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People are angry at the National History Museum for hosting an event for Saudi Arabia

The i logo The i 11/10/2018 Alex Finnis
a large building © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

Guardian columnist Owen Jones is leading criticism of the Natural History Museum, after it emerged it will host the Saudi Arabian embassy tonight (11 October) for an event to celebrate the country's national day.

Jones, who called the Saudi regime "one of the most gruesome dictatorships on Earth", is calling on the museum to cancel the event.

But a spokesman for the museum said event bookings like this one are an "important source of external funding" which helps it remain one of the world's best research centres and attractions, and that no museum staff would be in attendance.

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Saudi regime is bombing Yemen and recently accused of murdering a journalist

Jamal Khashoggi wearing a hat © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd Saudi Arabia is currently at war with Yemen. In August it dropped a bomb on a school bus, killing 40 children and 11 adults.

The persistent bombing of Yemen and attacks on its main port is causing widespread starvation, with more than five million children at risk of dying from famine.

And earlier this month the Saudi regime allegedly ordered the kidnap, torture, murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who had been critical of the dictatorship.

'One of the most gruesome dictatorships on Earth'

a large clock tower in front of Natural History Museum © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd "The museum has confirmed to me they are hosting a reception for one of the most gruesome dictatorships on Earth, which chops people's heads off for being gay and exports international extremism," Jones said in a tweet.

His calls on the museum to cancel the event - to which MPs have been invited - have been backed up by hundreds of other people.

Anita Cassidy said: "Cancel now @NHM_London. I and my children cannot support a museum that supports the Saudi regime."

Alan Hale tweeted: "Wow, in a week when the Saudis practically flaunted the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the @NHM hosts this."

And Rob Jones added: "Heartbroken that an iconic location of my childhood is planning to host the murderous criminals of the Saudi regime. Please think again @NHM_London."

The Saudi regime is the world's largest buyer of UK arms, and it is using those arms in its attacks on Yemen.

'It's time for the museum to take a stand'

A spokesman for the Campaign Against Arms Trade said: "The bombing of Yemen has created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. Thousands of people have been killed and the destruction of vital infrastructure has led to the worst cholera outbreak on record."

He added: "The Natural History Museum is a very prestigious venue, and should not be hosting a regime which has been accused of killing journalists and is inflicting a humanitarian catastrophe on the people of Yemen.

The Saudi authorities have a contempt for human rights, and events like this will undoubtedly be regarded as an endorsement. It's time for the museum to take a stand."

'An important source of external funding'

A spokesman for the museum said in a statement: "The Natural History Museum was booked by the Saudi embassy over two months ago as a venue for an external event to celebrate Saudi Arabia Day. No museum staff are attending as guests or speaking at the event.

"Enabling commercial events to take place outside of public opening hours in our iconic spaces brings the museum an important source of external funding, which allows us to maintain our position as a world class scientific research centre and visitor attraction.

Watch: Who is missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi? [France 24]


"We hold a variety of commercial events and it is made clear to any host that doing so is not an endorsement of their product, service or views."

The event in celebration of Saudi Arabia Day is scheduled to go ahead between 7-9pm tonight as planned.

Invites were sent out by Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf Al Saud, the Saudi ambassador to the UK.


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