE Systems is one of the world's largest arms companies, and so depends on the existence of war, which inflicts death, injury and exile on many. BAE Systems sells weapons to countries with poor human rights records, such as Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia appears to have targeted civilians numerous times in its intervention in Yemen, including in hospitals, and also appears to have passed weapons on to various local factions. Their intervention has also caused a famine which has claimed the lives of up to 85 000 children as of October 2018.

It seems that none of these things are a concern to BAE Systems, which continues to have Saudi Arabia as its third biggest customer.

Yet BAE Systems is not only a sponsor, but the lead sponsor of Pride in Surrey, as advertised on your website (archived copy here). List of sponsors has since been moved here (archived copy here).

When BAE Systems became a sponsor for the Great Exhibition of the North, there was an outcry against it, including from many acts who withdrew or threatened to withdraw from the event. Eventually BAE Systems pulled out as a sponsor. We urge you to drop their sponsorship too.

In 2018, the head of BAE Systems said "I don’t think it’s our job to stand up as pressure groups against countries and their laws". On the other hand, it seems that gaining and using influence with the British government to further their business has long been acceptable, as former foreign secretary Robin Cook observed: "Certainly I never knew No 10 to come up with any decision that would be incommoding to BAE".

While BAE Systems is happy to present a good face by showcasing employee diversity and sponsoring Pride events, it clearly does not regard women and LGBTQ+ people as important in countries it does business with, some with institutionalised discrimination and violence against them. These include Saudi Arabia mentioned above where LGBTQ+ people can be beaten and put to death, and Turkey which is believed to have assisted DAESH by turning a blind eye to weapons smuggling, buying oil and providing training and healthcare to fighters, and used violence to ban and suppress Pride in Istanbul last year.

Who benefits more from this sponsorship? Pride which must compromise its human rights values, or BAE Systems which apparently can use the LGBTQ+ community in Surrey to pinkwash its activities?

We want Pride in Surrey to:

- Drop BAE Systems as a sponsor

- Issue a formal apology

- Commit never to accept money from any who benefit from arming oppressive governments

#noprideinwar #endpinkwashing #dropBAE



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