by Matt Crilly
The University of Strathclyde has come under fire for announcing it is awarding an honorary degree to Nigel Whitehead, a Group Managing Director of the UK’s largest arms manufacturer, BAE Systems.
BAE systems, whose production portfolio ranges from fighter aircraft to small arms ammunition, has been criticised in recent years for supplying Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft and other equipment to Saudi Arabia.
In the two years since the beginning of Saudi-led military operations against Houthi Forces and the Yemeni Civil War, UN officials estimate over 10,000 civilians have been killed. Saudi Arabia’s military coalition in Yemen stands accused by Human Rights Watch of carrying out unlawful airstrikes during the conflict, some of which may amount to war crimes.
BAE systems has also been denounced for its role in producing components for F-16 fighter jets used by Israel in its attacks on Gaza in 2008-9, 2012 and 2014.
Kat Hobbs, spokesperson for Campaign Against the Arms Trade has condemned Strathclyde’s decision to award Nigel Whitehead with an honorary degree as ‘disgraceful.’
‘BAE has a scandalous record of supplying arms for repression and conflict, and their weapons have been used to devastating effect from Yemen to Palestine.’
‘Nigel and his colleagues are complicit in the bombing of civilians and other grave human rights abuses in Yemen.’
‘Honorary degrees are supposed to be awarded to people who have made distinguished contributions to society and improved the world- not to those who profit from death and destruction.’
Simran Kaur, Vice President of Diversity at the University of Strathclyde Students Association said, ‘I am saddened that a university which prides itself on having a global outlook would award a degree to a weapons manufacturer director complicit in war and the death of civilians.’
Nigel Whitehead is expected to be recognised by the University during Strathclyde’s summer graduation ceremonies, which will run between the 22nd and 30th of June 2017.