British MP Raises Issue of Protecting Christians in Egypt with FCO.

I’ve just received a very positive response from Dr William McCrea, MP for South Antrim,  saying that he regards the protection of Christians in Egypt a “very important matter.”

He writes “I am currently in correspondence with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in relation to the concerns that you  have expressed in regards to this very important matter and when I receive a response I will forward the necessary information to yourself.

I’m waiting eagerly for futher news and will post it here whenever I hear anything.

“Completely Unacceptable.” Arms Committe MP Blows The Whistle On Export of Weapons to Egypt

In a letter just received, a key member of the Select Committee on Arms Exports says the  export of weapons to Egypt is “completely unacceptable” and that she “will campaign in Parliament for this to be stopped.”

Katy Klark, Labour MP for North Ayrshire and Arran and a key member of Parliament’s Select Committee on Arms Exports, writes

“I share your concerns at the current situation in Egypt and agree that the Government should be taking robust measures to stop the sale of arms from UK companies to repressive regimes.  I believe there is a strong possibility of arms sold to the Egyptian regime being used against their own people and believe it is completely unacceptable that licences for export to Egypt are being granted and I will campaign in Parliament for this to be stopped.”

Commenting on the situation involving tear gas exports by Federal Laboratories (owned by the British multinational BAE Systems)  in the U.S. to Egypt she writes

“In addition there do appear to be loopholes for subsidiary companies based overseas.  I would be happy to look into whether there is any way in which these can be closed.”

Britain Admits It Has been Supplying Arms To Egypt Suitable for Internal Repression.

In a letter dated 26 April 2012 and received by me on 3 May, Sir John Stanley MP,  Chairman of the House of Commons Select Committee on Arms Control,  provided a list of UK British arms exports to Egypt during 2009 and 2010 which could be used for Internal Repression.

He also added that he anticipated the Parliament would submit another report, presumably with information on more recent arms exports to Egypt, before its’ summer recess on 27 July.   The list of arms supplied during 2009 and 2010 is in the public domain but still makes for interesting reading.

According to the information he attached with his letter,  British arms exports to Egypt during the period from 1 January 2009 until 30 September 2010 included the following

Training small arms ammunition                                                                                      general purpose machine guns                                                                                               imaging cameras                                                                                                                     components for armoured personnel carriers                                                                unfinished products for grenade launchers                                                                             components for submachine guns                                                                               electronic warfare equipment                                                                                          equipment for the operation of military aircraft in confined areas                                           components for semi-automatic pistols                                                                     unfinished products for armoured fighting vehicles                                                  unfinished products for weapon night sights

The list is not especially helpful in that it is vague as to for instance what type of training ammunition was exported and on the quantities of material.

In an apparent attempt to avoid answering questions about the wisdom of such exports, Sir John writes “It is a firm convention in the House of Commons that MPs deal with their own constituents.  I am therefore sending your letter……to your own MP Julian Brazier.”

He adds that “The issue of the UK Government’s policy on giving arms export licence approvals for weapons and other goods that can be used for internal repression has received detailed scrutiny in the Committee’s current inquiry on which I anticipate we shall be submitting a further Report to the House of Commons before the summer recess.”

British MP Condemns Arms Exports to SCAF.

I was unhappy last year when David Cameron went to Tahrir Square to congratulate Egyptians on their courage in the struggle for democracy and yet at the same time he brought along directors of major British arms manufacturers in order to sell arms to the Egyptian military.  I thought it was a clear case of profits before principle.   Arms that SCAF will no doubt soon use against protesters.   Since I left Egypt at the end of March I’ve been writing to British MPs to try to persuade them to reconsider such exports.

Denis MacShane, MP for Rotherham, who has recently taken a high profile stance against human rights abuses in Bahrain, needed little or no persuasion.  His undated letter was received this morning but it doesn’t make the usually highly qualified non-committal response typical of most politicians.  At least he makes it clear where he stands –

“Clearly arm sales to the region are a major problem as are the export of crowd control material.  Britain has a double standard – expressing support for democracy while looking for increased arms sales.”

“I worry more generally that the US and the Western powers want to see the army stay in power.”

However he’s also concerned about the alternative of an Islamist led parliamentary government.  I think perhaps he’s a little too pessimistic here as the Muslim Brotherhood covers a really wide spectrum of views and contains many moderates within its ranks.  Anyway he writes

“Sadly, the deeply reactionary politics of the Islamists and Salafists which already have destroyed the rights of many women in Egypt is not an alternative.  It will be a long slow process as Egypt gets a governance corresponding to the needs and aspirations of its’ people.”

What’s your view ?

I need your help for a book !

I’m interested in hearing from anyone who has participated in the initial uprising in January 2011 or in any of the subsequent protests or strikes and also people anywhere who have views on the recent events in Egypt.

I’m  hoping to hear from a wide range of people – students, factory workers, journalists, doctors, women, Christians, soldiers, diplomats, artists, anyone unemployed or homeless – in fact just anyone who was either involved in the revolution or subsequent protests or thinks that they were effected by it or indeed perhaps feel that they should have benefited from the revolution whereas in fact perhaps nothing has changed.

I’m a British citizen who has been photographing many of the protests in Egypt from January 2011 until February 2012 when I was arrested, imprisoned for 54 days and then deported (more on this on the My Time in Prison page.)   You can email me at alisdare@gmail.com or contact me on my facebook page – Alisdare Hickson.

Photographs on this website copyright of Alisdare Hickson.