According to a Freedom of Information request made by BuzzFeed, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills granted multiple export licences to arms companies to export sniper rifles, bullets, gas masks, drone parts and other assorted military equipment to the country.
Ministers scrutinise the export of weapons, ammunition and other military technology to foreign countries and have to grant an explicit licence to companies looking to sell controlled goods.
Responding to the official request for information, the department told BuzzFeed that there had been 196 licences awarded by the UK government to firms since the clashes began in May, with only five requests refused.
The UK licenced over £90 million in military and dual-use licences to Turkey, according to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade.
Turkey’s protest movement started in late May over the demolition of an Istanbul park to build a shopping centre, but over the following months the demonstrations broadened into protests against perceived curbs on freedoms by the government.
Human rights organisation Amnesty International described the Turkish government’s crackdown as a “brutal denial of the right to peaceful assembly”.
In a report on the protests, Amnesty said the authorities “repeatedly showed total intolerance for any form of protest, however passive” and that they targeted lawyers, journalists and doctors who acted in support of protests with an “arbitrary and abusive use of force”.
Due to commercial confidentiality rules, neither the sellers nor potential recipients of the arms could be identified. The data does not reveal whether the arms deals were ever completed.
A Department for Business spokesperson told BuzzFeed: “The UK government takes its defence exports responsibilities extremely seriously and aims to operate one of the most robust export control systems in the world. All export licence applications are assessed thoroughly on a case-by-case basis against rigorous, internationally recognised criteria. If circumstances change, licensing decisions are reviewed quickly.”
Andrew Smith, a spokesperson for Campaign Against Arms Trade, said the exports were “another example of a UK foreign policy that all too often fails to take regional tensions into account and prioritises short term arms sales above the safety of citizens”.