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Arab Spring: Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad’s Greatest Hits

Posted on the 18 October 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost

Asma Al-Assad

Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad — the only "active citizen" in Syria? Photo Credit: Ammar Abd Rabbo

If you’re a self-styled democratising leader who likes to proclaim the values of “active citizenship”, what would be your reaction to the news that 41 more “active citizens” had been killed trying to get their voices heard in Syria on Monday? Well, if you’re British-born, Acton bred and Queen’s College educated Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad, you keep schtum, The Independent reported today. Mrs. al-Assad, wife to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, has been toted as a westernising influence in a country while her husband’s security forces torture and kill protesters — here’s a rundown of, as it were, her greatest hits:

That ‘active citizenship’ talk. Nabila Ramadani in The New Statesman reported that Mrs. al-Assad encouraged students to “have a stake in your country – a chance to make it what you want” at a speech in Damascus in May last year. She also toted the value of sharing information on computers, drawing on her experience as a computer science graduate from King’s College London and as an analyst at J.P. Morgan, ironic because most Syrians who use computers to blog against the al-Assad regime can expect to be locked up and tortured.

That Vogue profile. American Vogue ran a profile (now removed from the internet) of Mrs al-Assad in March entitled “Asma al-Assad: Rose in the Desert”, which opened: “Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic – the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies. Her style is not the couture-and-bling dazzle of Middle Eastern power but a deliberate lack of adornment. She’s a rare combination: a thin, long-limbed beauty with a trained analytic mind who dresses with cunning understatement” and detailed her addiction to Louboutin heels — enough said? Perhaps, but Syrians were left asking why they could not be extended the same privileges when she remarked that “The [Assad] household is run on wildly democratic principles. We all vote on what we want.” Max Fischer of The Atlantic managed to get the Vogue editor in charge of the piece to repent, somewhat.

That CNN interview. Mrs. al-Assad, interviewed for CNN, gave an harrowing account of life in Gaza — the following YouTube video asks how different life is in the Syrian city of Deraa:

That meeting with aid workers. One of the volunteers that met Mrs. al-Assad on Monday told The Independent that when the workers informed her of the violence being perpetrated by her husband’s militias “There was no reaction. She didn’t react at all. It was like I was telling a normal story, something that happens every day.” Still, Chris Doyle of the Council of Arab-British Understanding told the paper that “there is no way the regime would allow her any room to voice dissent or leave the country.”


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