The German activist artist group “Center for Political Beauty” [de] launched a much buzzed-about campaign on May 21, 2012 to prevent the sale of tanks made in Germany to Saudi Arabia. The campaign 25,000 Euro [de] promises to award this amount to people who give tips that lead to the conviction of one or more shareholders of the German weapons manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann [de]. The campaign has already made big waves in the blogger community and in social media.
The background to the 25,000 Euro campaign is the planned delivery of tanks to Saudi Arabia made public in 2011. The weapons producer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann was contracted to deliver 270 of its Leopard 2 A7+ tanks. This model is specifically designed for use in urban areas. The Center for Political Beauty produced a video which illustrates the use of this tank to suppress protests [de]:
The Center for Political Beauty defends their campaign by saying that tanks can be used to suppress uprisings within Saudi Arabia as well as in neighboring Bahrain (Global Voices reported on the entrance of Saudi troops into Bahrain in 2011). Because the tank deal has already been approved by the German government, the goal of the 25,000 Euro campaign is to bring shareholders to court – not for delivering the tanks, but for tax evasion, money laundering, or similar crimes [de]:
Wenn die Politik den tödlichen Waffenhandel nicht verbietet, müssen wir die Täter auf kreative Weise einer Strafe zuführen. Bei Al Capone musste letztlich die Steuerhinterziehung herhalten. Das Strafgesetzbuch ist lang.
The unusual thing about the campaign, in addition to the offer of a kind of “bounty,” is the publication of “wanted” posters [de] in which the shareholders are depicted. There is particular emphasis on the fact that many of them identify themselves as “anthroposophists” or artists.
Reactions to the campaign in social media have in large part been very positive. John F. Nebel writes in his blog Metronaut [de]:
Es ist wohl eine der schönsten und radikalsten Kampagnen gegen die deutsche Waffenindustrie seit langem.
The popular blog Netzpolitik.org also reports [de] on 25000-euro.de.
In addition, many people are supporting this campaign by sending the following question via Twitter to Steffen Seibert, the German government spokesperson:
@RegSprecher Warum unterstützt die Bundesregierung den Export von Kampfpanzern für autoritäre Regime? #panzer #25000Euro
No answers have come yet from the spokesman via Twitter to the questions about the tank deal.
@kl_gelber_fish deviates from the pre-written question and would like to know [de] if the German government gives priority to stability or freedom.
@RegSprecher Ist Stabilität im Golf wichtiger als das Leben und die Freiheit der Menschen dort? #panzer #25000Euro
The Center for Political Beauty also posted a video of Abbas Al Omran (Bahrain Center for Human Rights) on 25000-euro.de, in which he appeals to the shareholders to stop the tank deliveries.
The Center for Political Beauty gives regular updates via 25000-euro.de on the progress of the campaign; for example, by posting tips it receives that could be useful in a future court case.