Anna Nolan / October 20, 2014

How We Stopped Europe fueling barrel bombs

Europe bans the sale of aviation fuel to Syria...thanks to the pressure we sustained!

In just one day 3,655 people sent an email to the Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini that shifted Italy’s position on blocking an embargo of aviation fuel to Syria. Now Europe has agreed to ban the sale of aviation fuel to Syria. The same fuel used to drop rusty barrel bombs on schools, hospitals and homes by the regime. It’s an epic win, and it happened in record time. This is proof that we need your help on future campaigns.

So how did we manage to turn Europe’s fourth richest country in a day? Here’s how:

  • Last Thursday we got an email from a friend with diplomatic contacts inside the European negotiations, saying that Italy was blocking this key proposal to ban aviation fuel as part of the Syrian sanctions

  • We called contacts in Brussels and they spoke to other diplomatic sources who confirmed that Italy was indeed blocking the ban

  • We knew that these negotiations would be continuing through the weekend and that the buck stopped with the Italian Foreign Minister – Federica Mogherini – a rising star in Europe who would not want to be associated with a policy backing the killing of civilians

  • After scrambling an email together to the 48,132 people on The Syria Campaign email list, thousands of you emailed Mogherini and contacted her on Twitter asking her to drop opposition to the ban

  • Bloomberg and European Voice (the biggest EU weekly) picked up the story — adding to the pressure

  • Within three hours Ms Mogherini had responded on Twitter saying “I’ve checked and stopped a technical input” – her way of saying the decision was made below her and she’s overruled it. But we still weren’t sure she was talking about the aviation fuel. We knew Italy supported the wider sanctions, but this was about the fuel behind the bombs. We asked Ms Mogherini for clarity but she didn’t give it. So the campaign kept on rolling….

  • As it grew, larger names started picking it up and Mia Farrow tweeted to her half-a-million followers:
    mia farrow

  • By this time the emails and tweets were really flooding into Mogherini’s inbox and she snapped a little bit:

  • We then got confirmation from our diplomatic contacts that “the member state who once had problems is now ready to move forward”. Bloomberg confirmed the Italian change and a few moments ago we heard that the European meeting agreed the ban.

  • Victory took 26 hours from start to finish. Astonishing.

A Brussels insider confirmed to us on email that “your campaign has had a big impact” and one of the journalists commented to us saying “interesting what a bit of publicity can do”. So huge thank you again for making that a successful couple of days. Making it harder to refuel these helicopters and planes that are terrorising ordinary Syrians far from the front lines is a great achievement. But there is so much more that needs to be done to stop the violence from all sides, so let’s keep going.

UPDATE 14th Nov: one of the governments involved said that our pressure was “decisive” in shifting Italy. They had gone “all the way up the line” but weren’t getting any change. Well done everyone.

UPDATE 12 December: The Telegraph reports: “The measure agreed on Friday will also ban insurance companies based in the EU – including Lloyd’s of London – from covering any shipments of jet fuel to Syria from any supplier worldwide. Officials believe this particular provision will make it harder for the Syrian regime to buy fuel for its air force.”

UPDATE: 18 December: a Syrian human rights organisation said they observed a significant drop in attacks after the measure was introduced. Now we need to push to stop the rest of them..