Protest against MIT’s role in the war in Yemen held during xFair

Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, General Atomics among xFair companies that sold weapons to Saudi Arabia

The organizations Massachusetts Peace Action and the Coalition to Stop the Genocide in Yemen coordinated a protest against the Institute’s role in the war in Yemen during MIT’s xFair Feb. 4.

The protest, which took place outside the Student Center, was held for two reasons. Firstly, several companies that were present at xFair have sold weapons to the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who in turn are using them in the war in Yemen.

Secondly, a December 2018 report by Associate Provost Richard Lester PhD ’80 recommended against the termination of any existing engagement with Saudi private or government-funded sponsors and organizations.

The protest called out Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and General Atomics for selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In particular, Lockheed Martin produced a bomb that was used by the Saudi-led coalition in an airstrike on a school bus in Yemen that killed more than 40 children in August 2018.

“War profiteers are exhibiting at xFair and recruiting MIT students, which is antithetical to what universities are supposed to support,” Cole Harrison, executive director of Massachusetts Peace Action, said in an interview with The Tech.

“The regime in Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive in the world and is responsible for the largest humanitarian crisis in the world today. We are asking MIT to end its relationship with Saudi Arabia and the military companies that are providing weapons for this terrible war against Yemen,” protester Paul Shannon said in an interview with The Tech.

Vice Chancellor Ian Waitz appeared at the start of the protest for several minutes. The Office of the Vice Chancellor, through the Career Advising and Professional Development office, provides some logistical support for the xFair. xFair is a student-run career fair and tech expo.

“I asked them [the protesters] to move from the entrance to the fair to a nearby campus space, which is the area we had requested they use when we spoke with them the day before the event,” Waitz wrote in an email to The Tech. “They declined and we allowed them to stay where they were.”

Waitz was not able to answer follow-up questions specifying the “nearby campus space” before the publication of this article.

The war in Yemen, which began in 2015, is between two factions: the Houthis, who are an armed Islamic political group, and an international coalition led by Saudi Arabia that supports the current Yemeni president Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

More than 5,900 civilians have been killed in the conflict so far, and three million people have been forced from their homes by the fighting, according to Amnesty International.

Amnesty International has documented 36 air strikes by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition that have violated international humanitarian law, which includes air strikes that appear to have deliberately targeted civilians and civilian buildings such as hospitals, schools, markets, and mosques.

Kaitlyn Hennacy contributed reporting.