Posted at 10:57 AM ET, 09/02/2011

‘Shell fuels murder’ campaign by Syrian activists moves ahead despite EU sanctions


A Shell service station. (SIMON BARBER - BLOOMBERG NEWS)
The European Union on Friday imposed an embargo on oil exports from Syria as the country’s security forces surrounded mosques to prevent anti-government protesters from demonstrating after prayers.

Despite the ban, a campaign started by Syrian activists to halt Shell’s operations in Syria showed no signs of stopping, as many pointed out that the company could still export outside the EU.

The EU ban covers purchase, import, and transport of oil and other petroleum products from Syria, and would affect major oil corporations like Shell, which released a statement Friday that read: “Shell complies with all applicable laws, including international sanctions.”

A Google Doc shared Friday by the campaign accused Shell’s oil sales of “financing the military operations against civilians throughout Syria” by President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

“Bullets that pierce through the bodies of young children and babies in their mothers’ arms are financed by payments made by Shell and other oil companies to the Assad regime,” the dramatic document read.

The document also refers to a meeting that was likely the impetus for the campaign. Earlier this week, Shell’s Netherlands country head Dick Benschop said in a meeting with the Dutch Parliament that halting its operations would hurt the Syrian people more than its government, and that the company would not stop producing oil in Syria unless it was directed to do so by the EU.

The document called Shell’s attitude “despicable and greedy attitude,” and said it showed Shell “does not care” about human rights abuses in Syria.

When asked for comment, a Shell spokesperson pointed to the company’s statement about complying with EU sanctions.

Shell is the second-largest foreign oil producer in Syria after French company Total SA, producing 7.3 million barrels of oil in 2010. It works in the country through a joint venture under which it has a minority share.

On Twitter, Syrians rallied around the hashtag #ShellFuelsMurder, asking followers to boycott Shell until they stopped operations in the country. Some implored Shell to “stand on the right side of history,” while others asked the company to “do your homework,” or went so far as to say that Shell gas now smelled like blood.

Shell’s Twitter feed was silent Friday.

A blogger at OpenOil.net, a consultant for “socially progressive outcomes” to the global oil industry, explained that while Syria is not a major exporter to international markets, oil is an essential part of its economy.

“As far as the Assads go, [oil revenues are] a magical slush fund, unrestricted income compared to other revenue streams filtered and strained through more regular workings of government,” Open Oil wrote.

Since the uprising began in Syria five months ago, a brutal government crackdown has killed 2,200, anti-government activists say.

On Friday, protesters rallied around the banner “death rather than humiliation” as they continued to call for Assad’s resignation.

By  |  10:57 AM ET, 09/02/2011

 
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