Syria's first lady falling from grace

2012-01-14 12:12

kalahari.com

  • Syria
    Options and Implications for Lebanon and the Region Now R196.00
    buy now
Beirut - Not so long ago, she was the darling of the international press, described as a "rose in the desert" and "a ray of light in a country full of shadow zones."

But today, Syria's first lady is being likened to a modern-day Marie-Antoinette, drawing criticism for staying mum on a crisis that has left more than 5 000 people dead in her country.

The British-born Asma al-Assad, who virtually disappeared from the public eye after the revolt broke out in Syria in mid-March, made a surprise appearance this week to support her husband Bashar as he spoke at a pro-regime rally.

Pictures of the 36-year-old, all smiles with two of her children, adorned the front pages of many Arab and Western newspapers.

"This shows that she is standing by her man, that she and him are on the same page," said Andrew Tabler, an expert on Syria and former press adviser to local charities run by the first lady.

"She is clearly part of the regime."

Her appearance, however, has also drawn scathing criticism.

"Bashar's wife and kids cheer on daddy the dictator," one tweet scoffed.

"The British should withdraw Asma Assad's passport and those of her parents as accessories to a war criminal," fumed another.

But the former investment banker continues to attract admiration among supporters of the Assad regime.

Style icon


"You deserve to be the first lady of the whole world!" gushed a post on one of the many Facebook pages dedicated to the slim, brown-haired Asma.

Syria's first lady has emerged as a style icon in the world of politics and has been compared to the likes of Queen Rania of Jordan or France's Carla Bruni, with a reported fondness for Chanel in particular.

Tall, stylish and charismatic, Asma al-Assad is the picture of glamour: in designer outfits and her trademark Christian Louboutin heels, her impeccable British accent and credentials have helped promote the soft side of an iron-fisted regime.

"She was an important part of the public relations of the regime," Tabler said.

"She has an obsession with fashion," he added. "How do you reconcile this princess-like image with one of the poorest countries in the Middle East?"

The daughter of a prominent London-based cardiologist, Fawaz al-Akhras, and a former diplomat, Sahar Otri, Asma is seen as the modern, progressive side of the Assad dynasty, with a degree from King's College in London where she was raised.

Ten years her husband's junior, Asma has welcomed the likes of the Spanish king and queen and Hollywood power couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to her country.

During a 2010 visit to France, Asma told French weekly Paris Match that she had married Bashar for the "values" he embodied.

Fashion magazine Vogue even ran a glowing interview with her before the outbreak of the revolt, describing Asma as the "most magnetic of first ladies," but later removed the article from its website.

British passport

Bashar's rise to power more than a decade ago symbolised the hope for change in a country long isolated internationally.

Once a banker with JP Morgan, Asma herself is credited with having played a significant role in liberalising the Syrian economy.

But the Syrian revolt has dealt a serious blow to the image of a young, modern couple who captured the attention of press and public opinion around the world.

"This image has been destroyed," said Tabler. "She has a sort of quietly domineering personality and she is a very proper person, very British.

"She has a British passport. So she could go. She is not trapped."

Bashar and Asma for years have been viewed as a symbol of coexistence in multi-confessional Syria. While the president is a minority Alawite, Asma is a Sunni Muslim who originally hails from Homs - bastion of the current anti-Assad revolt.

But as the death toll in Syria tops 5 000, many find the pair increasingly out of touch with reality.

In a 2009 interview with CNN, the honey-eyed Asma slammed Israel's offensive on the Gaza Strip as "barbaric" and, "as a mother and as a human being," called for an end to the violence.

"This is the 21st century. Where in the world could this happen? Unfortunately it is happening," she said in a calm, soft voice.

Now her own words have come back to haunt her.

"Stop being a hypocrite! You are slaughtering your own people!" one YouTube commenter recently wrote beneath the video.

Another summed it up in two words: "Lady Macbeth."

Read more on:    asma al-assad  |  syria  |  syria conflict  |  uprisings
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
2 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Wednesday Gordons Bay - 18:30 PM
    Road name: R44 Faure Marine Drive Both Ways
    ROAD CLOSED at Suikerbossie Drive due to roadworks until 5am - traffic diverted - expect delays
  • Wednesday Kuils River - 18:01 PM
    Road name: Polkadraai Road Eastbound
    ROADWORKS between the R102 Van Riebeeck Road and the R310 Baden Powell Drive exit - expect delays
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2 TV Series for R250

Get 2 TV Series box sets for R250 and save up to R148! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Pre-order the Xbox One

Get this all-in-one entertainment system with live TV, movies, social networking and gaming. Pre-order now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing deals on electronics!

Save up to 35% on electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Nokia C3

The Nokia C3 Features a 2+ Megapixel Camera, A2DP, Bluetooth,...

From R1175.60

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Your heart is big and you are sensitive to the needs of those around you. Your humanitarian side is emphasized today and you may...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.