The UK government has sold Turkey £330 million worth of arms since 2015 newly published export statistics have revealed.
According to a report in the Guardian, Turkey, “is on the Department for International Trade’s list of “priority markets” for arms exports. But the sales come amid mounting concerns about the abuse of human rights.”
Commenting on the crackdown on opposition forces following the July coup attempt, Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade has said, “the political situation in Turkey is unstable, and the crackdown has meant that the repression is getting even worse. This should be a time for caution and the promotion of human rights, not arms sales. The government is always telling us how rigorous its arms export criteria supposedly are, yet it continues to arm and support repressive governments across the world. The aftermath of the coup attempt has seen an erosion of democracy in Turkey, and Whitehall should not be legitimising it. The rights of Turkish people are more important than arms company profits.”
However the report does not make any mention of Kurds, arguably the biggest victims of Turkish militarisation, and the clashes in cities following the declaration of self-rule in July 2015. At least a dozen Kurdish cities and towns were destroyed by state forces and more than 300 civilians killed during months of curfews and sieges.
Kurdish parties have previously accused the UK and other European states, including Germany, of selling arms to Turkey in the knowledge that it will be used to quash legitimate Kurdish demands for recognition.
A UK government spokesperson said: “The UK takes its arms export responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world. We rigorously examine every application on a case by case basis against the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria. Our export licensing system allows us to respond quickly to changing facts on the ground. We have suspended or revoked licences when the level of risk changes and we constantly review local situations.”
The UK has been criticised for selling weapons to repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The UK sold more than £3bn of British-made weaponry to 21 of the Foreign Office’s 30 “human rights priority countries”.