Natural History Museum Under Fire Over Saudi ‘Blood Money’

The museum received tens of thousands of pounds to host the Saudi embassy just days after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi 

Hintze Hall, Natural History Museum, London, 2017. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Hintze Hall, Natural History Museum, London, 2017. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The Natural History Museum, London, has been accused of accepting ‘blood money’ from Saudi Arabia after they received tens of thousands of pounds to host an event for the Saudi embassy.

The event took place just nine days after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi on 2 October in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. The museum, which is publicly funded, initially courted criticism for holding the controversial reception, which celebrated Saudi Arabia Day.

Now it has been reported in the Guardian that the museum made a profit from the event. According to a Freedom of Information request made by the newspaper, the Saudi embassy paid GBP£23,700 to hire the Hintze Hall, home to the famous 25-metre skeleton of a blue whale.

The museum defended their decision to host the event for a fee and issued a statement which said: ‘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.’

‘We hold a wide 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.’

However, members of parliament, including Labour’s Ann Clwyd, have criticised the decision. She said: ‘Contractual obligations and commercial necessity do not let organisations, such as the National History Museum, off the hook.’

Maya Foa, director at human rights NGO Reprieve also denounced the decision. She said: ‘It is a cruel irony that the Saudi government paid to host an event at a British institution so beloved by children, when they are simultaneously trying to execute young men who were children at the time of their arrest.’

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